Tangible copy of an electronic record

It looks like Vermont’s version of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) will be updated. A notarial act that was taken away from VT notaries back in 2018 will restored: certifying or attesting a copy. Not only that, we will specifically be allowed to certify a tangible (that is, paper) copy of an electronic record. (“Record” is the word RULONA uses for what we usually call a document or instrument.)

The thinking seems to be we need this for RON and land records. A person does a real estate signing through RON, and then needs to record the deed. But the deed is electronic, probably a PDF. Many land recorders, including all of the town and city clerks in Vermont, are not able to accept an electronic record for recording. So the new landowner prints the PDF and brings that to the recorder, and the recorder says “I can’t take this, the signature is a copy, not an original.”

So the solution in RULONA and the Uniform Property Electronic Recording Act (UPERA) is to take the PDF to a notary who is authorized to do electronic notarizations; the notary prints it and attaches a paper notarial certificate stating it is a true copy of the electronic record. The landowner takes the paper to the recorder, and because the notarial certificate has an original, “wet” signature and seal from the notary, the recorder can accept it.

So here’s my question: has a notary on the forum ever made a certified copy of an electronic document? If the notary is the same one who notarized the deed in the first place, it’s practically certain the deed is genuine, but what if the deed was electronically notarized by another notary? Have you thought about what security precautions you would take of the deed was notarized by a different notary? (Or would you just say no?)

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Lots of gnarly issues are going to arise about electronic notarizations. This is just a preview of what’s to come. To answer your question, I would not accept an assignment to certify the authenticity of another notary’s certification. Too many layers to argue through if this ever came to court. I’ve had a couple of issues crop up that caused some food for thought.

  1. I did a independent RON about a month ago for a POA involving the sale of an automobile. The legal owner was out of country but was a green card resident with proper ID. The son was the one tasked with selling the vehicle who was in state. Everyone had proper credentials and the RON signing went okay. But, when the son took the papers to the DOL, they refused to accept them because documents had an electronic signature. DOL required that the notary of record send to them a copy of the document by email with a statement attesting to the authenticity of the document and the online transaction. I did so as he waited in the DOL office for my email to come through. I think everyone is trying to figure this all out.
  2. I did an apostille transaction for someone needing to send a proof of life and residence to their country of origin so that they could continue to receive their pension. Problem is, they used another notary for the two required documents, which were in another language. And they only had the one form and no other copy. The notary had no idea how to complete the document to be accepted by the SOS to provide the apostille certificate. (Used the notary language on the form which was in both languages, but lacked proper language required by our SOS). I submitted the forms, but within a week they were returned, rejected. I informed the client through email what information was required by the notary and sent the SOS language in the body of the email. I asked them to have their notary append a statement to indicate the transaction and date of their notarization. Instead the notary failed to include statement “this date of”…“by ____” – just inserted a date under their notary signature). It was rejected a second time. The document had already been notarized by another and I didn’t want to intervene in their work. But at this point I provided the client with a hard copy acknowledgement and told them to have the notary complete this form to submit with the document and provided a sample copy of how the form needed to be completed. It was a delicate balance, because I think they knew the other notary and I didn’t want to trash their work. I wanted to make the one month deadline for SOS review and delivery of apostille certification before it was going to cost an additional fee. We finally got the certificate, but all parties were exasperated. What would you have done?

Wisconsin has this as part of state statute for RON. Here is the paragraph dealing with certification: " A register of deeds may accept for recording a tangible copy of an electronic record containing a notarial
certificate as satisfying any requirement that a record accepted for recording be an original, if the notarial officer
executing the notarial certificate certifies or attests that the tangible copy is an accurate copy of the electronic

Tisno asked what I would do, in the two cases outlined. This is state specific, and I don’t know Tisno’s state. I’ll indicate what I would do if it were in Vermont and it happened sometime after the revised VT version of RULONA goes into effect.

First, I’d decide if I wanted any part of electronic notarizations; lets suppose I sign up for a special commission so I can do electronic notarizations and RON.

In case 1, for my state, the offices that record land records will be specifically authorized to accept paper copies of digital documents. The Department of Motor Vehicles will not be receiving a specific authorization, but there isn’t anything that says they can’t accept it. Since, in your scenario, I did a RON with the father and met with, and saw the ID of, the son, I wouldn’t have any problem printing the document and attaching a paper true copy certificate. If the DMV wanted an email from me, no problem, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for the DMV to be relying on email.

In case 2 you seem to be describing paper documents, but you’re communicating with the client by email. I don’t have a clear enough picture of the situation to form any opinion.

I don’t accept requests for deed signings in RON as part of general notary work. For that reason the situation has not occurred for me. I think that electronic deeds should be done on a title company platform as part of a real estate closing.

Wow, so glad I only do real estate/mortgage closing through titles and lenders. I figure the clients have already been put through the wringer! Any possible fraud would have been detected and eliminated before the loan docs get to me.

I met with the client in person. I only communicated via email that the first attempt with the SOS was rejected, as I informed them that it most likely would be. That is where I provided them with the SOS language for notarization, believing that the notary would understand that they needed to commit that to a form and return to append to the apostille request. Somehow they didn’t understand the instruction. The third time I communicated with them it was in person to give them a copy of the notary acknowledgement to share with their notary.

Neither of my scenarios involved loan documents. I don’t do those as an independent RON signer; only on contractor platforms.