[INTERVIEW] Remote notary act: soon a reality?

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For a year now, it has become complicated to carry out certain tasks that might have seemed trivial. Obtaining documents certified by a notary is one of them. Forced to adapt to the global crisis, the French government had to temporarily authorise the signing of notarial deeds and power of attorney remotely –decree no. 2020 395 of 3 April 2020.

Since November 2020, it is now possible to draw up authentic powers of attorney remotely: the first step towards dematerialised notarial documentation. What are the steps for a remote, secure and efficient service? Jacques Piquet, Honorary Notary in France and expatriate in Mauritius for more than a year, explains what dematerialisation is and all the possibilities it offers for the future.

What is dematerialisation and why, in your opinion, has it become essential in your profession?

Dematerialisation simply means using a significantly reduced amount of paper. Above all, it saves time and money, to say the least. After scanning the necessary documents, it will initially be easier to search and file the files. Thanks to what is called an OCR (Optical Character Recognition), it becomes easy to search any scanned file and retrieve information to feed the databases of its automated deed writing software. Even if mistakes are made, thanks to the digitisation of files and the automated processing of deeds, they are more easily avoided.

Why is dematerialisation a crucial step for remote notarial services?

Nothing can be done remotely if so-called text documents are not digitised beforehand. One of the advantages of this remote service is that it makes travel or physical meetings with a notary optional, not to say superfluous. In our current context, it could even be said that it has become judicious not to travel. In Mauritius, the Registrar General has been accepting since the end of 2019 documents scanned and authenticated by my Mauritian colleagues. It also guarantees greater security. When a document is authenticated and registered as such, it is then impossible to modify it. All modifications made thereafter will have to be made in the form of amendments, which is also the case for so called "traditional" documents. If a malicious person wanted to try to modify documents, they would first have to gain access to the server where all our files are located, which can be a rather complex task.

France has made remote power of attorney possible for a few months now. Could you tell us more about how it works?

The notary, based in France, will first of all have to make sure that his client’s identity, his approval and his understanding of the terms of the deed are clear. The latter will have to send him a series of documents (identity card, proof of address, etc.). Using videoconferencing –by means of a dedicated software called Lifesize –the notary will be able to confirm or not the identity of his client. The next step will be to define the proxy or proxies and define the role of each one. For example, it is important to mention the duration of the validation of the power of attorney. The identities of the proxy or proxies will then have to be authenticated. If the client chooses several proxies, it is essential to clearly define the role of each one (they may have different responsibilities or some may be authorised to act alone or jointly). This will avoid potential disputes. For the client’s signature, notaries use dedicated software such as Docusign, which allows the signature to be authenticated. This software also guarantees a higher level of security, as it becomes almost impossible to modify the documents. In the specific case of a real estate sale or acquisition, the notary will precisely designate the properties concerned, the price, the methods of payment and the essential legal information, to name but a few examples.

Does this service open the door to other remote services? Why is this?

It should be noted that originally all notarial deeds could be performed remotely in April 2020, during the period of the pandemic. They chose to make remote power of attorney possible on a permanent basis. If we take the example of Mauritians stuck in France who had transactions underway in Mauritius, it is now possible for them to undertake their administrative process by appointing a proxy located in Mauritius, in a power of attorney received remotely by a French notary. An authentic copy in paper format will then be drawn up by the French notary, who will have it stamped with an apostil seal and sent to Mauritius. Over time, it is clear that it will be possible to authenticate all notarial documents provided that digital identity cards are available.

Jacques Piquet in a few words...

In the early 2000s, he discovered all the possibilities offered by dematerialisation. As a notary in the Montpellier region at the time, he immediately saw an opportunity. He learnt how to use softwares dedicated to this purpose, and understood their process, which he applied within the notary office where he worked.
He was called upon by the Conseil Supérieur du Notariat to train his colleagues. Now retired, but just as passionate about his profession, Jacques Piquet provides training on dematerialisation to his Mauritian colleagues through his company Jurisquaestion Ltée. He also works in close collaboration with Orizzon, Eazzy Notarial software developer, in order to improve the software and make it even more efficient.