California Notarizations During Covid: Good News and Bad News

By: Tamara Pow, Esq.

As a business and real estate attorney I have always liked to keep my notary commission up to date so that I can notarize documents for clients in the middle of a deal, even if it is after hours and all of the secretaries and paralegals with notary licenses have gone home.  I recently had the opportunity to notarize some documents for clients completing a real estate transaction in the new Covid-19 world.  Normally this would not be an event worth mentioning.  This time, it meant I drove to their house in San Jose (because my office is closed), we all wore masks, we took turns signing the document staying six feet apart at a long table in their driveway; we drop-passed driver’s licenses back and forth and used hand sanitizer before and after we touched objects like my notary book or the stamp pad.  One of the driver’s licenses I recorded in my notary book was about to expire, and we had a discussion about what that would mean since the DMV is closed.  In the last two months, clients needing to get documents notarized have asked if there is an easier way to do it.  Well… I’ll give you the bad news first.

Can I Get Something Notarized Online or Remotely?

Remote online notarization is where the person whose signature is being notarized appears before the notary at the time of notarization over the internet instead of actually being in the same room. This is different than electronic notarization which involves documents notarized in electronic form where the notary and the person signing the document both sign with electronic signatures, then the signer appears personally in front of the notary and gets that electronic signature notarized.  Remote online notarization would be very helpful during the Covid-19 shelter-in-place restrictions as well as at anytime someone is too ill or at risk to see a notary in person.

Can people do this is other states?  Yes – most states have either permanent or temporary Covid-related rules for remote online notarizations.

Can we do this in California?  No.

Can I get Something Notarized with an Expired Driver’s License?

California Civil Code Section 1185(b)(3)(A) allows notarization with an expired driver’s license or ID card so long as it was issued within the last five years.  The good news is Governor Newsom’s Order now extends this for 60 days for ID with an expiration date of March 1, 2020 or later.  In addition, California DMV extended driver’s license expiration dates by 120 days for seniors 70 years or older whose licenses expire between March 1 and May 31, 2020, and until May 31, 2020 for California drivers under 70 years old whose licenses expire between March and May 2020.

What if a Notary’s Commission is Expiring/Expired?

Some more good news… On May 8, 2020 Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order,  extending certain expired California Notary commissions for 60 days.  The Notary can continue to notarize documents as long as she writes on the notarization: “The notary commission extended pursuant to Executive order N-63-20.” The notary must still maintain errors and omissions insurance and a surety bond during the extension.

Tamara Pow is a business and real estate transactional attorney (and a notary) at Strategy Law, LLP in San Jose, California.  This article is up to date as of May 13, 2020.

Source:  National Notary Association, go to for updates on which states allow remote notarizations.


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