Kentucky Teachers’ Fund Suspends Requirement for Notary Signatures

A patchwork of states allows remote witnesses, since in-person regulations have been made inconvenient by social distancing measures.

In response to a state emergency order, the Teachers’ Retirement System of the state of Kentucky (TRS) eliminated notary signatures earlier this month for members because of social distancing measures. 

The educator pension fund asked its plan participants to fill out and send in a certification to confirm their identity, along with any forms that usually require a witness. The form requires only a name, signature, and the last four digits of the member’s Social Security number. 

The notary freeze will retroactively apply to documents dated from March 23 through to the end of the state of emergency in Kentucky. 

A notary witness is meant to guide members of the public through legal agreements to help prevent misunderstanding, as well as fraud. But the social distancing measures necessitated by the pandemic have made in-person witnesses for important documents inconvenient for members.

While other states have recently passed executive orders allowing signatures to be notarized remotely, the Kentucky TRS pension fund has removed the requirement altogether. 

On Monday, New Jersey was the latest state to permit officials to witness signatures through “interactive and secure” online sessions. Emailed documents must be notarized the same day as they were signed. 

New York also issued guidelines for notaries last month, allowing them to witness a document signature through audiovisual technology. A patchwork of other states, including Louisiana and New Hampshire, have also passed executive orders temporarily allowing remote signatures.

Other states have yet to lower requirements. In California, banking groups sent a letter earlier this month to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to ease the in-person requirement, calling it “problematic” and in conflict with orders to stay at home. 

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