If there is a silver lining to be found in the post-COVID era, it is the increasing acceptance of remote online notarization (RON) as a means to certify legally binding transactions. Case in point – spousal consent.
On December 30, 2022, the IRS proposed to amend COVID-era regulations to permanently allow spousal consents and other participant elections for retirement plan distributions and withdrawals to be witnessed remotely by a notary or plan representative.
Let’s back up. Perhaps not everyone reading this is an expert on retirement planning.
What is a spousal consent in relation to retirement plans?
Federal laws exist to protect married couples and guarantee certain spousal rights when it comes time to make changes to a retirement plan, i.e., make a withdrawal or name a beneficiary. The Retirement Equity Act of 1984 amended the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, adding protections for married couples and requiring spouses to obtain consent before making certain changes to their retirement plans.
Obtaining that consent also required witnessing by a notary public or a plan representative. Of the two, it was usually easier for consumers to schedule appointments with notaries than a retirement plan representative. Online notarization takes that convenience a step further, making it infinitely easier for spouses to make changes to their retirement plans.
However, ease of scheduling is not the only benefit to using RON for spousal consent. In general, online notarization results in a more secure, trusted transaction. In this instance, changes can have massive implications for individuals at a vulnerable time in their lives, and the impact of those changes may not be felt until years later.
At NotaryCam, we use knowledge-based authentication (KBA) and ID verification, with final validation by a live notary, to prevent identity fraud. We also store an audio/video recording of each transaction for 10 years and can easily make those recordings available as needed, providing a verifiable chain of evidence in the event of a contested change. In addition, NotaryCam automatically securely records significant actions taken as part of the RON transaction as part of the Audit Trail; and documents notarized using NotaryCam’s technology include a statement meeting the needs of both federal and state regulations affirming the use of RON technology. All of this serves to preserve the integrity of the notarial act and provide the necessary legal underpinning for obtaining spousal consent in the retirement planning process.
Plus, there’s the RON benefit that we always like to mention: you don’t have to fight traffic in your living room, thus neatly eliminating the hassle of planning your day around the meeting with your notary.
Digitizing spousal consent is certainly a step forward for retirement planning and another way to help make life easier. Hopefully we’re only days away from this proposal becoming permanent.
The IRS has scheduled a telephone hearing for this Friday, April 7 before the amendment will be passed.
If you have any questions about online notarization for spousal consent, please feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com.
This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, financial or retirement advice.