I have been a Traditional Commissioned Notary Public in the State of Texas since 2004. I have heard about the ability to notarize documents online since the start of the Pandemic. However, I never spent the time to research how to become an online notary (sometimes call a “remote online notary” or “RON”), until now. I’ve seen so many posts in Paralegals Connect asking which RON Platform is recommended and have always been curious about this process and the platform.
For those of you wanting to incorporate online notarization into your workflow and/or choosing a RON Platform, I’m hoping that this article helps you learn, through my experience, how to become an online notary, answers your important questions, and assists you in making your platform decision. Fortunately, my RON Platform provider had a “turnkey” service walking me through each step including, platform training, discussion of the rules and requirements, and assisted in creating the digital certificate and electronic seal.
*The steps and requirements discussed in this article pertain to notaries and online notaries in Texas. The requirements in other states will vary, so consult the Secretary of State, or regulating agency in your state, which will usually provide the requirements for becoming a RON.
Steps to Become a Remote Online Notary
You must first be an active commissioned Traditional Notary Public.
With your active traditional commission, you may apply to be commissioned as an Online Notary Public, but you will need a few things discussed below in Step 2.
First, you will need a x.509 Digital Certificate. The digital certificate, also known as a digital signature, will be registered to you as a RON and will be filed with the Secretary of State, and is valid for two (2) years. The x.509 Digital Certificate will be your electronic signature in every online notarization you perform and must be dedicated solely for your online notarizations and no other purpose and must be x.509 compliant.
What does a x.509 Digital Certificate do? I’ll try to explain this in nontechnical language as it was explained to me. When you place your x.509 Digital “tamper evident” Certificate on an electronic notarized document, it will take a “snapshot” of that document on a given date and time, it will contain your information as the RON, and it will reflect if the document is the exact same document, or if the document has changed or been tampered with since the certificate was applied.
Second, you will need your online Electronic Notary Seal (Notary Stamp). This is an image file that looks exactly like your “ink stamp” notary seal. This electronic seal will need to be renewed when your traditional notary commission is renewed.
You will apply online for your Online Notary Commission on the Secretary of State website, upload your x.509 Digital Certificate, and Electronic Notary Seal, and pay an application fee via credit card to the Secretary of State. Once you are commissioned and sworn in you will need a RON Platform to perform online notarizations.
What is a RON Platform?
A Remote Online Notary Platform (“RON Platform”) is a secure online software platform wherein you will meet with your clients or other signing party remotely, identify them, administer an oath, if need be, complete affidavits, verifications, acknowledgments, or other notarial acts, and notarize their electronic documents. This is all done through a secure video conference, which will be recorded by and stored on the RON Platform service provider.
Recommended RON Platform: Notary.io
So, who do I recommend using for your RON Platform? I would absolutely recommend Notary.io!
While researching RON Platforms, I came across Notary.io. I asked them to be an Affiliate Partner with Paralegals Connect since I was impressed with their platform, quality of training, and services. Notary.io went above and beyond and gave me pointers on how to efficiently and effectively complete electronic online notarized documents.
Reasons to use Notary.io
Reason 1: Assistance throughout the Traditional and/or Online Notary Commission Process.
During your online training session, Notary.io will walk you and/or your notary staff through the online application process with the Texas Secretary of State. Notary.io provides professional training on Texas online notary rules and requirements to get you quickly up and running as an online notary.
Reason 2: Notary.io creates your x.509 Digital Certificate and Online Electronic Notary Seal.
Before my training, Notary.io requested that I email the following:
Notary.io then creates the x.509 Digital Certificate and Electronic Notary Seal for you and your team!
Reason 3: Notary.io provides Professional Training on how to use the Notary.io Platform.
Reason 4: No Recurring Fees. There are no reoccurring annual or monthly software/platform fees, no minimum use charge, and fees for online notarizations are solely based on use ($16 per online notarization).
Reason 5: You access the Notary.io platform through your web browser so there is no app to install or update.
Online Notarization in a Nutshell
1. Login to the Notary.io platform, enter name and information about the signing party, select a method of identifying the signing party, and generate a link to the upcoming session. You may also add a client/matter number to track the session for billing your law firm’s client.
2. Email the signing party the session link, document(s) to be notarized, and date/time to meet online.
3. Online Notary joins the session. Signing party follows the link and Notary.io walks them through the identification process, obtains an electronic signature, and then the signing party meets the online Notary in the secure video room.
4. A recorded session is initiated, and the online Notary makes a statement of the method of identity (personal knowledge, photo ID credentialing plus knowledge-based authentication test, or other approved method).
5. Online Notary performs the necessary notarial acts that are also recorded.
6. The signing party electronically signs the document(s) and the recording and session ends.
7. Online Notary then completes the certificate following the rules and reflecting that the notarization was an online notarization and then applies the Electronic Seal and x.509 Digital Certificate signature to the document.
8. The Online Notary will have the “original” electronic file of the notarized document (typically in PDF format), and in Texas, you will need to create an image copy of the original for e-filing.
Bottom Line: So how much
does the entire process cost?
The good news is the cost was minimal to get started as a RON, and going forward I will only incur and expense when I use Notary.io’s platform.
1. Traditional Notary Public Commission.
Notary.io offers a $125 complete package for applying to become a new, or renewed, Traditional Texas Notary Commission, which includes your Texas SOS application fee, notary stamp, notary journal, and a $10,000 bond.
*The Notary.io Store also provides notary items such as notary stamps, embossers, seal ink, and notary journals.
2. Online Notary Public Commission.
The application is $51.35, paid directly to the Secretary of State.
3. x.509 Digital Certificate and Electronic Notary Seal.
$25 fee per notary, paid to Notary.io, which will be billed to account holder on the first month’s invoice.
4. Setup and Online Training: For business account holders (law firms, corporations with notaries as employees, contract paralegal businesses, etc.) Notary.io offers a “Business Plan”, which provides complimentary services (free unless a charge is indicated) including:
Notary.io offers the “Mobile Notary Plan” a $125 startup package. This package is for startup remote notaries and sole proprietorships who cannot provide proof of frequent notarizations. This package includes a $20 Notary University Training session, and five (5) prepaid Online Notarization Sessions.
5. The only cost after your initial set up is $16 for each notarization performed on the platform and Notary.io will provide a monthly invoice setting out each online transaction.
The $16 charge for each online notarization includes the creation and Texas required five (5) year storage of online notary’s electronic record (including the required video recording). Note that some states will have records retention periods longer than 5 years.
Also check with Notary.io for details and applicability of the $48 session cap/discount when multiple online notarizations are completed within the same online session.
About the Author: Crystal Cornett is a Paralegal with over 19-years of experience in the legal industry. She earned her Paralegal Certificate from the University of Houston in March 2006. Crystal received her degree from Center for Advanced Legal Studies in 2010. She is a member of the Lambda Epsilon Chi National Honor Society for Paralegal / Legal Assistant Studies (LEX).
In February 2022, Crystal resigned from her position as a Real Estate paralegal after working in a law office for over 18 years. In March 2022, Crystal started a new career with Newhouse + Noblin as a paralegal recruiter to continue her passion to support paralegals and the legal community. Connect with Crystal on LinkedIn.
Crystal is the Founder of Paralegals Connect and creates The Paralegals Connect Magazine, which is distributed quarterly to our 38k worldwide members. This June we will celebrate the 10-Year Anniversary since the start of Paralegals Connect and the 5-Year Anniversary of The Paralegals Connect Magazine!
Paralegals Connect (“PC”): What is Justice Solutions Group and how did you become a Private Investigator?
We’re a full-service private investigations firm that specializes in asset searches, due diligence, litigation research and surveillance for law firms, capital, insurance, and third-party administrators. All the investigators here came from a variety of backgrounds, mostly law enforcement and military. I am a former police officer with the Department of Defense, and I worked with the US Navy and Marine Corps for several years before transitioning to the private sector, where I have worked in executive security and investigations for the past seventeen years.
My brother Tyler helped me start the company when he got out of the Navy and is our Director of Intelligence. We started JSG because we saw a huge need for competent and clear information and intelligence that wasn’t being provided to law firms at scale on a consistent and high-quality basis. Every day, we rely on our decades of experience to understand what our clients need, anticipate changes in the industry, and are constantly upgrading our capabilities to provide the best solutions and services possible.
PC: What services do your clients use the most in and what do you provide?
We provide a lot of different services, but we are known mainly for three primary things: Asset Searches with highly accurate and legal bank and brokerage account research, background checks, due diligence for litigation and capital finance, as well as Tier-1 surveillance agents to support our insurance and litigation clients.
To date, we’ve done thousands of asset searches and background reports and conducted over a hundred thousand hours of surveillance. We have offices in every time zone in the US, so we’re able to service clients nationally and globally, with whatever they need. Our private network of licensed, top-tier field investigators have been hand-selected and vetted to meet our extremely high standards, that way we can support our clients both with intelligence and field investigations, no matter what type of case.
PC: There are a lot of investigation companies out there – What sets JSG apart from your competition?
We’re here to help get our clients positive results, and to help them with whatever they need to assist their clients get positive results, so they have the best chance at a positive outcome in their case, and within the bounds of the law, we do whatever we can, and whatever it takes to get the best results. Our commitment to giving that best effort is what we think has really set us apart and contributed to the incredible growth we have seen over the last few years. We saw the handwriting on the wall early so-to-speak with police departments being stretched thin and not being able to help in a lot of scenarios, and we know that in litigation, family law, probate, and other fields of law, often the clients that law firms are working with are in one of the most difficult times in their life.
Every day we speak with clients going through some very stressful situations, and we know that even if we can’t help them at that exact point in time, we believe that we have a duty to listen and help them know that it will all be ok, it will work out, and life will move forward. We are in the business of helping others and helping people that are also helping others (paralegals!) by doing the work that matters in this world to create a level playing field and hopefully bend the arc towards justice.
We also know that it’s important that as we grow, we set the tone for the industry, and one of service and giving back is really important. We started a scholarship program three years ago called the “Future Mentor’s Scholarship”, where we award $2,500 to a student who embodies our company philosophy of mentoring and helping others. My partner Tyler is my “Little Bro” from the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, and he and I have been brothers for over twenty years. Last year we had over fifteen hundred applicants and reading the essays we were impressed by so many great stories of helping and mentoring. In a world that can seem very ominous some days, we know there are a lot of young people right now that are doing the good work, and the future is very bright.
PC: What’s the hardest part about your job?
Knowing we can’t always help everyone. There is a great quote by Fred Rogers from TV’s ‘Mr. Rogers Neighborhood’ where he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Everyone here at JSG is a helper first, and “We’re here to help” is our internal company mantra. We’re growing as fast as we can to help as many people as we can, but there are some situations where we just simply don’t have access yet to intelligence or where we physically can’t intervene, and that’s hard for us. Every day our police, fire, EMS, and military are at the end of the day, good people trying to do good and help. This happens day in and day out and we often never realize how valuable and critical it is until we need it.
We know that paralegals, attorneys and what we do to support is vital and critical too, and we’re all in it together. We’re grateful to be a part of the legal world and leveraging all our experience to help others.
PC: What’s the craziest story / case you can tell us about as a PI?
Oh boy. There’s so many. I’ve worked thousands of cases and have seen and done probably everything…twice!
We had a recent case where the police could not help a client who had a young delivery driver that had decided to just steal $50k in custom-designed clothing, and just vanish. The client filed a police report immediately, but the police had no ability to help. Unfortunately, only serious violent crime takes all the bandwidth of detectives, these days.
We know that with stolen goods, the clock is ticking. With just a license plate and a first name we were able to identify the driver, have surveillance of his apartment within hours, and determine he was still in possession of the clothes. We knew that a felony arrest was possible, but we contacted him (and his mom…who obviously wasn’t happy) and were able to get everything back without incident. The driver of course claimed innocence and that he didn’t know he had the items, so he knew the odds were on his side the police would do nothing even if they eventually got around to it. We could have pressed charges if needed but the client just wanted to get the clothes back. The driver got lucky, and he knew it, so hopefully he thinks twice in the future.
PC: What’s the best way to contact you?
Do you do free consultations?
JSG: Yes! All our initial consultations on cases are free, and we love to talk to our law office clients about what they do and see if there’s anywhere, we can help. We do a lot of different things for a lot of different types of law, so just visit us on our website at jsgfirm.com and send us a message or call us at 800.278.9329 and our receptionist team will set up a consultation for you. You can also get our law office price guide at https://bit.ly/paralegalsconnect or by scanning the QR code. We look forward to talking with all the great paralegals here in the Paralegals Connect community!