During the summer of 2019 the Vermont DMV will offer driver licenses with the gender listed as "other". A serendipitous change in the notary law goes into effect July 1, providing short certificates for most notarial acts. The certificates are so short that they do not contain any pronouns (he, she, they, etc.). So the notary will not have to wonder how to word a certificate for a person requesting a notarial act who does not self-identify as male or female.
This contrasts with with California, which has mandatory certificate wording for many notarial acts which include pronouns, which do not have any provision for a pronoun for a nonbinary person, and which does issue driver licenses with the gender listed as "X". Apparently serendipity does not occur in California.
The new short-form notarial certificates for Vermont go into effect Monday, July 1, 2019. They are not mandatory, but it would be a good idea to study the law if you're not going to use them (or even if you are).
The format in the law is hard to read. I made some Microsoft Word documents that I plan to use myself. I'll share them, but you must realize that I'm not a lawyer, so use them at your own risk. "Your own risk" includes not only the risk that the forms might not have the legal results you hope for, but that the Microsoft Word files might include malware; I use Microsoft Security Essentials and have not noticed any odd behavior on my computer, but you can never be 100% sure.
The certificates were modified September 14, 2019 to make it more obvious what to write on each line. Another change was separating the box for the official stamp from the area for identifying the attached document, which is not an official part of the notarial certificate.
- Acknowledgement for an individual, letter size
- Acknowledgement for an individual, legal size
- Acknowledgement for a representative, letter size
- Acknowledgement for a representative, legal size
- Signature witnessing, letter size
- Signature witnessing, legal size
- Verification, letter size
- Verification, legal size
Jerry Lucas in his blog explains that when a notary identifies a person who requested a notarial act (the requester) by means of a credible witness, the notary should have the credible witness complete an affidavit attesting to the identity of the requester. The sample provided by Mr. Lucas includes statements that the requester lacks acceptable identity documents, and that the affidavit is attached to the document that the requester is having notarized.
I've looked at the Colorado Notary Handbook (March 2019), at the version suggested by the Uniform Law Commission, and Vermont's version. None of these require that the requester lack acceptable identity documents. That is an idea that comes from California. The commentary in the Uniform Law Commission version indicates the reason for the provision is to accommodate requesters who lack identity documents, but it is not an actual requirement in the law.
An instance, often discussed in internet notary forums, is a person who has an identity document in one form, for example, a driver license in a maiden name, and needs to sign a document in a different name (for example a married name, when the person just got married an hour ago). The credible witness might refuse to swear the person has acceptable identity documents; the person does have an acceptable identity document, it just isn't in the name the requester want's to use.
The other issue is attaching the credible witness affidavit to the document the requester is getting notarized. I don't believe this is correct. The notary does not attach identity evidence to the requester's document. The notary wouldn't attach a copy of the requester's driver license, nor a photo of the requester and the notary when they were together when they were both ten years old, so it would be equally inappropriate to attach the credible witness affidavit. Instead, the notary should retain the affidavit in his or her records in case the notarization is ever questioned.
Today I saw notaries asking about encryption on two notary forums. First I saw this request from Cheryl Elliot about document encryption for documents to be sent to title companies or the like. Then I saw a more general question from Linda Kauffman about encryption for notaries.
So what are some general requirements that notaries would look for in encryption software? The first question is whether the files are to be encrypted on the notary's PC in case the PC gets stolen or if they are to be sent to other people in encrypted form. I don't have enough knowledge to write about the first question, I'll only write about encrypting files to be sent to others.
So lets look at potential recipients. Some may be home users on a tight budget. They won't buy anything just for encryption, and they won't buy software that costs hundreds of dollars (or $XX per month for a subscription). So they will have Adobe Reader, but they won't have Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat. They might be unwilling to download software from an unfamiliar source, or might not be competent to do so.
Other potential recipients will be using computers issued by their employers, which are good-sized corporations or government agencies. They'll probably have Microsoft Office (although possibly an old version) and Adobe Reader, but maybe not Adobe Acrobat. They won't be allowed to download and install any software.
As a group, potential recipients will use a variety of email solutions, and will not be willing to establish a new email account just because this special email account supports the encryption favored by the notary. So email encryption is a non-starter; it will be necessary to encrypt the document separately and send it as an attachment to an email.
The only common software mentioned in all of the above is Adobe Reader. Adobe Reader supports both password protection and public key cryptography (also called public key infrastructure [PKI], digital certificates, or X.509). But setting up public key cryptography is a complex business, so I'll only consider password protection. The notary can do this by subscribing to Adobe Acrobat. The password-protected files produced by Acrobat can be read by the free Adobe Reader that virtually everyone has.
The notary can save money by downloading and installing the free PrimoPDF. This supports the creation of password-protected PDFs. It is similar to various print-to-pdf functions out there, and causes some subtle changes to the images, such as dots-per-inch changes, so may not be suitable for some files.
The process of sending password-protected PDFs is essentially a one-way solution. If the recipient wants to send an encrypted reply, but doesn't have Adobe Acrobat, and isn't allowed to install PrimoPDF, the recipient won't have any way to send the encrypted reply.
A frustration for notaries who are not attorneys (like me) is the person who decided what kind of notarization to ask for seems to have asked for the wrong notarial act. But, not being an attorney, it isn't the place of the notary to advise the requester about which notarial act would be best.
I've created a quiz which is aimed at those who request notarizations, to see if they know which notarial act would satisfy their needs. This quiz is based on the new Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts which will go into effect (for most purposes) on July 1, 2019.START QUIZ
Every Vermont notary commission expires February 10, 2019. The process to renew has changed, as explained by the Vermont Secretary of State, Office of Professional Regulation. You will want to get started now, because there are several steps.
First, download the oath form, go to a notary, and take the oath. You and the notary fill out the form. Scan it.
Next, establish an online account with the Office of Professional Regulation (if you already have an account because you already have a license, like a land surveyor, use it). Apply for a notary commission; at the right point in the process, upload the oath.
Once you have the commission, use your new commission number to order a stamp, embosser, or both. If you already have these, you might have your commission expiration date on them, and you will have to stop using them after February 10. When you order the new stamp, phone the vendor and make sure they are aware of the changes in requirements for Vermont stamps and embossers.
If you have a stamp or embosser with no expiration date on it, you can keep using it until July 1, when the new stamp rules go into effect.
This post will focus on the Windows operating system, but similar issues apply to Linux, Mac OS, and the operating systems for IBM mainframes. When we think of the type of documents that are likely to be notarized, PDF immediately comes to mind, but there are other file formats that are designed to accommodate digital signatures, and there could be use cases for notarizing in these formats.
Perhaps the most obvious PDF alternative would be the Microsoft Office formats, including Word and Excel. These programs have built-in electronic signature support, and many people have access to these programs. Access to the program needed to create PDFs with digital signatures, Adobe Acrobat, is much more limited. There are freeware alternatives to Microsoft Office, such as libreoffice/ although their eSignatures are not compatible with Microsoft Office.
A less common format, but potentially important in the real estate world, is Autocad (.dwg). This is a popular format for technical drawings, including land surveys.
If a notary obtains a digital certificate from a general-purpose certificate authority, such as IdenTrust the notary could use it to notarize any of the files described above. But if the notary uses one of the online platforms specifically intended for eNotarizations, such as DocVerify, the result will always be a PDF. Obviously, such formats won't be useful for some situations. For example, when viewing an AutoCad drawing, one can easily zoom in and out, measure distances, and turn layers on and off; those actions would be impossible or difficult with a PDF.
I have created a quiz about the new Vermont notary law, Act 160 of the 2017-18 session (PDF). It is based on, but not identical to the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA). A version of RULONA that includes some commentary by the group that created it is available (PDF).
Remember I'm not an expert; you should do your own research and consult experts as necessary before relying on any information from this quiz.
When are Vermont notaries likely to perform electronic notarizations (e-notarizations)? Lets begin by distinguishing between
- in-person e-notarizations, where the notary and the signer meet in a place with computer(s) and perform the signing and notarization on one or more computers, and
- remote e-notarizations, where the notary and signer are in different locations and communicate via the internet, with voice and video communications, plus an ability to send the document to be signed and notarized back and forth.
Virginia already has a head start in remote e-notarization, and other states are also allowing their notaries to perform these for signers located anywhere in the world. Since Vermont notaries won't be authorized to do this until July 1, 2019, at the earliest, it will be hard for Vermont notaries to catch up. Probably the best chance would be if large services farm out the actual notarizations to notaries who work from home, a sort of cottage industry. (This post isn't addressing whether remote e-notarizations are a good idea; the general assembly has decided to authorize them so the debate is largely over.)
The cases where in-person e-notarization by Vermont notaries incude
- notarization of documents that need to be in electronic form for individuals who don't have the identification documents or credit history needed for remote e-notarization
- notarization where electronic documents are required but one or more stakeholders are skeptical of remote e-notarization
- notarization of electronic files in a format not supported by the mass-market remote e-notarization providers; for this option to be available in Vermont, the Vermont notary rules will need a sufficiently flexible e-notarization approval process.