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Executive Order

WI Emergency Guidance On Remote Online Notarization (2020)

Notary Law Update: WI Emergency Guidance On Remote Online Notarization (2020)

State: Wisconsin

Summary:

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions in response to Governor Evers' Executive Order #72 released emergency guidance on remote online notarizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Signed:  March 18, 2020

Effective:  March 18, 2020

Chapter: N/A

Affects:

All Wisconsin Notaries Public.

Changes:
  1. Clarifies that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Financial Institutions (WDFI) will interpret the statutory terms "appear[] before" and "presence" to include appearances by remote live audio and video connection.
  2. Requires Wisconsin Notaries who seek to perform remote online notarial acts to complete training from a DFI-approved remote online notarization provider and use its technology to perform the notarial act.
Analysis:

In issuing its emergency guidance, the WDFI  writes, "Under current law, a person seeking notarization must 'appear[] before' a notary public, (citing Wis. Stat. §§ 137.01(4)(b), 706.07(2)) and certain types of notarized documents must be signed in the 'presence' of witnesses. Those statutes don’t specify whether the appearance must be in person. We 'avoid statutory interpretations that lead to absurd results,' (citing Watton v. Hegerty, 2008 WI 74, ¶ 26, 311 Wis. 2d 52, 751 N.W.2d 359) and it would be absurd to construe those statutes to require in-person appearances in the time of a global pandemic. People’s lives are at stake."

The emergency guidance issued by the WDFI comes in response to Governor Evers' Executive Order #72 in which he directed "all state agencies to assist as appropriate in the State's ongoing response to the public health emergency." 

The emergency guidance bumps up the effective date of Act No. 125, enacting the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, from May 1 to now. Notaries wanting to perform remote online notarial acts must comply with the steps for doing so issued by the DFI, which include using a listed approved remote online notarization platform and undergoing training to perform remote online notarizations.

Read the emergency guidance.

Read the steps to perform remote online notarization.

Knowledge Center