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Feature

IPEN: What you need to know about the original electronic notarization

image of two people reviewing a document on ipad

From shopping, to ordering food, to notarizations – the global COVID-19 pandemic made electronic transactions a regular and expected part of our lives. For Notaries and their customers, remote notarizations became an option to complete notarizations during the height of the pandemic, when face-to-face interactions sometimes became difficult due to local lockdown measures.

While many states now allow remote online notarizations (RONs) through permanent laws, you may not realize that you were already empowered to perform another form of electronic notarization. In-person electronic notarization (IPEN) has been around for more than 20 years and is approved for use in all 50 states in some form (check your individual state’s laws for the specific requirements for IPENs or other electronic notarizations).

The idea of IPEN was born during the 1990s digital revolution. With the creation of the internet and other digital tools, IPENs were seen as a way to create greater trust in notarial acts. And they were on their way to being widely accepted, but the twin disasters of the bursting real estate bubble and the robo-signing scandal in the mid-2000's, set back the wide adoption of IPENs. However, with IPEN laws  on the books, this type of notarization is just waiting for another chance at adoption.

IPEN vs RON

IPEN and RON explained

IPEN and RON aren’t the same thing. While they share some similarities — namely being electronic notarizations — they have fundamental differences.

IPEN (in-person electronic notarizations) means exactly what it says. They are in-person notarial acts. In other words, they require the signer to appear in front of the Notary in the same physical location at the time of the notarization, and be identified by the Notary in the same way as a traditional notarization. The documents are presented in a digital format and signed using an electronic signature. The Notary uses an electronic seal and signature to notarize the document. 

RONs (remote online notarizations) are notarial acts that allow the signer to “appear” before the Notary over the internet using audio-visual technology. A RON does not require the signer to be in the same physical location as the Notary. Depending on state law and the service being used, the process involves the system establishing the identity of the signer prior to interacting with the Notary, who also verifies the signer’s identity using the same identification documents that are required for a traditional in-person notarization. The signer “signs” the document electronically and the Notary affixes his or her electronic signature and seal to the digital document. The audio and video of the notarial act is typically recorded.

While most remote notarizations are performed on electronic documents, some states allow remote notarizations with paper documents as well.* 

RON has received more attention of late due mainly to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic when many states had temporary emergency authorization for remote notarizations.

Many of the states that put temporary remote measures into place have since enacted permanent laws. To date, 43 states have RON laws on the books.

However, mortgage industry players and the big banks have been slow to utilize RONs in a widespread way, due to the inherent technical complexity of a RON, the lack of a 50-state operational footprint, concerns in some quarters that remotely notarized documents may not be legally recognized across all state lines and other factors.

Making a comeback

In the words of LL Cool J, “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”.   But why is IPEN growing in popularity now? There are a number of reasons.

First, title companies are looking for ways to be more efficient, and IPEN offers both efficiency and a legally verifiable signing process while maintaining their relationships with key partners.

Second, IPENs allow loans to close and be sold to investors in the secondary mortgage market just as quickly as RONs, and there aren’t the same concerns with documents notarized with IPEN being rejected when they cross state borders as some have raised with RON.

Third, and just as important, IPEN makes the process easier for Notaries with a robust, intuitive, reliable platform that improves efficiency.

Further, there’s a need for IPEN. Prior to the pandemic about 70% of loan closings were done at the lender’s or title company’s offices. Now that number is about 50%, with the remaining occuring in-person, but outside the traditional office.  A robust, intuitive, flexible, and secure digital solution that utilizes traditional Notary practices makes IPEN an attractive option for title companies, recorders, signers, and Notaries alike.

How IPEN works

An illustration of how an IPEN works from beginning to end will clearly show the benefits of the process. Because this article has discussed IPEN’s growing acceptance in the mortgage industry, I will use a loan signing as an example:

Step 1: The title company or closing agent loads the loan documents in digital format into a technology platform (either its own or one provided by a third-party vendor such as EscrowTab) that will be used for the signing and assigns it to the Notary Signing Agent.

Step 2: The Notary Signing Agent reviews the documents that are ready for the signer on the platform. If there is a last-minute change to a document prior to the loan signing appointment, there is no need for the Notary to print a revised form, or pick up the revised document at a FedEx location. The documents are updated by the title company or closing agent instantaneously and uploaded to the platform prior to the signing.

Step 3: The Notary Signing Agent travels to the borrower for the signing appointment, logs in to the platform from which the electronic documents will be presented to the borrower and signed, and verifies the identity of the borrower in exactly the same way as they would for a traditional notarization. 

Step 4: The Notary Signing Agent walks the borrower through the documents in the loan package appearing on the Notary’s device. The borrower signs the documents electronically and the Notary Signing Agent performs any notarizations that are required electronically.  The devices that can be used might vary from one platform to another

In addition, digital closing systems can perform quality control checks, verifying that all the signatures and fields have been filled in, eliminating potential errors and giving the Notary and the signer the confidence that the notarization has been completed properly.

Step 5: Once the documents are signed and notarized on the platform, the title company, closing agent, and lender are notified that the documents are signed and ready for their review.

While I have used a loan signing as the example, IPEN can be used for the notarization of a document in any industry setting.

Verifiable signatures

In the early 2000s there was pushback by some states because the statutes hadn’t caught up to the technology. But that isn’t the case anymore.

One of the specific benefits that was first realized with IPEN technology, and then adopted by RON technology later, is that the electronic signatures and notarizations can be verified. An entire audit trail of all actions taken on the electronic document by all the parties is created at the time they occur and can be reviewed by others. This imparts trust to electronically signed and notarized documents that is simply not possible with paper documents.

Before You Get Started

Before you perform IPENs, make sure that you’ve reviewed the laws of your state to determine whether you can perform in-person electronic notarizations. There may be a process you must follow to qualify with your state’s Notary commissioning official, a training course you may be required to take, and an exam you may have to pass. You’ll also want to read up on what your laws say about completing journal entries and notarial certificates for IPENs, as well as any other rules you must follow.  Most of the technology providers can also help you through this process. 

Once you learn your state’s statutes and regulations related to IPENs, you can begin the process of getting on board with the technology you will need to perform IPENs. This typically will be through any companies you work with that are using IPEN.

Depending on the technology provider, you may need specific hardware to perform IPENs. It could be a laptop or mobile computing device. The information can be obtained from the technology provider, such as EscrowTab.

You also will need an electronic seal. Depending on the state, you could receive your electronic seal from the technology provider or obtain it from the NNA.

Then you can sign up with the provider of your choice. (EscrowTab does not charge a fee to create an account, and once created, other signing platforms can see that you are able to perform electronic notarizations.)

Notably, although the focus of this article has been the use of IPEN in the mortgage market, that doesn’t mean IPEN can’t be used in other industries. Because IPENs replicate traditional notarizations, more markets can use and accept IPENs.

But more than that, you’re future proofing your business by being ready for what your clients expect and positioning yourself at the front of the pack compared to other notary signing agents. 

How IPEN benefits Notaries

IPEN saves time and money for Notaries, especially Signing Agents. For example, there is no need to print documents or pick up loan packages from the title company. If a document needs to be updated, it can be done electronically. 

So, what does this mean for the Notary? Fewer business expenses, documents that are ready and correct, more on-time appointments, and happier signers. With the time you save by not having to print documents or pick up new loan packages, you can schedule more jobs, improving your profitability. 

Notarizations Enter the Digital Age

Remote online notarization demonstrated that there was an appetite for electronic notarizations, but in-person electronic notarization shows how they can be done in a way that is easy and secure — and most of all familiar, because IPENs allow Notaries to follow the same practices and procedures in performing notarizations that they have done for years.

The Notaries I’ve worked with love IPEN for all these reasons, and I expect that the demand will transform Notary businesses, making them more efficient and profitable without sacrificing the trust and security that is expected from the work of professional Notaries.

*(As of September 2022, Alabama, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming allow remote notarization using paper documents. Illinois, Maine, Vermont, Delaware and the District of Columbia have pending legislation or rules regarding paper document RON that have not taken effect yet. — The Editors)

Brendon Weiss headshot

Brendon Weiss is a Co-Founder of EscrowTab. EscrowTab provides title companies and lenders a software solution to close loans electronically nationwide using its in-person electronic notarization (IPEN) solution.


Additional Resources:

Traditional Notarization, IPEN and Remote Online Notarization: How They Work

19 Comments

Add your comment

Faith Hutton

15 Sep 2022

Exited about the new technology. When will the tablet become available for signing agents and when can signing agents begin training?

National Notary Association

16 Sep 2022

Hello. As stated in the article, you would first need to confirm your state's laws regarding electronic notarization. Once you learn your state’s statutes and regulations related to IPENs, you can begin the process of getting on board with the technology you will need to perform IPENs. This typically will be provided through any companies you work with that are using IPEN.

stasia.renfrow@gmail.com

19 Sep 2022

IA - when I was looking into IPEN there was little help with the type of software needed for general notary work that would be used or needed for IPEN. Iowa authorities don’t keep a list of acceptable platforms or software and when I called the hotline there wasn’t much information. So, here is what I am assuming I will need if I decide to offer this as an option: 1) a digital certificate, 2) a digital signature and stamp, 3) software - I am looking into Adobe Pro DC with eSign, 4) a tablet with stylus. Is there anything else that would need to be considered in this scenario? Thank you for your help and your information in today’s article.

Jaime H de Leon

19 Sep 2022

That is such cool technology and California allows it. Nice!!! That verification process will save a lot of time. Just wonder how the signor receives their copy? By email from escrow?

Ann Dye

19 Sep 2022

What happens when the notary certificate isn't proper for the State such as CA...has a bold statement indicating Notary does not give Legal Advice....how do we input the right acknowledgement?

Crystal Tate Boose

19 Sep 2022

I’m a licensed Notary in Mississippi and would definitely be interested in this opportunity and to learn more … Thanking you in advance.

Amy Moses

19 Sep 2022

Hi Jamie - We are so glad you love the technology! Once the closing is completed, the borrower will receive a link that provides access to the completed electronic document package. Amy Moses, EscrowTab

Artur

19 Sep 2022

Why are your articles so vague? In addition to saying Check your state's laws, you could have included your own page that lists all the states with summaries. https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/in-person-electronic-notarization

Suzy Smith

19 Sep 2022

Does the title company/mortgage lend drop in the signature boxes that will need to be signed by the IPEN allievating missed signatures?

Vickie King-Mayweather

19 Sep 2022

I am very interested and excited about using IPEN, I just signed up with Escrowtab. Once they set me up and put me on their list does that mean i could potentially be contacted by different Title companies and Lenders? D you know of any other companies that are using IPEN technology?

Avtar Gondara

21 Sep 2022

How can I join ecsrowTab. advise.

Alice Cowen

21 Sep 2022

I’ve been doing some IPEN signings for Rocket Mortgage. I use my 12-inch iPad. However, when I tried to sign up with EscrowTab, it appeared that I was required to either purchase or lease a tablet from them before I could receive signings. Is this correct?

Barbara Gomez

22 Sep 2022

Excelente orientación

Brendon Weiss

22 Sep 2022

Hi @Crytal Tate Boose - please sign up on the EscrowTab website, https://www.escrowtab.com/signing-agents/, to get started! We'll soon be offering live demos where you can learn more about IPEN and see how the solution live as well.

Amy Moses

22 Sep 2022

Hi @Vickie King-Mayweather - Thank you for signing up! Once you create an account with EscrowTab: - EscrowTab will help you by notifying all the title companies and signing services we work with that you are an EscrowTab-enabled notary. - You can promote that you are an EscrowTab-enabled notary by: 1. Logging into your NNA profile and indicating that you are an IPEN-enabled and EscrowTab-enabled. 2. Promoting yourself to your title companies as an EscrowTab-enabled notary. Access our one-pager for title companies and lenders with some key talking points about how EscrowTab can benefit them, including: - Close loans faster than the paper process and in accordance with lender requirements. - Documents are validated to ensure there are no mistakes or missing signatures. - Offering a differentiator to lenders – an eClosing solution that doesn’t create more work for them. - Providing a tech-forward and eco-friendly solution to borrowers. Contact EscrowTab support at support@escrowtab.com and we will send you a sample email you can send to title companies to engage them!

Zahid

24 Sep 2022

I need to learn how to do Online Notary

National Notary Association

26 Sep 2022

Hello. If you are asking about remote online notarizations, you can find more information here: www.NationalNotary.org/ron.

Marjorie Hunt

03 Oct 2022

Do you need to be a Notary Signing Agent to use the IPEN? Currently, I am a Notary Public here in California.

National Notary Association

09 Nov 2022

No, you do not need to be a Notary Signing Agent to use IPEN.

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