From the State Bar of Georgia…

Late yesterday afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order permitting remote notarization and witnessing of all documents. The State Bar is grateful for the work of Gov. Kemp and his staff who recognized the critical need for remote notarization and witnessing in Georgia during this unprecedented time and the importance of maintaining access to legal services through this crisis. Additionally, we appreciate the counsel of the State Bar’s Fiduciary Section and Family Law Section who gave critical input in the process.

The executive order provides a basic framework that must be followed for notarization and witnessing using real time audio-visual technology. Notably, a notary public performing a notarial act using real time audio-visual technology pursuant to the executive order must be a licensed Georgia attorney or a notary public supervised by a licensed Georgia attorney. The signer must also present proof of his or her identity to the notary via real time audio-visual technology. Additionally, a document notarized or witnessed using real-time audio visual technology must be signed, certified, and executed by the notary and/or witness(es) on the same calendar day that the signer signs the document.

The order reads in relevant part:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED

That any purported requirement under the laws of this state that a notarial act performed pursuant to Chapter 17 of Title 45 of the Official Code of Georgia must occur in the physical presence of the notary public is hereby suspended, and any such act may be performed remotely if the all following requirements are met:

1. The notary public uses real-time audio-video communication technology or any similar real-time means of electronic video conferencing that allows the parties to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound in order to notarize signatures.
2. The notary public is an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia or is operating under the supervision of an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. As used here, the term “supervision” shall mean that the notary public is an employee, independent contractor, agent, or other representative of an attorney or an attorney observes the execution of documents either in­ person or via the real-time audio-video communication technology.
3. The signer requiring the notarial act from the notary public presents satisfactory evidence of identity as required in Code Section 45-17-8, while connected to the real-time audio-video communication technology.
4. The notary public is physically located in the state of Georgia.
5. The signer transmits a copy of the signed document to the notary public on the same date it was executed for execution by the notary.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED

That any requirement under Georgia law, including, but not limited to, Code Sections 10-6B-5, 15-9-86, 19-3-62, 19-8-4, 19-8-5, 19-8-6,19-8-7, 29-2-11, 29-4-3, 29-5-3, 31-32-5, 44-5-128, 44-5-143, 44-5-144, 44-5-145, or 53-4-20, including a power of attorney, verified petition filed in probate court, antenuptial agreement, surrender of rights for adoption, return filed in probate court, standby guardian designation, nomination of guardian, nomination of conservator, advance directive for health care, designation of successor custodian, will, codicil, or other document be signed, subscribed, executed, witnessed, attested, acknowledged, or affirmed in the physical presence of another individual or other individuals may be satisfied by the use of audio-video communication technology or any similar real-time means of electronic video conferencing that allows all of the parties to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED

That the official date and time of the notarization or witnessing performed via the use of audio-video communication technology or any similar real-time means of electronic video conferencing pursuant to this Order shall be the date and time when the notary and/or witness(es) witness the signature via the video conference technology.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED

That all documents notarized or witnessed via the use of audio-video communication technology or any similar real-time means of electronic video conferencing pursuant to this Order shall be signed, certified, and executed, as appropriate, by the notary and/or witness(es) on the same calendar day that the signer signs the document. 

You can read the entire order here.

The Bar appreciates the patience of so many Georgia lawyers who have eagerly awaited this order. We encourage those who plan to notarize and witness legal documents through these means to closely follow the instruction of the executive order. The State Bar’s ethics helpline is available to assist lawyers with any questions at 404-527-8741/800-682-9806 or via email by logging in to the State Bar website. Additionally, we plan to post best practices for using this technology in conjunction with relevant sections on the State Bar’s COVID-19 resources page.

Please keep in mind that this executive order, like those that have proceeded it, is intended to encourage social distancing and curb exposure to COVID-19. While the governor has designated entities providing legal services as “critical infrastructure,” we encourage law firms and other legal service entities to work remotely if they have the capacity to do so.

My hope is that you all remain safe and healthy as our profession continues to grapple with this national public health emergency. 

Sincerely,

Darrell Sutton
President, State Bar of Georgia
president@gabar.org

Charlie McCook
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