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Illinois governor’s executive order provides guidance on remote notarization
By Garrett Reuter, Jr. on March 27, 2020 at 3:15 PM

Virtual signingWhile the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus has certainly brought a sudden dramatic change to our daily lives, there is still a continuous need for legal work. Many legal documents require notarization, and even in some cases witnesses, to take effect. With the various levels of governments now requiring “social distancing” and instituting shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, the normal rules that require a signer to be in the “presence” of a notary or witness have been put into question.

Unfortunately, the laws of most states have not kept pace with modern uses of technology when it comes to signing legal paperwork. Applications like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing systems have made connecting with friends and family much easier, but the legal world has been slow to adopt this technology when it comes to executing documents. With the recent restrictions in place, legal practitioners (especially those in the estate planning field) have been scrambling to figure out ways for their clients to sign important documents that require a notary and/or witnesses.

Fortunately for those in Illinois, much-needed guidance has now been provided. On March 26, 2020, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order addressing this issue. Under the order, documents requiring a person to “appear before” or sign in the presence of a notary or witness may now be signed remotely “via two-way audio-video communication technology.” There are a number of strict requirements for this new method to be used, including all parties being physically located in Illinois and acknowledging such during the signing ceremony. Also, the audio-video communication must be recorded and preserved for at least three years.*

While the order does not define audio-video communication, guidance from the secretary of state says it means “communication by which a person is able to see, hear and communicate with another person in real time using electronic means.” Communication technology means “an electronic device or process that allows a notary public and a remotely located person to communicate with each other simultaneously by audio-video communication.” Before signing anything remotely, all the rules and guidelines should be carefully reviewed. The order can be found here and the secretary of state guidance here.

The secretary of state guidance makes clear that it is still permissible to use electronic notarization companies connecting customers to “qualified notaries whose notarial acts are acceptable in Illinois.”

You can find directions for recording on Zoom here and Skype here. To record using video functions on an iPhone or Android device, there are third-party apps you may be able to download and use.** However, we still recommend that any document signing continue to be performed under the supervision or direction of an attorney to ensure the proper formalities are followed and met.

The executive order makes clear that all legal documents (specifically including wills, trusts, durable powers of attorney, and deeds) may be signed in counterparts, unless the document itself prohibits it. Note that the order applies as long as the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation remains in effect in Illinois. Hopefully these new methods may find their way into permanent law eventually, but in the meantime as we all deal with the current restrictions in place, this should help those wanting to get important legal documents taken care of.

*Under the order and secretary of state guidance, it appears both the notary and the signatory (or the signatory’s designee) are required to preserve the recording.

**DISCLAIMER: Please be aware of any privacy laws that might apply when using a device to record video or audio with a third party.

Read an update on Missouri's remote notarization order here.

Link to COVID-19 Resources page

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