On February 1st this year, remote authentication was introduced for notarial transactions, which is equivalent to ordinary notarial authentication, i.e. authentication in the presence of a notary.
Remote authentication as an innovative solution is a notarial act conducted via a video bridge between Estonian notary and an Estonian or an e-resident. Therefore, the party to a transaction shall have an identification document of the Republic of Estonia or an e-residency card. As of February 1st, 2020, the remote authentication became possible in Estonian foreign missions in Helsinki, Stockholm, Brussels, Riga and London.
Only two months ago amended Notarial Regulations was amended again on April 2nd, 2020, due to the emergency situation caused by the coronavirus. In order for normal life disrupted by the emergency situation to proceed as smoothly as possible, the Minister of Justice established a possibility to use remote authentication elsewhere than in foreign missions. Thus, as of the beginning of April, notarial transactions can be made in case the party is at home, in the office or elsewhere, in Estonia or abroad.
What kind of notarial acts and transactions can be made by remote authentication?
Certification of contraction of marriage and divorce and making of marriage or divorce entries cannot be done by remote authentication.
In case a person is at the foreign mission, the list of notarial acts is limited. Primarily in foreign missions it is possible to make share transfer and pledge transactions, authenticate power of attorneys, statements concerning succession, etc.
Other notarial acts, which are listed in Notaries Act § 29 subsection 3, are possible to carry out if the party is elsewhere than in the foreign mission at the time of the authentication. It means, that avoiding contact, the notary has the possibility to authenticate almost all the transactions if the party at the same time stays e.g. at home. As the remote authentication is a possibility, not an obligation, it is always possible to book an appointment at the notary’s office to carry out the notarial transaction. In case several persons are required to participate in the transaction, they shall decide whether they all go to the notary’s office or make the transaction remotely. It is not possible to make a notarial transaction if one of the parties is at home and the other one is at notary’s office. A notary fee of 20 euros must be paid for a transaction made by remote authentication.
Risks in identification
According to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act the notary has an obligation to identify the party to the transaction. It is important to note that the identity is not established when verifying the authenticity of a digital signature. Only the validity of the digital signature is confirmed by that.
In remote authentication the notary may identify the client via video bridge. Before the notary sees the party via video bridge, an employee of the foreign mission has already identified the client. Nevertheless, no civil liability entails to the employee, if the person does not turn out to be the actual party to the transaction.
In case the transaction shall not take place in foreign mission, the notary may only rely on the image of the person seen via video bridge. It shall be emphasized, that the usage of remote authentication is not an obligation to the notary, but a possibility. Therefore, if the internet distribution is poor at the time of the transaction or the video connection is interrupted, the notary may terminate the transaction, because it is not possible to identify the client nor his/her will. For identification, the notaries use Veriff or other similar solution. In a situation, where the party is outside of notary’s office at the time of the transaction, the actual will is more complicated to identify. A possibility exists, that a person is forced to make a transaction. Also, a malicious person may appear as an entitled person, which is more difficult to identify in remote authentication.
Undoubtedly the remote authentication has a positive impact on Estonian reputation and economy. A person shall not come to Estonia, in order to make certain transactions. As a result, an even larger increase in the number of e-residents can be expected, to whom Estonia is a contemporary and convenient place for business. But also, for the party staying in Estonia, only not coming to the notary’s office saves costs.
Possibility to carry out almost all the transactions remotely is a flexible and modern solution. However, it shall be borne in mind that this also involves risks, as it is difficult to identify and malicious people are more likely to carry out transactions where the actual will of the party to the transaction is not taken into account.