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June 8, 2016

The right to refuse notarization

I just talked to a client who said that she needed to be notarized. The guy at the mail boxes place required a thumbprint for a California notarization that was not for a Deed or POA. The law doesn’t require a thumbprint unless it is for a Deed or Power of Attorney. So, the client of mine (also a Notary, but not “the” Notary in question here) refused, and was denied Notarization.

I checked the 2016 California State Notary Handbook to verify whether or not the Notary has the right to decline if they are not comfortable with the situation regarding a notarization. For example, if the signer seems suspicious, may the Notary refuse to notarize? If the signer refuses to be thumbprinted, and the Notary refuse?

The handbook doesn’t say if the notary may refuse under special circumstances, but states that it is illegal for a Notary to deny services. Hmmm.

If the document contains blanks, or if the Notary cannot communicate with the signer, those are grounds for refusal to notarize. If the signer cannot be positively identified, that is also grounds. If there is a financial or beneficial interest for the Notary to notarize a document, yet another legitimate reason not to notarize.

But, back in the days when I was a Notary, I remember reading that a Notary could refuse to notarize if they had a funny feeling about the notarization. Is that just an antiquated guideline, or was it something published by a source that was not reputable or official? Hmmm.

What does your state say about the Notary’s right to refuse notarization?

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Are you a Yes-tary or a No-tary?
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April 15, 2011

Leave a few spaces open in your journal?

Leave a few spaces open in your journal
 
Have you ever heard this phrase before?  These are the words a lender will tell you when they want you to backdate.  If you leave a blank page in your journal a day before the signing, then it will look like you really did notarize their loan documents on the date that you claimed you did.  This is completely illegal, but this is what many lenders will ask from you when they are in a pinch.
 
The lock
Lenders can offer their borrowers a particular rate, but there are expiration dates.  If a loan has a lock that expires on the 28th at midnight, and the loan documents were not ready to be compiled, sent, printed, etc., on the 27th or 28th, then the lender is in a bind. They will have to redraw all of the loan documents all over again and have a slightly higher rate, and an irate borrower. To save themselves this nightmare, they will often ask the notary to fudge a date when in this situation.
 
It’s your notary commission
If you get involved in this type of fraud, you could get fined by your state notary division, lose your notary commission, or perhaps even be looking at jail time.  Since there is no intent to harm anyone, jail time doesn’t seem probable, but laws differ from state to state, and the laws are always changing.
 
Lose the client?
I was asked to do this a few times.  I said no, and lost the client. Maybe I’m better off. Lenders love notaries who will lie, cheat, and steal on their behalf.  They will love you if you can look at a loan which is an obvious rip off and say nothing while the borrower is signing it. Of course, its not your job or entitlement to make commentary about someone else’s loan. You will be making someone lose thousands by butting in, and its not your right.  Lenders also love someone who will forge an initial or put yesterday’s date on a Jurat certificate upon request. You would not believe how many Title company staff members have forged omitted initials on Deeds of Trust, and other documents that require initialing.  Few of them would dare forge a signature as that would involve jail time, but some feel that its open season on initials.
 
Just say no
Don’t get involved in this nonsense. Its your life, your karma, and your commission.  If you get armtwisted once, you could easily get in the habit, not to mention feel ashamed for the rest of your life.   Additionally, it is recommended that you avoid screwy companies like the plague. These are exactly the same companies who will have no qualms about cheating a notary out of their pay for little or no reasons at all.

You might also like:

Everything you need to know about journals

What to say and what not to say

Signing agent best practices

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November 29, 2010

Just Say No Article #2

Assisting with Immigration issues
If you are not an immigration expert, don’t answer immigration questions and don’t advertise yourself as an immigration expert. However, notaries are allowed to notarize many types of immigration documents. Just don’t give advice.

Assisting with legal advice
If asked for legal advice, if you are not an attorney, please refrain from giving legal advice as it might constitute unauthorized practice of law. Drafting legal documents, i.e. documents to be used in court or submitted to a judge or attorney could constitute legal advice or service (unauthorized practice of law) in many states. Don’t even offer to recommened particular notary procedures for their document, as that also could constitute unauthorized practice of law.

Backdating
Putting a date on a document’s notary certificate section that is previous to the current date is considered backdating and is illegal. Don’t backdate. Many signing companies will ask you to backdate when they are in a pinch and will lose their lock on the borrower’s loan. That is their problem, not yours. If you backdate you could lose your commission if you get caught. It is a misdemeanor in many states to ask a notary to commit fraud, so you can report a company that asks you or coerces you into backdating.

Don’t make notarial recommendations
Customers always ask what type of notarization they should get. You are not allowed to tell them in many states. You can describe the attributes of the various types of notarizations and ask what the document custodian would like too. Just don’t make recommendations.

Letting your boss review your journal
Your boss can not inspect your journal on their own. However, if you are present, then its okay if your boss inspects the journal. The notary should not let the public see journal entries unrelated to their specific business. Its best to make a copy of the journal entry that blocks out other entries to protect the privacy of the others who you notarized. If not all of the notarizations are related to your boss, it would be better if you make a copy of the journal entry in question rather than letting the boss look at the whole journal while you are there.

Blanks?
Don’t notarize a document with blanks in it. The blanks must somehow be filled in or crossed out. Otherwise you must decline from notarizing that document.

Lock up your seal and journal
Not all states require a seal and journal, but these instruments are the exclusive property of the notary and must be kept under lock and key. Don’t let others use them or you can get in big trouble, and so can the person who used them.

Don’t notarize parts of documents
If you are handed page three of a long document, you can not notarize it as a separate entity. Documents must be in their complete form to be notarized. Don’t only notarize the last page of a document — the page that contains the certificate wording either.

Failure to emboss?
Its not required by law to emboss pages, but if you choose to emboss every page of every document you notarized, it becomes difficult to substitute pages of documents without getting caught. Embossers leave a raised seal that can not be photocopied, so you will be detering a lot of funny business using an embosser.

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Notaries that fail and what they did wrong!

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August 2, 2010

Typical things notaries do wrong

Typical things notaries do wrong.
Notaries do many things incorrectly, particalar inexperienced, or unschooled notaries.  Clients will ask you to do all sorts of things.  Some things are merely unorthodox, while others are purely illegal.  Here are some things that notaries do wrong.
 
Copies of vital records
From time to time, a notary is asked to notarize a certified copy of a vital record such as a birth certificate, marriage or death certificate.  This is not legal, and not recommended.  It is legal, but not recommended to do what is called a copy certification by document custodian. This notary act is a glorified Jurat, where the individual who is in charge of the document swears to the authenticity of a copy of the document. 
 
Going to hospitals and jails without asking the right questions.
Many notaries don’t want to go to hospitals and jails because they are afraid.  There is nothing to be afraid of, but there are pitfalls.  Many signers in hospitals are elderly and don’t have ID.  Inmates NEVER have ID.  So, the notary must first be sure the signer or their family members / associates have their ID and it is wise to have them read the ID# and expiration date to the notary, so the notary can be sure that they really have the ID and that its current.
 
Leaving seals and journals unattended.
As a notary public, you and only you are responsible for safeguarding your seal and journal.  Even if your boss or co-workers want to use your seal or inspect your journal, its completely illegal. Only the notary can do a journal query, or use their seal.   Carelessly leaving your seal in an unlocked area is also a very serious notary error.  Seals and journals must always be kept under lock and key.
 
Not having the signer present.
Its common for a client to request that a notary notarize a document when the signer is not around. This is completely illegal.  The signer must be  in front of the notary during a signing.  This means within a few feet and able to communicate directly with the notary.
 
Having an interpreter
Many immigrant families have older members who don’t speak English.  They often attend to their business with their children along to explain things and translate.  When they call the notary over, they often don’t explain that the signer can not speak English, since its not a problem due to the fact that they can translate. But, the notary must be able to communicate directly with the signer.  If the signer only speaks Uzbek, and the notary doesn’t speak Uzbek, then the signing is off.   On the other hand, if the document is in Chinese, and the notary only speaks English, that is okay, since the notary is not liable for the contents of the document.
 
Overcharging
The maximum notary fees vary from state to state.  California and Florida are  “generous” offering $10 per acknolwedged signature, while many other states offer as low as 25 cents or two dollars per signature which is hardly enough to make a living.  It is tempting for notaries to charge more than they are supposed to to make it worth their while. This is illegal.  Also, many states have restrictions for what notaries can charge for travel fees.  Many notaries overlook these restrictions.
 
Journal thumbprints and notes
It is critical that notaries get the right thumbprint of the signer in their journal, especially for deeds and powers of attorneys.  This is a great way to deter fraud, and will keep a notary out of court in many instances.  Additional notes are important to keep in a journal too.  If a notary goes to court, they will never remember a signing that took place years ago, unless some notes are kept about anything unusual at the venue of the signing, or anything that is unusual about the signer.
 
Also see:
Everything you need to know about thumbprinting
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4019
 
Backdating
Almost all signing agents will be asked to backdate at one or more times during their career.  Don’t do it.  Backdating is illegal.  Backdating means putting a date prior to the actual date of the notarization on a notary certificate. The date of the notarization is when the signer signs the journal, although the signer can sign a document before the notarization of an acknowledged signature.  Here is some more information about backdating.
 
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What do you do if asked to backdate?
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What is backdating?
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Signing agent best practices: 63 points
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4315

Tips for notaries: Avoiding backdating, proper caution, not giving advice, etc.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3360

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