Remote Online Notarization Now Permitted in Wisconsin

Ruder Ware

These are unprecedented times for all of us.  We continue to receive directives, orders, and suggestions from our local, state and federal governments and their agencies, most of which continue to place additional restrictions on our activities.  In an effort to allow real estate transactions to continue, an effort has been made by the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to implement remote online notarization (RON).  Remote online notarization allows notarial acts to be conducted by electronic means by notaries public who have been certified to take these actions.

In early March, Wisconsin adopted Act 125 (the Act) to, among other matters, allow RON and to implement procedures for notarial acts via RON and the certification of notaries pubic to do so.  The Act was intended to go into effect on May 1, 2020, but allowed the DFI to adopt emergency rules for implementation.  DFI issued emergency rules for implementation effective on March 18, 2020.  This emergency rule was subsequently clarified for technical matters and scope on March 20, 2020.

Generally, the emergency rule allows for out-of-state notaries public from the 22 other states that currently allow RON procedures to provide notarial acts for Wisconsin real estate transactions.  The emergency rule identifies several of the electronic services that are recognized as permissible for these activities.  The rule also indicates that DFI will be providing additional guidance on how in-state notaries public can qualify for RON status.  The emergency rule and additional guidance are available on the DFI website.

Currently, a number of national title insurance companies are offering RON for Wisconsin real estate transactions.  We caution you to inquire as to whether your chosen title insurer offers these services for all types of transactions or merely on the part of sellers.  Several title companies are taking the position that they will leave the buyer’s side of transactions to lenders to address, since there may still be original or similar signing requirements for mortgage lenders to address.

We will continue to monitor this situation as matters progress and additional clarification is provided.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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