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Law

WV Senate Bill 669

Notary Law Update: WV Senate Bill 669

State: West Virginia

Summary:

Senate Bill 669 enacts provisions authorizing the appointment of commissioners to take acknowledgments on documents by persons residing outside of West Virginia.

Signed:  March 25, 2019

Effective:  June 07, 2019

Chapter: 234

Affects:

Creates Sections 39-4A-1, 39-4A-2, 39-4A-3, 39-4A-4, and 39-4A-5 of the West Virginia Code.

Changes:
  1. Authorizes the Secretary of State to appoint commissioners to take acknowledgments involving signers of documents located outside of West Virginia.
  2. Requires an applicant to be a West Virginia Notary as a conditition for appointment as a commissioner.
  3. Provides the requirements for application as a commissioner for the application, oath of office and application fee of $500.
  4. Authorizes the Secretary of State to refund some or all of the application fee for denials resulting from good-faith mistakes made by applicants.
  5. Authorizes the Secretary of State to deny, refuse to renew, revoke, suspend, or impose a condition on a commission for any act or omission that demonstrates the individual lacks the honesty, integrity, competence, or reliability to act as a commissioner, including: (a) failure to comply with the article governing commissioners; (b) a fraudulent, dishonest, or deceitful misstatement or omission in the application for a commission submitted to the Secretary of State; (c) a conviction of the applicant or commissioner for any felony or for a crime involving fraud, dishonesty, or deceit; (d) a finding against, or admission of liability by, the applicant or commissioner in any legal proceeding or disciplinary action based on the applicant’s or commissioner’s fraud, dishonesty, or deceit; (e) failure by the commissioner to discharge any duty required of a commissioner, whether by this article, rules promulgated by the Secretary of State, or any federal or state law; (f) use of false or misleading advertising or representation by the notary public representing that the notary has a duty, right, or privilege that the notary does not have; (g) revocation, suspension, or refusal or failure to renew the commissioner’s commission as a Notary Public; (h) violation by the commissioner of a rule of the Secretary of State regarding a commissioner; and (i) denial, refusal to renew, revocation, suspension, or conditioning of a commission in another state.
  6. Requires a commissioner to have an official rubber stamp seal that contains: (a) the words “Official Seal”; (b) the words “Commissioner for West Virginia”; (c) the commissioner’s name exactly as it is written as an official signature; (d) the city and state of residence of the commissioner; and (e) the words “My Commission Expires” and the date of expiration of the commission.
  7. Requires a stamped imprint of the seal, together with the official signature, shall be filed with the Secretary of State.
  8. Authorizes commissioners to take, within or any place out of the State of West Virginia, the acknowledgments of deeds and other writings to be admitted to the record in West Virginia, but each acknowledgment must reflect where the acknowledgment was taken, including, but not limited to, the state and county or territory. 
  9. Requires every certificate of the commissioner to be authenticated by his or her signature and official seal.
  10. Prohibits commissioners from: (a) assisting persons in drafting legal records, giving legal advice, or otherwise practicing law; (b) acting as an immigration consultant or an expert on immigration matters; or (c) representing a person in a judicial or administrative proceeding relating to immigration to the United States, United States citizenship, or related matters.
  11. Clarifies that the acts prohibited of a commissioner shall be construed to prohibit the practice of law by a duly licensed attorney.
  12. Authorizes the Secretary of State topropose rules for legislative approval to implement the new article.
  13. Clarifies that all requirements, duties prohibitions and procedures of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts that are consistent with the new article apply to commissioners.
  14. Requires the Secretary of State to include all active commissioners in the database of Notaries Public and to clearly distinguish a commmissioner from a Notary.
Analysis:

For many years several states had a separate office called commissioner of deeds. Commissioners were appointed to take acknowledgments of signers located outside the state regarding real property documents  that were destined for recording in the state. Very few states still have this separate office and in recent years remote notarization has supplanted the need for out-of-state commissioners. That said, West Virginia has not enacted remote notarization provisions. Sentate Bill 669 may be the solution of the West Virginia Legislature to provide officials appointed by the West Virginia Secretary of State who can perform acknowledgments for signers located outside West Virginia without enlisting the services of a remote Notary of another state to take their acknowledgments.

Read the bill text.

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