Video- Notary is Vetoed in California, and be careful with your choice of Agent

Two Brief blogs this month – little more than Blogettes to be honest but it is August after all.

First – Do we need to meet?

The question is often raised as to whether in this day and age of Skype and video technology, it is still necessary to have a physical, face to face, meeting in order for a Notary to witness your signatures. Why not just all phone each other up in a video call so that we can see each other and the Notary can watch you make your signatures? Then the paper can be posted to the Notary for his stamp and seal to be added.

The two opposed views are those of the traditionalists on the one side and the “early adopters” on the other. The First would say that the Notarial tradition is of hundreds of years long-standing and should not be tinkered with – “we know what works”. The Second say that there is no point having new technology if it is not incorporated into our lives to update old procedures and traditions.

As a broad generalisation perhaps the English Notaries would instinctively tend to the first view and the Americans to the second. At any rate, it appears that Notaries particularly in California have started to mark their papers as being “witnessed” through the medium of Skype or video conference calling.

Now there has been a ruling detailed on the website of the Secretary of State for California – online web cam notarisation is invalid and illegal in the State of California. California is a progressive sort of a place and also one of the centres of the American Computer Industry and therefore perhaps more likely than other Countries to accept new ways of doing things.

The conclusion to be drawn is that at least for now, video technology CANNOT replace a personal meeting with the Notary.

For the time being, the traditionalists are vindicated. The rule would seem to be that no changes in long standing procedures, however convenient and time-saving  and money-saving they may be, should be risked until there is clear Statutory Authority and permission granted by the receiving Jurisdiction.

Second – Foreign Court Cases are very expensive!

My second point this month is merely to remark that in only the past three weeks I have twice been asked to notarise Court documentation on behalf of two different clients who have each apparently been defrauded by their foreign agents. One in China, one in India.

More and more English firms are looking for trade with the BRICs countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) with strong economies and high commercial growth.

Clearly in order to enter into trade with countries on the other side of the world it is necessary to appoint local agents.

However, if a fraudster is appointed, the cost and worry of maintaining litigation in foreign Courts is extremely high. There is no overall answer to this problem but an initial (and lengthy and frequent!) series of face to face meetings, personal recommendations and the use of experienced International Legal Advisors (before the event not after it) are all likely to contribute to minimise the risks.

Please contact me about any of the matters raised in any of my Blogs, or indeed about any Notarial or Notary linked questions at all – I am always interested to hear from you and discuss points of concern

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