Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann, a Freehold, NJ Power of Attorney Lawyer

Here’s an interesting question. The subject was discussed by several attorney colleagues. Here’s how it goes,  X is a US citizen now living in Italy, where she became disabled she is bedridden, although competent.  Before leaving for Italy she had a POA prepared by her attorney in favor of Y.  Unfortunately, the attorney died before X signed the POA.  Nevertheless, she was able to obtain the POA, signed it and gave it to Y, un-notarized.  X has been trying to get it notarized in Italy without success.  She has been quoted fees in the $5K range by Italian notaries.

The issue raised concerned whether a US notary can acknowledge a legal document by Skype with X and thereby notarizing her signature on that basis?

The simple answer offered was yes, but there is a problem.  A signer must appear personally in the presence of a notary public via skype.  Let’s say the notary in NJ watches the signer sign the POA in Italy.  How does the notary then sign and place his/her notarial seal on the document?  Does the signer scan and email the document to the Notary as an attachment?  What’s to stop someone from scanning and substituting a different document?  Notwithstanding the amazing capabilities of modern technology, I think the Notary Public and the signer must be in the same room, at the same time and sign the same physical document, but I do concede that with sufficient advance preparation and authentication, the power of attorney could be deemed legally executed. But there is no law on the subject.

As a side note, I won’t bother getting into the differences between civil law “Notarios” in European countries and our Notaries Public.  Suffice it to say that the differences are quite significant.  Regardless, the question deals with the responsibilities of a US notary public, not foreign notariey.

Another option is the US Consul. Generally, a US citizen abroad may obtain a notarization from a US embassy or consular office in a foreign country.  I would do that in this case.  It is possible that if X resides in a town with an embassy or counslar officer, they might make a house call, if necessary.

A “notary” in a civil law country is not equivalent to a notary public, but is a trained lawyer who writes contracts, deeds and the civil-law equivalent of wills, among other things.

In general, if not always, one must appear personally before an American notary public.  Even the newer forms of “e-notarization” require physical appearance.  I would not use Skype and I do not think a notary would consent to do so.

If you have questions about the use of a power of attorney, please call Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. at Hanlon Niemann toll-free at 855-376-5291 or email him at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com.  Please also visit our website at www.powerofattorneylawyerinnj.com.