Demystifying Digital – Florida’s Online Notarization Law and the Imperative for Institutional Compliance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Online Notarization in Florida: Dispelling Misconceptions, Navigating Obstacles, and Charting the Future

In the rapidly changing world, the digital transformation has rendered physical boundaries insignificant in many sectors, including legal notarization. Traditional notarization has undergone a profound shift towards online notarization, ensuring convenience, efficiency, and flexibility in handling and verifying documents.

Documents Notarized Online Must be Accepted

However, the transition towards a more digital model is not without hurdles. In our experience as a leading remote online notarization service in Florida, we have encountered instances where properly notarized documents are unjustly rejected due to misconceptions or outdated beliefs about online notarization.

The Evolution of Notarization

Before delving into the challenges and misconceptions, it is crucial to comprehend what online notarization is all about. Unlike the conventional face-to-face notarization process, online notarization allows notaries and signers to connect via a secure, two-way audio-visual call to execute documents electronically.  Online Notarization is more secure than traditional in-person notarizations.

It is important to note that with online notarization, there is no such thing as a “wet” signature. Every Remote Online Notarization (RON) in Florida will feature an electronic signature. In Florida, this process is governed by Florida Statutes (FS) 117, and it enables us to notarize a broad range of critical documents such as trusts, power of attorney, and real estate closing documents remotely.

Importantly, FS 117 clearly states that any document that can be notarized traditionally can also be notarized online. This means online notarization isn’t a niche or an alternative service, but a fully-fledged, mainstream option that’s here to stay.

The Acceptance Conundrum

Despite our meticulous adherence to all legal obligations, we often observe our clients’ facing roadblocks when submitting their online notarized documents to banks, title companies, or government agencies. These institutions, unfortunately, refuse these documents based on misunderstandings or dated presumptions about the online notarization process.

One of the most common misapprehensions involves the ‘raised notary seal’. Some believe that notarized documents must have a raised seal to be considered valid. However, not only is the concept of a raised seal impossible with remote online notarization, but it’s also not a requirement for traditional in-person notarization in Florida. In fact, most notaries don’t even own an embosser.

Another misconception is the insistence on a “wet” signature, which not only contradicts the essence of RON but also is nonsensical in the context of digital notarization. Misconceptions like these point to a lack of understanding and need to be addressed to ensure a smooth process for all parties involved.

Overcoming Obstacles through Education and Persistence

Addressing this challenge requires a dual-pronged approach – imparting accurate information about online notarization and demonstrating tenacity in the face of resistance. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Empower with Knowledge: It’s crucial for clients to familiarize themselves with FS 117, particularly the provisions dealing with online notarization. Understanding the legality of online notarization can bolster their confidence when dealing with institutions.
  2. Supportive Documentation: When submitting notarized documents, always include a cover letter outlining the legality and validity of online notarization under FS 117. This can preemptively allay any doubts or concerns that the receiving institution might harbor.
  3. Persistence is Key: In the unfortunate event of a refusal, kindly request a written explanation detailing their reasons. This can help pinpoint and rectify the specific misunderstanding that led to the refusal.

Civil Consequences for Refusal to Comply with Florida Law

Do I have to accept a document notarized online?

Underwriters, title companies, banks, and other institutions that arbitrarily reject these online notarized documents should be mindful of the potential legal implications of their actions.

Refusing to accept a document that has been properly notarized online in accordance with state law could potentially expose an institution to civil liability. Therefore, it is crucial for such institutions to review the law and revisit their policies and guidelines, ensuring they align with the evolving landscape of legal document handling and the digital revolution in the notarization industry.

Forging a Path Forward

Online notarization is undeniably shaping the future of document handling. It brings a plethora of benefits, including accessibility, speed, and a streamlined process. As we navigate this relatively new territory, it’s incumbent upon us to clear up misconceptions and embrace an updated understanding of this digital transition.

For the smooth acceptance and processing of online notarized documents, it’s essential for institutions, clients, and notary services to work in tandem. By collaboratively educating each other and staying open to changes, we can overcome these teething troubles and streamline the process for everyone involved.

Remember, the crux of notarization, be it online or traditional, revolves around verifying authenticity, deterring fraud, and fostering trust. As we acclimate to the digital revolution, let us remember that the spirit of the law remains consistent, and we merely need to align our understanding and acceptance with these emerging practices. This collaborative effort will lead to an easier, more efficient process, benefiting everyone involved in notarization.

Conclusion: Proper Notarization is the First Step to Acceptance

To cut through the haze of misconceptions surrounding online notarization, it’s crucial to start at the very beginning – the act of notarization itself. Ensuring that a document is notarized correctly and in accordance with Florida’s laws is the foundation upon which its acceptance rests.

Florida Document Specialists, the original and leading online notarization service in Florida, is committed to meeting this requirement every single time. Our team has a deep understanding of the intricacies of online notarization as outlined in FS 117. We ensure that each document we handle is notarized properly, meeting all the legal obligations and nuances of online notarization in Florida.

By choosing Florida Document Specialists, you are not just opting for a service, but a promise. A promise that every document entrusted to us will be handled with the highest degree of professionalism and meticulousness. We stand as a vanguard of correct and legal online notarization, upholding the integrity of this digital transition and making sure your documents stand up to any scrutiny.

As we progress towards a digital future, remember that proper notarization is your first defense against any unreasonable demands or rejections. Trust in Florida Document Specialists – we’re here to ensure your documents are beyond reproach.

Contact Us

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • What are your business hours?

    Our online notaries work 9am – 5pm eastern time Monday through Friday.  We offer a Priority-RUSH option that can accommodate your online notarization needs after hours, on weekends, and on most holidays.

  • Do I have to be in Florida to use your remote online notary service?

    No, our notarizations are valid in all U.S. states and territories.  We can facilitate your online notarization anywhere in the world if you meet the minimum requirements.

  • Do you have to be a United States citizen to use online notarization?

    No.  U.S. citizens and non-US citizens (foreign nationals) can use remote online notarization quickly and easily.  International online notarization is now quick and easy.

    Florida Document Specialists has invested in state-of-the-art biometric ID-proofing technology, which has eliminated the need for old-fashioned “Knowledge Based Authentication KBA”, which is confusing, slow, and often inaccurate.  Now, all you need is your passport (US or foreign), or a government issued identification document.

  • Can you provide international online notarizations for non-US citizens?

    We specialize in international online notarizations and are one of the very few businesses that can offer this service.

    We have invested in the latest biometric ID-proofing technology, which allows us to perform remote online notarizations all over the world.  If you are not a U.S. citizen and you are located outside of the United States, you must have a passport to use our service.  You don’t need a social security number or credit history in the U.S.

  • What is Remote Online Notarization (RON)?

    Remote online notarization, or “RON” as it’s commonly called, is a 100% online notarization service where documents of all types can be electronically signed and notarized online using a device with a camera and microphone.  Only a certified online notary public can perform online notarizations in Florida.

  • I need a Florida apostille for my document. Can you help?

    If you need a Florida apostille for your document, you’ve come to the right place. At Florida Document Specialists, we specialize in obtaining apostilles and authentications for documents intended for use in foreign countries.

    We understand that this process can be complicated and time-consuming, but our team of experts is here to help. We offer a RUSH service that can have your documents apostilled and ready within 2 business days. Please note that same-day service is not available in the State of Florida, despite what you may find on other websites. However, we do our best to provide a fast and efficient service to ensure that your documents are processed as quickly as possible.

    Please visit our page on apostilles and authentications to learn more about our services and how we can help you. Our team provides the best possible experience for our clients and ensures that their documents are ready for use in foreign countries. 

  • Do you have a Spanish speaking online notary?

    ¡Sí! Se habla español.

  • Are all your notaries Florida notaries?

    Yes, all our notaries are commissioned in the State of Florida.

  • I want to notarize a document online, how do I get started?

    The best way to get started and place an order is to visit our remote online notarization page and click the orange button in the "Let's Get Started" section.

  • Can Florida Document Specialists provide online witnesses?

    Yes.  We can supply up to two remote witnesses for your online notarization.  The witnesses will appear with you during your online video appointment.

  • Can I supply my own witnesses?

    Yes.  However, each witness must pass ID verification the same as the principal signer, and each witness must have their own email address and a suitable device.  Unless you have personal reasons for using your own witnesses, we recommend that you use ours.  The fee for bringing your own witnesses online is $30 per witness.

  • How and when will I receive my notarized documents?

    Documents notarized online will be emailed to you immediately after your session with the online notary.  Customers typically have their notarized documents within five minutes.  We can also forward the documents to a third party if you wish.

  • Can online notarization be used for real estate closing and mortgage documents?

    Yes, we are experienced with notarizing real estate closing and mortgage documents online for both sellers and buyers.

    Some underwriters aren't up to speed with current laws and can cause you grief.  It's best practice to consult with your title company about the online notarization service you want to use.  Before you do that, we recommend you read our blog on this subject.

    Our online notary technology is MISMO certified.

  • What makes Florida Document Specialists my best choice for online notarization?
    • Our proficiency is in managing complex document notarizations.
    • We present the most user-friendly global online notary service in the market.
    • John Bayne, our CEO and online notary coordinator, was honored as the 2021 Notary of the Year by the National Notary Association (NNA)!
    • As Florida's first online notary service provider, Florida Document Specialists is a Florida-based corporation, with our online notaries certified by the Florida Department of State to carry out remote online notarizations.
    • The Central Florida Better Business Bureau (BBB) has accredited, rated us A+, and given us 5-star reviews.
    • We employ cutting-edge remote online notarization (RON) technology, as well as advanced credential analysis and identity verification systems, providing us with superior resources compared to our competitors.
    • Our organization and every one of our notaries are bonded and insured.
    • Unlike most online notary services, we offer accessibility and phone support, allowing you to communicate with your online notary via call, text, or email.

    Read more about our value-added services.

  • What are the minimum system requirements to use remote online notarization (RON)?

    It is important that you use a supported web browser that can access your webcam and microphone.  

    Supported Operating Systems and Browsers

    • Windows PC
      • Google Chrome – Version 30 or higher
      • FireFox – Version 24 or higher
      • Opera – Latest Version
    • Mac (Sierra or above)
      • Google Chrome (Latest Version)
      • Firefox (Latest Version)
    • Android (Phones and Tablets)
      • Google Chrome – Latest Version
    • iOS (iPAD and iPHONE)
      • iOS 11 or higher (Operating System)
      • Safari or Google Chrome Browser
  • How long does an online notary session take?

    An online notary session typically takes under five minutes.  Estate planning documents such as electronic wills, trusts, and durable power of attorney documents may take longer.

  • Is Remote Online Notarization safe and secure?

    Remote Online Notarization (RON) offers a safe and more secure alternative to traditional paper notarizations when implemented and managed correctly. This process employs technology that enables notaries to carry out notarial acts while being physically distant from the signer. Various steps are taken to maintain the safety and integrity of RON transactions, such as: Identity confirmation: Our RON uses biometric data to verify the signer's identity, helping to reduce the potential for fraud or unauthorized access. Protected video calls: Notaries and signers interact through a secure video conference, which is recorded and saved. This recording acts as evidence and can be useful in resolving disputes or legal matters. Tamper-proof technology: The RON platforms we utilize incorporate tamper-proof technology, ensuring that any unauthorized modifications to the signed document can be quickly identified. Digital certification: Digital certificates validate the notary's identity and the legitimacy of the notarial seal and signature. Encrypted storage and transmission: Our data systems employ robust encryption techniques to safeguard the transfer and storage of sensitive information. Regulatory compliance: Florida Document Specialists adheres to Florida laws and regulations, ensuring that the RON procedure follows the best practices for security and privacy.

  • What is a notarial act? Does my document need specific notary language?

    Most documents submitted to us for online notarization already have a notary block containing the proper notarial language that makes it clear to the online notary which notarial act is required.  We can edit your notary block for proper Florida format.

    The two most common notarial acts that an online notary performs are oaths and acknowledgements.  If you submit a document to us for notarization without proper notarial language, your online notary is going to ask you what type of notarial act you want performed.  If you do not know, the online notary cannot decide for you, but we can help you research your options.

    Improper notarizations are also the number one reason while Florida apostilles are rejected.  If you are notarizing a document for an apostille, be sure to read our blog on the subject.

  • Is there an official record of the online notary session?

    Yes, all remote online notary (RON) sessions are audio-video recorded, and the recordings are kept for ten years.  Our notaries also keep a detailed notary journal of all remote online notary transactions.

  • What type of identification (ID) do I need to use remote online notarization?

    The following types of identification are acceptable:

    • Florida Driver License or ID Card
    • A Driver License or ID Card Issued by any U.S. State or U.S. Territory
    • A Driver License or ID Card Issued in Canada or Mexico
    • U.S. Passport
    • A Passport from Any Country

    If you do not possess a qualifying identification document, you can use the sworn statements of two credible witnesses instead.

  • Will I have to provide my social security number?

    We will never ask you for your social security number, nor do we have access to it.

    We specialize in international online notarizations and are one of the very few businesses that can offer this service.

    We have invested in the latest biometric ID-proofing technology, which allows us to perform remote online notarizations all over the world.  You can use your country’s passport or photo ID card.  You don’t need a social security number or credit history in the U.S.

  • What documents can be notarized using remote online notarization (RON)?

    Most any document that can be notarized by a traditional, in-person notary, can be notarized online.  There are more formal procedures that must be followed when notarizing certain documents such as wills, trusts, durable power of attorney, and advance healthcare directives.  These types of documents require that a notary have special training for them to be legal.

  • Will my title company accept Florida Document Specialists as an online notary solution for my real estate closing documents?

    The best way to answer this question is to have you read our blog on title companies and online notarization.

    You must ask your title company which online notary providers are “blessed” by their underwriter.  You can tell them that Florida Document Specialists uses DocVerify, Secured Signing, and Pactima as their technology providers.  One of them should be on their secret list.

    If a title company starts to give you a hard time about online notarizations, it may be a sign that you need to consider finding a new title company.

  • Can I execute (notarize) a last will and testament online?

    Yes, Florida Document Specialists can notarize your electronic will online and provide the services of a qualified custodian of electronic wills.  This is a specialized area of online notarization that most companies cannot offer.  To learn more about electronic wills, please visit our web page on the subject.

    Do I need a “qualified custodian of electronic will” if I decided to execute my will online?

    Yes.  Notarizing a last will and testament online requires the designation of a Qualified Custodian of Electronic Wills.  In addition, there are other specialized procedures which must be followed.  Florida Document Specialists is one of only two companies in Florida that are set up to offer these services.  To submit a last will and testament for notarization please visit this page.

    If you need a simple will prepared, we offer nonlawyer document preparation services for electronic wills.   We can bundle your electronic will with other estate planning documents such as a durable power of attorney,  lady bird deeds, and advance healthcare directives, for a better value.

  • Can I notarize a durable general power of attorney via RON?

    Yes.   Please read our policy on notarizing a durable power of attorney by remote online notarization.  We also offer nonlawyer document preparation services if you need a durable power of attorney prepared for you.

    If you are considered a "vulnerable adult" - you must have your witnesses physically located with you when you appear before the notary on video.

  • Can we get married online using remote notarization?

    No.  Florida prohibits online marriages.  However, if you are an active member of the armed forces or a resident of the State of Montana, you may benefit from reading about “proxy marriages“.

    Our preferred provider, Montana Proxy Marriages, would be happy to talk to you and assist you with the process.

  • I need a notarized travel authorization to travel internationally with a minor child. Can you help?

    Yes, indeed.  We’ll even prepare a custom letter for you for free.  Read our blog about minor travel authorization documents.

  • Can you notarize a USPS form PS 1583 online? (Delivery of mail through agent.)

    Yes, quickly, and easily.  Read more about the USPS form PS 1583.

  • My document requires witnesses. Can you provide them?
    • Yes, we can provide witnesses for your documents.  We also offer an eRecording service to electronically record deeds in most Florida counties.
  • Can you use online notarization for documents that require multiple signers?

    Yes, our online notary system supports multiple signers and witnesses at the same time.  You can also share the same computer or device if you are in the same location.

  • Do my documents have to be, “Florida documents?”

    No.  We can notarize documents online that have no association with Florida.  However, to use online notarization, your documents must pertain to a personal or business matter with a connection to the United States.

  • There are places on my documents that need electronic signatures and initials. Can you handle this?

    Yes, we can set up your documents for multiple electronic signatures and initials.

  • Do you provide emergency or RUSH notary services?

    We offer an optional Priority-RUSH service for emergencies or for after-hours and holiday appointments.

    To reach our on-call notary for after-hours emergencies, please call our business number and choose option 9.

  • Can I submit a blank document or just the signature page for online notarization?

    No.  You must properly complete documents prior to submitting them.  We do not accept loose signature pages or documents that are not filled out properly.

  • Can you verify vehicle identification numbers (VIN) through remote online notarization?

    No.  The HSMV form 82402 requires an in-person physical inspection of the vehicle.  It cannot be notarized online.  Many police departments offer this service for free.

  • I’ve been told that I need a “wet” signature, or my document will not be accepted. Can you help?

    No.  Florida online notarizations are done completely online, and all signatures and seals are electronic.

    Requests like these typically come from foreign countries or title companies that are ignorant of Florida notary law.  It's important that you do your due diligence to determine if the end user of your documents will accept electronic signatures and online notarizations.

    Possible workaround:

    We can make a certified true copy of an electronically notarized document.  This true copy affidavit will have a wet signature and a wet notary stamp.  The affidavit will be attached to a printout of the electronic document.  We can then mail the documents to you.  There is a $25 charge for this service plus postage.

     

  • Is Florida Document Specialists a “call center notary operation”? Do you subcontract notaries and act as the middleman?

    We frequently receive calls from consumers asking us to “repair” documents that were incorrectly notarized online by a “call center notary”.

    An online notary “call center” operation is a non-Florida company that recruits subcontract notaries En masse.  Since these companies are just the “middleman”, the focus is on volume and not quality or accountability.  Call center notaries are scattered across the country and operate under various state laws.  Companies that follow this business model typically lure consumers with national advertising and then match them with inexperienced notaries.  These subcontract online notaries are rarely vetted, and many produce unsatisfactory work.  If you ever need to speak with your notary before or after your appointment, you are going to have issues.   Call center notary companies typically don’t have customer service phone numbers that are answered by humans or live chat on their websites.

    All our online notaries work exclusively for Florida Document Specialists and are vetted and highly trained to work with the most complex documents.