Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker has issued updated guidelines addressing the services of notary publics and the remote witnessing of document signings. The guidelines are in response to social distancing recommendations linked to the coronavirus outbreak.
Executive Order 2020-14, which was issued on March 26, states that during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the following should be observed:
- The requirement that a person must “appear before” a notary public is satisfied if the notary public performs a remote notarization via two-way audio-video communication technology, provided that the notary public is physically located within Illinois while performing the notarial act and the transaction follows the guidance posted by the Illinois Secretary of State.
- Any act of witnessing required by Illinois law may be completed remotely via two-way audio-video communication technology, pursuant to specific guidelines laid out in the order.
- All provisions of Section 5-120(c) of the Electronic Commerce Security Act, 5 ILCS 175/5-120(c), which prohibits electronic signatures on certain documents, remain in full effect.
- Absent an express prohibition in a document against signing in counterparts, all legal documents, including deeds, last wills and testaments, trusts, durable powers of attorney for property, and powers of attorney for health care, may be signed in counterparts by the witness(es) and the signatory. A notary public must be presented with a fax or electronic copy of the document signature pages showing the witness signatures on the same date the document is signed by the signatory if the notary public is being asked to certify to the appearance of the witnesses to a document.
The executive order recognizes the procedural changes as necessary for enabling Illinoisans to continue to make “critical personal and business decisions and finalize planning documents that often require the services of a Notary Public or a witness” while also observing social distancing guidelines.
However, there have been concerns from the Illinois legal community on the details of the order. For example, privacy issues are raised regarding the requirement to transmit a “legible copy of the entire signed document directly to the witness,” which is not required of an in-person process. Mark Palmer, Chief Counsel at the Commission on Professionalism, will explore the issues under debate in an upcoming blog post as these matters evolve.
The complete executive order can be found here.
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