As Virginia law recognizes the validity of both electronic signatures and electronic notarization, legal activity and transactions can move forward without compromising vital social distancing protocols designed to limit COVID-19 spread.
The legal basis for e-signatures was established at the federal level in 1999. Next, states set about adopting comparable legislation to enable their electronic commerce. In Virginia, this was accomplished through the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), Va. Code §§59.1-479, et. seq., which provided legal recognition of electronic records, electronic signatures and electronic contracts. It further provided that contracts and records are not invalid simply because they are in an electronic format rather than on paper.
In Virginia, the law defines an electronic signature as an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to a document by a person with intent to sign that document. Common signature forms include an “I accept” button or a physical signature on an electronic pad with a stylus.
While Virginia’s UETA applies to most transactions, certain documents must be signed in hard copy. These include wills; codicils; testamentary trusts; negotiable instruments; bank deposits and collections; funds transfers; letters of credit; bulk transfers; warehouse receipts, bills of lading and other documents of title; investment securities; secured transactions; and certain other transactions governed by parts of the Virginia Uniform Commercial Code.
Virginia law also provides for electronic notarization of documents and records. In these instances, document notarization is accomplished using a computer and appropriate software and hardware instead of a pen and stamp. Notarial acts may occur in the presence of the signer, or via teleconference.
Congressional Action to Allow E-notarizations Nationwide
Nationally, only half the country has adopted remote online notarization (RON) statutes. In response to the COVID-19 emergency, Sen. Kevin Kramer, R-N.D., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., introduced legislation March 18 to allow immediate nationwide use of RON in response to the pandemic. The Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020 would authorize notaries nationwide to perform RONs using tamper-evident technology and other fraud protection actions. As written, the bill would not supersede state laws, infringe on state data privacy laws or impact state laws on testamentary wills and trusts.
National trade organizations such as American Land Title Association, Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors support the bill, noting it gives consumers options to safely close transactions during the health crisis.
Attorneys related to this topic include:
Click here for a printable file.
A list of the firm's COVID-19 legal and informational resources can be found here.
This has been provided as an informational service and does not constitute legal counsel or advice, which can only be rendered in the context of specific factual situations. If a legal issue should arise, please contact an attorney listed or retain the assistance of other competent legal counsel. Case results depend on a variety of factors unique to each case and results do not guarantee or predict a similar result in any future case undertaken.