eSigning vs. Online Notarization? What's appropriate? eSigning vs. Online Notarization? What's appropriate?

eSigning vs. Online Notarization: What’s the Difference?

As you consider ways to expedite business processes and keep up with an increasingly digital world, you may be evaluating options like electronic signatures (eSigning) and online notarization (RON). While these technologies share some similarities in enabling documents to be signed electronically (and often requiring a Digital Certificate), there are a few key differences to understand.

eSigning is basically the simpler version of the two processes.

eSigning refers to any electronic process that indicates an agreement to the terms of a document, such as a typed name, digital signature, or click to accept.

Online notarization, on the other hand, is the electronic notarization of documents by a commissioned notary public and provides a higher level of authentication and fraud deterrence for legal documents.

Most serious legal documents require a notary.  Now that process has just moved online.  If you need to execute a document with legal significance or that may be subject to scrutiny, online notarization is likely the better choice over eSigning alone. In fact, its even more secure than an in person signing. In a way its the pinnacle of all signings.

This article will explore in more depth the differences between these two digital options and provide guidance on when it may be appropriate to leverage one over the other.

eSigning: Electronically Sign Documents Anywhere

eSigning allows you to electronically sign documents from anywhere using a computer or mobile device.  Put frankly, its just how business gets done in the present day paradigm.

It is undoubtable that if you are a professional, someone has asked or will ask you to electronically sign a PDF at some point within the next year

To eSign, you will receive an email with a document that needs your signature. You simply click to open the document, create or upload your electronic signature, and apply it to the document. Your signature is legally binding and helps expedite business processes that would otherwise require printing, signing, and scanning paperwork (not to mention driving, sending, or whatever method of deliver).

Some key benefits of eSigning include:

  1. Convenience – Sign documents remotely without printing or scanning.
  2. Speed – Signing is instant and automated. No more mailing contracts back and forth.
  3. Security – eSignatures use authentication to verify your identity and encrypt documents to protect sensitive data.
  4. Legality – eSignatures are legally valid and enforceable for most documents under federal and state law. Some exceptions apply, like for wills or real estate contracts.
  5. Cost savings – Go paperless and save time, resources, and money. eSigning reduces costs associated with printing, mailing, and storage.
  6. Save Trees! – Start saving the environment 1 piece of paper at a time! Did we mention paperless?

While extremely useful and necessary for any budding or established business, eSigning differs from online notarization. eSigning only provides a signature, while online notarization uses live audio-video communication to verify your identity for legally binding electronic notarization. So if you need an official notary seal, online notarization is required. But for most everyday documents, eSigning should suit your needs perfectly.

eSigning vs. Online Notarization? When to Choose which.
eSigning vs. Online Notarization? When to Choose which.

Online Notarization: Remotely Notarize Documents With a Licensed Notary

To have legal documents notarized remotely, you’ll want to use an online notarization service. Online notarization allows you to connect with a licensed notary via video room to have your documents legally notarized.

  • Verify the notary’s credentials. Make sure the notary is licensed in your state and their license is active and in good standing. A good online notarization platform like BlueNotary will do this for you. Legitimate services will provide easy access to this information.
  • Schedule an appointment or start notarizing immediately. Most services allow you to schedule a video call with a notary at your convenience but sites like BlueNotary work on demand as well. Expect the call to last 15-30 minutes depending on the complexity of your documents.
  • Have government-issued ID ready. The notary/system will need to verify your identity. Provide an unexpired, government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport.
  • Share and sign your documents. During the call, you will share a screen to display your documents. The notary will watch you sign in real time and then notarize the documents using their eSeal and Digital Certificate.
  • Obtain immutable copies. The platform will automatically generate your documents where you can download them. They will also provide a link to download via email.  As these are signed with a Digital Certificate, these documents are uneditable. You can keep these for your records. Some platforms will hold the documents for you along with the video recordings for 10 years, while others will only keep the documents for 7 days.

Online notarization provides a convenient way to have documents legally notarized without leaving home. Surprisingly, it doesn’t cost anymore than regular in-person notarization.  It certainly costs less time. For a legally binding process, make sure you use a legitimate service and follow all instructions carefully. With the right preparation, you can have your documents notarized remotely and maintain safety.

FAQ: Online Notarization Questions Answered

What is an online notary?

An online notary, also known as a remote notary, is a notary public who can notarize documents remotely using audio-video communication technology. Instead of meeting with a signer in person, the notary observes the signer signing the document over a secure live video and audio feed. The notary then notarizes the signed document as if the in-person meeting occurred.

How does online notarization work?

The online notarization process typically involves the following steps:

  1. The signer contacts an online notary and schedules an appointment for a video call.
  2. The signer emails the documents to be signed to the notary in advance of the call.
  3. At the scheduled time, the signer and notary connect via a secure video conferencing platform. The notary authenticates the signer’s identity using government-issued ID that is held up to the camera.
  4. The signer signs the documents on camera as the notary observes.
  5. The notary notarizes the documents, applies their electronic signature and seal, and emails the finalized documents to the signer.
  6. The video call is recorded for the notary’s records. Audio and visual feeds allow notaries to verify identities and observe the signing ceremony as required by law.
  7. Digital signatures and seals help prevent fraud since notarized documents can be validated to ensure authenticity.

What are the benefits of online notarization?

Online notarization offers several advantages over traditional in-person notarization:

  • Convenience – Signers can complete notarizations remotely without traveling to a physical location.
  • Accessibility – Online notarization provides access for those unable to travel due to health conditions or location.
  • Efficiency – The process is often faster since signers do not have travel or wait in line.
  • Security – Multi-factor authentication and recording help prevent fraud and allow notarizations to be validated.
  • Cost-effectiveness – Online notarization can reduce costs for both signers and notaries.
  • Concluding “Sign” Off

In summary, online notarization and eSigning are quite different tools. eSigning allows you to sign documents electronically and legally bind the parties involved, but provides no additional verification of identity. Online notarization, on the other hand, provides the legal verification and authentication of eSigning along with identity proofing of the signatory through a remote notary. While eSigning can provide convenience and efficiency, online notarization gives you the confidence that the document was signed by the intended individual. For high-value or sensitive agreements where identity verification is critical, online notarization is the superior option and provides you peace of mind that your documents are valid and enforceable.

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