ATG COVID-19 Update #22: Wisconsin Closing Procedures

EDITOR'S NOTE: For all ATG updates related to this topic, see COVID-19 Updates.

Remote Online Notarization, Video Conferences for Wet Ink Signatures, ATG Carhop Closings

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world has changed dramatically. Social distancing, wearing masks, and working from home have become the norm in our daily lives. These new conventions have also changed the way we do business and conduct real estate closings. This update gives our Wisconsin agents an outline of safe options from ATG designed to help you reduce in-person contact leading up to and during the closing process.

Remote Online Notarization (RON)

Last March, the State of Wisconsin passed 2019 Wisconsin Act 125, which allows Remote Online Notarization (RON) in Wisconsin. This legislation was scheduled to take effect on May 1, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tony Evers directed the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) to issue Emergency Guidance on Remote Notarization (updated March 20, 2020) which implemented the immediate use of RON. The DFI has subsequently issued further RON guidance.

  • The Emergency Guidelines allow the use of out-of-state notaries who are trained and authorized to perform remote on-line notarization.
  • The DFI approved five notarization platforms for use in real estate transactions: Pavaso, Nexsys, Notarize, NotaryCam, and DocVerify.
  • ATG agents are authorized to use any of these platform providers for notarization services; we encourage you to reach out to one of the platform providers listed above to set up notarization services for the closings you are conducting.

NOTE: If the ATG Wisconsin office is performing the settlement service for an ATG agent, our office can provide RON services to complete the transaction. For more information on the options and procedures available when ATG conducts the closing please view the OnDemand webinar presented by ATG President and CEO, Peter Birnbaum and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Christine Sparks.

Video Conferences to Facilitate Remote Wet Ink Authentications

ATG provides agents a video conference platform powered by Zoom Business to facilitate a two-way audio-video to review and wet-sign documents remotely. ATG GO Video Conferencing puts the ATG agent in a virtual room with clients. It's easy to use, and we're there to support you every step of the way. Simply visit the ATG GO Video Conferencing center to schedule a virtual meeting. You and your clients will receive a meeting notice; join the meeting at the scheduled time to review and share documents. ATG agents using Zoom must agree to the ATG Wisconsin Service Agreement (ATG Form 4265-WI).

NOTE: This option does not allow for the notarization of documents. Notarization of documents must be completed using a RON-approved platform. Use Zoom to observe a client wet-sign a document, receive the original documents via overnight delivery, and, upon receipt, a Wisconsin lawyer in good standing can authenticate the documents pursuant to Sec. 706.06 Wis. Stats. See the underwriting guidelines for an attorney to authenticate wet-signed documents.

Underwriting guidelines before the video conference:

  1. ATG agent schedules the Zoom Business meeting at ATG GO Video Conferencing Center.
  2. Closing attorney authenticating the documents must be located in Wisconsin and attend the Zoom Business meeting.
  3. Each signor must be a U.S. citizen and present a valid driver's license or state identification card.
  4. If lender documents are to be signed, the closing attorney must obtain written lender approval to use Zoom Business to wet-sign lender documents.
  5. Closing attorney sends signor the documents in advance of video conference by secure e-mail, fax, USPS, or experss courier.
  6. Closing attorney makes sure the signor understands the documents to be signed and that signor has an opportunity to review them with their attorney before the video conference, or that the attorney is included in the video conference invitation.

Underwriting guidelines during the video conference:

  1. Closing attorney records the video conference.
  2. Closing attorney confirms the video resolution is clear enough so the closing attorney can examine the driver’s license or state identification card.
  3. Closing attorney validates the signor's identity by at least TWO methods, as follows:
    1. U.S. state-issued driver's license or other state-issued identification shown to the camera so the notary can see both the front and the back of the identification; and
    2. At least one of the following:
      1. Closer texts a random six-digit number (create with to a known safe phone number for the signor; then, the signor reads the number back during the video conference. A safe phone number is one that you have confirmed prior to closing by a communication other than by email. Note the file with the six-digit number and phone number texted; or
      2. Closer asks the signor a question during the video conference regarding personal data contained in the loan file or attorney's file that only the signor would know. Please do not use a social security number to verify the identity of the signor; or
      3. Closer uses a third-party identification service and saves the proof from that service in the file.
  4. Closing attorney certifies the signature of the signor is the genuine signature of the person represented. Closing attorney accomplishes this by observing the signor sign his or her name and comparing it to the signature affixed to the valid driver’s license or state identification card. If the signatures match, the closing attorney can authenticate the documents.
  5. Signor identifies each document being signed and holds it up to the camera for the Closer's inspection.
  6. Signor reviews and initials every page of every signed document and shows each page to the camera for the Closer's inspection.
  7. Signor dates each document with the date of the video conference, and then signs each document.
  8. Closer stops the recording at the end of the video conference.

Underwriting guidelines after the video conference:

  1. Signor returns all pages of all documents to the closing attorney via overnight delivery.
  2. Closing attorney authenticates the documents pursuant to Sec. 706.06 Wis. Stats.
  3. Closing attorney records documents in the usual way.
  4. Settlement agent retains the recording for a period of seven (7) years.

For more information on the options and procedures available when the ATG member agent conducts the closing, please view the OnDemand webinar presented by ATG President and CEO, Peter Birnbaum and Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Office, Christine Sparks.

ATG Carhop Closings

Tom Cullen holding ATG Carhop Closing at Waukesha office photoAnother option to limit person-to-person contact is to conduct an ATG Carhop Closing. The signors schedules a closing appointment, drive to closing, and wet-sign documents while they remain in their car. The closer notarizes the documents and completes the transaction. It's that easy.

We offer Carhop Closings at our Waukesha location. The process is simple:

  • Contact us at 262.347.0102 to schedule your Carhop Closing.
  • ATG confirms with the borrower's lender that the lender authorizes DocuSign signatures for all documents that don't require wet ink signatures.
  • ATG sends documents to the buyer and/or seller and their legal counsel for review; non-notarized documents can be pre-signed electronically in DocuSign.
  • On the day of their Carhop Closing, the parties call our office to notify us they've arrived. Our closer conducts a curbside verification of identity and the borrower and/or seller signs the documents that require wet ink signatures.
  • Our closer notarizes and processes the executed documents.
  • ATG staff returns closing packages to all necessary parties via email after the closing.

ATG is here for you. We are offering a variety of solutions to help you serve your clients during these new circumstances. If you have any questions on these procedures, please contact me. We appreciate your business and ongoing support at all times, but especially during these uncertain times.

Thomas G. Cullen
ATG Vice President and Managing Attorney – Wisconsin Operations

Posted on: Mon, 05/04/2020 - 5:23pm