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November 21, 2018

12 questions to ask for hospital notarizations

SAFETY TIPS AND 12 QUESTIONS TO ASK FOR HOSPITAL NOTARIZATIONS:
I get calls frequently for Notarizations in Jails and Hospitals.
This blog will focus on things you must do to protect yourself from lawsuits and damages when you get a desperate call to go out to a hospital to notarize documents to be signed by a patient, moistly a Power of Attorney. The phone call invariably comes from the child who has a parent admitted to the hospital.
What do you do as the Notary when the person calling says they will pay you whatever you charge as your mobile fee? Remember Rule #1: It is not always about the money. It is about your ability to follow the Notary laws and perform your job without taking short cuts.
The following list of questions is a short summary of the steps I have actually taken when I got such a call.

1. What is your relationship to the patient?
2. Do you have any other siblings or relatives who have a beneficial interest in the transaction?
3. Is the patient conscious? Coherent? On any medication?
4. Does the patient have a current valid ID with him or can you make it available when the notary arrives at the hospital?
5. Is the patient able to sign his name without any help?
6. Does the patient speak English and can he understand and answer simple questions coherently?
7. Does the patient have an attending physician and a Nurse assigned to him?
8. Do you have the number to the attending physician and nurse because I need to talk to them to get an accurate idea of the health and overall condition of the patient?
9. When can I talk to the patient directly by phone with a nurse present in the room?
10. What type of document are you having notarized?
11. What dates and times work for the patient?
12. My mobile fees are _____ and $15/signature notarized. After I get there if I make the determination that the person is unable to understand anything I ask him or is being forced to sign, I will not be able to notarize the document but will still charge you my mobile fee for coming out based on your representations over the phone. Are you okay with that because I don’t want to get into any arguments after I get there?

Believe me there has been more than one occasion I can recall where I had to leave without notarizing a document because the patient was unable to understand anything I asked, was incoherent and simply could not sign or even hold a pen to just mark an “X”. It is better to walk away from a Notarization where you know instinctively that it is wrong because the signer is not aware of what he is signing and inevitably you will end up being a party to a litigation by interested parties who believe that the Notary failed to take into account the coherence and soundness of mind of the signer at the time of the Notarization. This would invalidate your notarization and worse yet force you to pay legal expenses to defend yourself. Is it worth it? Absolutely not!

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You might also like:

The carrot, the stick, the notary, and the bag
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3951

When to ask for ID over the phone & fees at the door
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=15282

A tale of four notaries at hospitals
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=463

Hospital Notary jobs from A to Z
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=76

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November 5, 2018

How to make more money as a signing agent during these sluggish times

Filed under: Comprehensive Guides,Marketing Articles — admin @ 10:52 am

Notaries are always asking how they can make more money as a signing agent. The answer is that you need to have a step by step process for attaining your goal instead of just wishing (and probably whining.) Most Notaries do not apply themselves and do not have a written marketing plan. Many Notaries read our courses, but the reading is more of skimming and is more for entertainment than for mastering the materials. This wishy-washy approach to a profession is not professional, and that is the key problem. If you do not take this career as a profession, you will not succeed.

1. A professional attitude.
Most Notaries describe themselves as “professional,” but you need to do more than just claim to be professional. You need to understand what the term means intrinsically. Being professional first and foremost means that you are a master of your trade, that you know the ins and outs, and that you spend time reading and mastering the concepts of your trade. You don’t just master some of the concepts, but all that are applicable in your state with no exceptions. Other aspects of being professional include responding to emails with quality answers, being polite, well dressed, doing a good job, etc. Being professional is not rocket science, but requires an attitude of professionality which very few of you have. Taking this business seriously is the prerequisite of being professional.

2. A mastery of skills
Most Notaries think they know everything they need to know about this business and then take offense when I try to ask them anything. I ask questions because I know that 97% of Notaries on my site do not know what they are doing up to a professionally acceptable level. The chance that you are a member of the knowledgeable 3% is exactly 3%. However, if you don’t have our certifications, then the chance of you being in the knowledgeable 3% is less than 1% to be mathematical. 123notary has published free courses for Notary Public basic knowledge, Signing Agent knowledge, and now a Notary Marketing 102 course for your marketing knowledge. I suggest you master the materials for all three. My sales rep Carmen helped someone print out the contents for the first two courses and it was more than 100 pages. I had no idea it was so long. I put these courses together quickly as the knowledge was already in my head.

I suggest studying Notary Public from the NNA as they have a Notary Essentials course and other Notary courses. Your state Notary handbook is another reputable source of knowledge as well as other state created materials, blogs, newsletters, etc.

If you are not a master of all aspects of being a Notary Public, you could not only do poorly in business, but you could end up in jail, get fined, sued, or fired. Not administering Oaths when required to could end up in a felony conviction so don’t treat this profession as a joke because it is a legal support profession and it is dead serious and so am I.

3. Paying your dues
Many Notaries want the high class and high paying work, and some of them get it. But, you have to pay your dues first and then the high paying work will come more and more. You need to do thousands of assignments for low paying companies before you have experience. Additionally, you should be paying attention to every detail of your job during these several thousand jobs including how you communicate on the phone, solving problems, notary issues, and knowing your documents.

4. Certifications
Certifications mean less in 2018 than they meant a few years ago. The industry has steered away from knowledge. However, our Elite Certification still means a lot to the industry and to me. If you want to get ahead on our site, you need to earn this certification.

5. Communication & Attitude
If you communicate well over the phone and have a good attitude that helps a lot. Most people in this industry cannot communicate well and don’t care.

6. Advertise widely
You need to have a high presence on 123notary in many different counties. You need to be on the other directories, yelp, google local and yellow pages as well to do well. It is hard to get a lot of business, so let your existence be known.

Summary
There are many things you need to do to succeed in this business. Most Notaries do the minimum and a few do some of the things you need to do to be successful. You need to be disciplined and do all of the things to succeed an then you can make good money in this industry. Additionally, things will swing around and the industry could become more profitable any day. So, don’t assume times will be lean forever.

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You might also like:

Notary Marketing 102 – a comprehensive guide to Notary marketing
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19774

123notary’s certifications will get you more business than before
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19642

How can new notaries survive without reviews?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20057

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August 30, 2018

Notary Public Information


Notary Public


If you would like general information about the Notary world, read this! There are many things to know about the Notary world from how to become a Notary, how to find one, and the particular types of jobs and Notary acts Notaries do (or commit.) We will try to elaborate on all of this information below.

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Become a Notary Public

To become a Notary Public requires contacting your state’s Notary division. Most states have rules for who can become a Notary.

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No felons allowed!
You generally have to be free of felony convictions or of convictions of crimes that involve moral turpitude such as fraud.

Residency requirements
You should be a legal resident of the state you want to be commissioned in as a general rule, although some states allow residents of neighboring states who work in state.

No citizenship requirements
You generally do not need to be a US citizen, although you should be able to read, write and speak English well.

You need to be 18 or older in most if not all states.

State Notary Divisions Contact Info
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1941

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What do Notaries do?
Notaries can perform a short variety of Notarial acts which can differ from state to state. These acts include performing Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations, Proofs, and some states allow Copy Certification of Powers of Attorneys or other documents, Witnessing, Safety Deposit Openings, Protests for non-payment of bills and more. Let’s focus on understanding the more universal acts first.

Acknowledgments — A Notary Public may notarize an Acknowledged signature which is a signature that a signer acknowledged signing. This involves the signer presenting a signed document to the notary, signing the Notary’s journal, and presenting current government issued photo ID to the Notary. The rules may differ from state to state, but this is a general description. Read more…

Jurats — A Notary Public may execute a Jurat which would involve the signer or Affiant (one who swears under Oath or signs an Affidavit) to sign and swear to the document in the presence of the Notary Public. Read more…

Oaths — Notaries can administer (supervise) Oaths as well. Oaths are by definition part of the Jurat procedure for Oaths on documents. But, Oaths can also be done for remote court attendance for Florida Courts by Notaries and Oaths on oral statements. Read more…

Affirmations — Affirmations are similar to Oaths. Affirmations are also formal statements made under the legal penalty of perjury, but do not use the traditional verb “swear” or the term “under God.” In an Affirmation you affirm on your honor rather than to a higher power. Read more…

Proofs of Execution — Proofs are an unusual Notary act that cannot generally be done for important documents. But, the signer can sign in front of a subscribing witness (a person who sees them sign) and then the witness can appear before the Notary and have the Notary fill out a certificate indicating the same. Read more..

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Notary FAQ

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Q. How long is a Notary term?
A. The term for Notary Public is generally from 3 to 10 years and is up to the state. Louisiana commissions Notaries for life.

How long is a Notary term? — http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4606

Q. What is a Notary’s jurisdiction?
A. Normally, a Notary can notarize in any county of the state(s) they are commissioned in. Louisiana commissions either statewide or to their home parishes plus reciprocal parishes. There are a few exceptions nationally to this rule, and military Notaries have a very different type of jurisdiction that you can look up.

Q. Can a Notary get in trouble?
A. Notaries who break the law, make errors filling out forms, or don’t keep a journal can get in big trouble with the law, and even be treated like a suspect in identity fraud if they don’t leave a good paper trail. Notaries who cause damages to parties by upholding the law can get in trouble too if they don’t clearly explain the reason why they cannot offer services.

Q. What do I need to be notarized?
A. As a general rule, a current government issued Photo-ID, and a statement or document to be notarized is all you need.

Q. How much does a Notary cost?
A. Notary fees are set by the states and Notaries can run anywhere from 25 cents to $15. You can look up Notary fees on state notary division websites. I believe that all states except North Carolina keep their information open to the public.

How much can a notary charge — http://blog.123notary.com/?tag=how-much-can-a-notary-charge

Q. How much does a Mobile Notary cost?
A. Some states have rules for how much a person can charge for travel fee. But, generally rates run from $25 to $60 for mobile fees plus the cost of the actual notarization.

Q. Can a notary notarize in a jail?
A. Yes, but you need to make sure the inmate can be identified in a way acceptable to the state where he/she is incarcerated.

Jail Notary Jobs from A to Z — http://blog.123notary.com/?p=151

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Additional Helpful Links

Notary Public 101
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19493

How to become a successful Mobile Notary from scratch
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=13340

Signing Agent Best Practices: 63 Points
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4315

Seven error free ways to identify a signer
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=15288

Notary Vocbulary in our Glossary
http://www.123notary.com/glossary/

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March 24, 2018

Notary Marketing 102: Phone & Communication Etiquette

Filed under: Comprehensive Guides,Loan Signing 101 — admin @ 8:08 am

Return to Notary Marketing 102 Contents

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Part of marketing is the act of actively promoting yourself. But, a lot of marketing is about doing a good job and communicating well.

To get hired to do Notary work, you need not only to know what you are doing, but you need to communicate clearly as well. Here are some major issues with phone etiquette.

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DURING THE INITIAL CALL

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1. Introduce yourself
Introduce yourself properly by phone when you answer the initial call to hire you. “This is June of June’s Notary Service” is a lot better than, “Hullo?”

2. Answer questions the way they were asked.
If someone asks what your hours are, tell them your beginning and ending times. Don’t say it depends and don’t be vague. Give them a clear picture of your availability without making them ask again. If someone asks how many loans you have signed, don’t give them a summary of your professional background, just give them a quick number. If someone asks if you are still in business, don’t tell them you are eating dinner or on vacation, just tell them that you are still in business. Just answer the question.

3. No background noise
Screaming children, televisions, or people talking in the background sound unprofessional. You need to turn the TV off, go into the next room where there is no noise, and apologize if there is any noise. That is called being professional.

4. Don’t scramble information
Asking people to repeat endlessly is horrible. If your phone is horrible, get a new one rather than accusing the other person of breaking up. If someone asks if you can do a notary for two signers on three documents, don’t repeat it back to them as, “Okay, three signers on how many documents?” That is called scrambling information and sounds ignorant.

5. Don’t brag
Notary Signing Agents have the desire to overprove themselves. The secret is to make a good impression by being helpful and not shoving your credentials down someone’s throat. It also makes a good impression to ask a few relevant questions about the type of signing or document. Asking a few pertinent questions looks professional.

6. Act calm
Acting calm and helpful is a lot better than acting anxious and overly helpful or overly unhelpful. People get put off by desperate or unfriendly behavior.

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CONFIRMING THE SIGNING & AT THE SIGNING

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7. Call to confirm the signing
Go over all pertinent points. Make sure the ID proves the name on the documents and that all the signers will be there. You should also verify that there is a clean table to sign on. You should go over how long the signing should take, if there is anything going back to the document custodian and if they have used morphine or Jack Daniels within several hours of the signing. Nothing beats a sober signer or a well organized Notary Public.

8. Introduce yourself at the door
It is good to mention that you are Joe the signing agent and that it is your job to facilitate the signing. Mention that they can address all of your questions to you, but that you cannot answer specific questions about their loan, but only general questions about loan documents and Notary procedure.

9. Small talk is good
People like a friendly Notary who can talk about small talk. But, avoid any topics that could be controversial such as gender issues, sex, guns, and how born again Christians should have a second birth certificate for when they were born the second time.

10. Don’t discuss guns and religion
Unless you are notarizing the Obamas, don’t bring up Joe the plumber, or religion. But, if you are notarizing the head of the NRA then you might reconsider guns. If you ask him to shoot you an email, don’t be surprised if he asks what you want him to shoot it with! Yee-haw!!!

11. Don’t park in the driveway
The driveway is for the residents to park in, not you. You are their humble servant who parks on the street (sorry.)

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OTHER

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12. Dress for success. Business casual is great. People get complaints more for dressing poorly than for being a horrible Notary. So, go to Men’s Wearhouse first, and then buy that Notary course you were thinking of. And remember — it’s not what you know — it’s how you look! Notaries who show up in shorts and flip-flops get some serious complaints and even a bad review on their profile. In short, don’t dress like me.

13. Carry loose Acknowledgment, Jurat and other certificates in your Notary Carry All Bag that you purchased from the NNA. Carry a thumbprinter, wipes, and pens with you. Nothing is worse than a Notary that doesn’t have pens except one who wears flip-flops. Having good professional equipment makes you look like you know what you are doing even more than actually knowing what you are doing.

14. Arrive on time
Nothing is worse than a late notary other than one who wears flip-flops.

15. Follow up punctually
If you have to get the Fedex back, do so immediately. Do not wait to drop a package unless you are waiting for a call back. If you wait 90 minutes or more for a callback, consider that title needs their docs back and it might make sense to just drop it. That is a judgment call, so think carefully about it. If you get emails, answer them asap.

You have to be available after signings for up to the rescission date and sometimes later. If you become unreachable after the signing, you will get very serious complaints. The worst complaints we get about notaries are that they were rude, or unresponsive after they had completed work.

16. Don’t be rude
If someone is rude to you, don’t reciprocate. Your reputation is on the line. You can get penalized for being rude even if the other person deserves it. So, watch yourself!

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Please Also Read:

Best marketing resources for Notaries. This entry goes over active vs. passive marketing in detail
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=16322

Notary etiquette from Athiest to Zombie
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=13718

Long term marketing plans
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=15793

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March 12, 2018

Notary Marketing 102 — Your Notes Section

Filed under: Comprehensive Guides,Loan Signing 101,Your Notes Section — admin @ 8:27 am

Return to Notary Marketing 102 Contents

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A Thorough Notes Section

LINK: How to write a notes section if you are a beginner.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=16698

Having a great advertisement at the top of the list is super. However, if your information is vacuous, people will bypass your ad to hire someone else. It behooves you to write a great notes section, and 123notary will edit your notes at no cost out of the goodness of our hearts (and for the general quality of the site). But, what constitutes a super notes section? A good notes section should have a lot of pertinent information about yourself, and it should be organized into logical paragraphs. Furthermore, the information should stress experience and selling features at the top as the first hundred and fifty or so characters show up on the search results and can act as a magnet. You should avoid spelling or formatting mistakes to make a good impression on companies that may elect to use you.

Most Notaries use the jumble technique and put all of their information into one disorganized never ending paragraph. Don’t do this. Jumbles are hard to read and do not stress what is important first. The information in a jumble normally includes some bragging about how great the notary feels they are, will undoubtedly mention their NNA certification and background check (which matters), and E&O insurance (which also matters). Coverage areas are also normally mentioned. It is better to format information the Jeremy way, as my editing work on listings gains them around 55% more clicks on average and only takes me a minute or two and is free!

Below is our table of contents about each part of the notes section. Please read every page linked below as it is part of the course and not supplemental reading material.

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The top of your notes section
This is where you put your selling points, and salient features about your experience.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19750

The second paragraph of your notes section.
This is where you talk about what is unique about you.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19748

The third section of your notes section
This is where you put quick points about certifications, E&O, and more.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19746

The bottom of your notes section.
Talk about coverage areas, special considerations like accepting credit cards, and a closing phrase.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19744

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EXAMPLE
Here is an example of a quick notary notes section done according to our formula for success.

1000 loans signed; Open until 11pm; Fluent Bhutanese; Experienced with Time Shares, REO, Helocs, Refinances, and more.

I have been a Notary since 2005 and have a background as a Real Estate Broker and Escrow Officer. I love people and always get back to my clients right away. I am meticulous, but don’t take my word for it, try me out and see for yourself. As a former Escrow Officer I know the Title documents well and am also familiar with general loan documents.

NNA & 123notary Certified
Sterling Background Screened (Expires Nov 2018)
500K E&O
Dual Tray Printer that prints 200 ppm.
Available 8am to 11pm seven days a week.

I accept Paypal and Square

I cover Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, parts of Kern and will consider San Luis Obispo County with advanced Notice.

Thanks for visiting my listing on 123notary and I hope to hear from you soon.

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November 6, 2017

10 rules for negotiating Notary fees

Many Notaries complain about how little they get paid. And then I complain about how little they know. The two tend to go together and the pay is not going to go up before the knowledge does. However, there are negotiating techniques that can help.

1. Let them name their price first
In a bargaining game, it is better to let the other person bid first. You can always raise your ask price if they don’t offer enough. But, if they offer far too much, you would never get it if you asked first and asked too low.

2. Start with a high ask price
If you ask for $125, you can always go down on your price, especially if the job is close or fast. You can ask how many pages, fax backs, and notarizations are in the package. If it is quick, then give them a quick price.

3. Never whine
If you whine about the condition of the industry or how low the fee was, people will think you are a low life. Professionals don’t whine. Professionals operate! So, if you are offered $60, ask for $85 and see what happens.

4. Decline the low-ball offers
If you spend all day working for peanuts, then when the good jobs come, you won’t have time. Decline bad offers so you are free for good offers.

5. Answer your phone
If you only offer when you are not in a signing and not driving or cooking or thinking, you will miss 80% of your calls. How can you negotiate a good fee if you don’t take the call in the first place?

6. Act professional
Try to impress them without trying to impress them. Most Notaries try to do a snow job and brag about how great they are. Seasoned operators don’t do this. Smart professionals will engage you in an intelligent conversation about the job, the industry and the state of the union. Ask them questions about the job, where it is, who it is for, what type of loan it is, and about their career and industry working in title or escrow. But, whatever you do, don’t talk about your zero percent error rate and how reliable and experienced you are — nobody can verify your claims and nobody wants to hear it.

7. Never say hello
Unless you work for an aloe vera companies, don’t answer the phone saying “aloe?” Answer stating your company name and personal name. It sounds professional. If you have screaming kids in the background that sounds horribly unprofessional. Have a quiet place to answer the phone and if you are in a noisy place, try to go to a quieter place and apologize about the noise. Just because you don’t mind noise doesn’t mean the title company enjoys barking dog and screaming three year old.

8. Talk about real life
Sometimes I talk to Notaries who tell the Title company that you can call me to clean up the mess after you hire one of those $50 signers. Over half my work is clean up work. That sounds real to title companies unlike all the nonsense about how experienced and knowledgeable you are which just sounds like fluff. Tell real stories about how you handled complicated situations that others might have goofed. Mention that split signing where you did some complicated manouver on the Acknowledgment certificate and how you went out to sign the wife at 3am because she could only see you at that time due to her busy schedule as a nurse. This is impressive and much better than fluff.

9. Negotiate timing
You can offer a better rate if they get you late after rush hour. They might prefer to just offer you more and get the job booked.

10. Double book and get a bad review
Yes, you’ll get bad reviews from this, but double booking makes sense. People cancel jobs all the time when they hire you, so why can’t you cancel a few jobs. If you book jobs tightly, the other person will cancel 20% of the time — at least. So, if you book a job for $60 and someone else offers you $150, you can ditch the first job and take the other. You will probably get a bad review that will last for three years, but you will have $90 extra in your pocket. It’s a dirty technique. Not recommended, but food for thought and great blog material.

11. Never let them see you sweat.
Appearing calm and collected are the way to go. If you seem flustered, that is bad. Oops, that was eleven rules and I promised ten. Okay, disregard point eleven and just use antiperspirant.

You might also like:

How to negotiate fees like a pro
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19198

Can you negotiate prices with SnapDocs?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=16236

Notary Marketing 102 – Negotiating Fees
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19784

A complete guide to getting paid
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19794

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October 17, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Journals

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

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NOTARY JOURNALS

Not all states require keeping an official journal of Notarial acts, but 123notary requires it as that is the only evidence you have should you go to court. There are identity thieves and cons all over the place. They might pretend to be a home owner to steal that person’s equity or con grandma into giving her fortune away to some crooks. If your notarization ever goes to court, your journal is the only record of what happened and who signed what, etc. Most Notaries think keeping a journal is an annoying task that they do because they have to. It is the same attitude that children have towards doing their homework at age seven. But, your journal can save your neck, and I know many whose hides have been saved who ended up in court.

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ONE JOURNAL ENTRY PER PERSON PER DOCUMENT

Most Notaries think that you create one entry for each signer and then cram in the names of all of the documents you are notarizing. This is very sloppy. If you pick up five packages from FedEx, do you sign once or do you sign five times, each for a particular tracking number? If you keep one journal entry per person per document, then you have a signature proving consent to be notarized for each document you notarize. Additionally, you must name the particular and complete name of each document, and not just say “loan docs.”

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INFORMATION

In your journal you write the date, time, type of notary act, name of document (the full name, no abbreviations or check boxes here please) and the document date. You need to record the name, address, and ID of the signer as well. Then the signature, thumbprint and notary fee. Let’s focus on the document information in this section though. You need to record the:

Full name of the document, not an abbreviation.

Document Date — many documents have a document date inscribed within that is an arbitrary date created by the document drafter. It could be the date the document was drafted, or the date it was intended to be signed, or a random arbitrary date.

Other distinguishing factors — if you are signing multiple documents with the same name such as Deeds of Trust, Grant Deeds, etc., you need to differentiate them somehow. Escrow numbers, names of grantors, grantees, APN numbers, property addresses, number of pages, or anything else can help identify a document after the fact in case you end up in court.

Signatures — each line of your journal needs to be signed by the corresponding person. If John and Sally are each signing three notarized documents, then John gets entry 1, 2, and 3 while sally gets 4, 5, and 6. Each signer must sign their three entries otherwise the entries are meaningless.

Thumbprints — I am skipping mentioning more about the other things that belong in a journal as most Notaries get it, however, few Notaries keep thumbprints. Your journal thumbprint is the one piece of evidence the FBI will ask for when they come knocking on your front door. Additionally, it discourages fraud as fraudulent people do not want to be thumbprinted.

Other Information — Although I am skipping elaborating about the other journal fields, I will make a quick note about the additional information section in a journal. That leaves space for information about credible witnesses, subscribing witnesses, unusual facts about the signers, the location, or the circumstances in which you are signing. If the signer claims that they are being kidnapped, write that down in the additional information section of your journal, then call the police. If the signer has a weird neck tattoo, you might need to remember that in court. Put it in your journal. The judge will think you are a very thorough Notary.

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FINAL NOTE

The purpose of journals is not only to please your state’s Secretary of State, but also to please judges and FBI agents. Keeping a clean, correct and thorough journal will make a positive impression on the authorities and could keep you from being named as a suspect if God forbid you ever unknowingly Notarize an identity thief, fraud, or otherwise bad person. Notaries don’t get in trouble that often, but for those who make a career out of being a Notary, eventually you will be investigated at least once and perhaps end up in court, so keep your paperwork in order so the investigation is fast and smooth. Otherwise you might end up in court for a very long time — no joke! Roughly 1/7 of the Notaries on our site have ended up in court due to something that they notarized.

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Notary Public 101 — Identification

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

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IDENTIFICATION

As a Notary Public, the most important thing you do is to identify a signer. Different states have different rules for what identification document you can use and how someone is to be identified. If a Notary fails to do a good job identifying a signer, that Notary can quickly end up in court as a witness or defendant. In my opinion if you don’t do a good job identifying signers, you might as well not be a Notary Public.

Identification Documents & Characteristics
Commonly accepted ID’s include passports, driver’s licenses, state issued ID cards, military ID’s. Green cards (permanent resident cards) are not necessarily allowed, so look that one up in your handbook. As a rule, an acceptable ID must be:

Current — (there are exceptions in California, Tennessee and perhaps other states that allow the ID to be issued within five years even if it is expired.)

Government Issued — Some Notaries think that a signature affidavit or gas bill is a good secondary form of ID, but those are not government issued and you don’t know what the source of the information for the names on them are.

Photo ID — An acceptable ID should have a photo. I do not think that many states allow social security cards as secondary identifications. However, you can look that up in your handbook.

Physical Description — the ID would say your height, eye color, etc.

Serial Number — the ID should have a number such as A58362D.

Expiration Date — the ID should have an expiration date somewhere. Normally there is an issue date as well somewhere.

Signature — the signature on the ID is important because you will need to compare that to the one in your journal and on the document made by the same person.

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THE NAME ON THE ID

Different states have different rules for what the name on the ID should say relative to the name on the document. Some states do not require the names to match. Others require that the Notary be reasonably sure that the person in the ID and the person on the document are the same person. Reasonably sure is a wishy-washy term. You can never be 100% sure it is the same person because ID’s can be falsified and there could be multiple people with the same name as well as multiple people who look similar to each other. Identifying humans is easier than identifying squirrels, but there can still be confusion. The name on the document’s signature must be provable to the name on the ID, otherwise it would be questionable and risky to notarize that signature.

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PROCEDURE

When you do a Notary act, you ask for the signer’s identification. You record that information in your journal and you keep a journal whether your state requires it or not as that is your only evidence in court. You compare the name on the ID to the name on the document. If the name on the document is not provable based on the ID then you are advised to decline the notarization, especially if it is for a Deed. Here is a summary of the ID and acknowledgment notarization process.

(1) Ask for ID.
(2) Record ID information in journal
(3) Have signer(s) sign your journal and the document(s)
(4) Compare the name in the document to the name on the ID. Make sure the name on the document is provable based on the ID.
(5) Make sure the signature in the journal, document and ID all match.
(6) Fill out the certificate, sign and seal.

Examples of provability in ID
ID says John Smith — document says John W Smith…. name is NOT provable.
ID says John W Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable
ID says John William Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable based on the ID.

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FAKE ID

Keep an eye out for fake ID’s. There are guide books that can yelp you identify a false identification. If there is peeling lamination or the signature is above the lamination then it is fake. You can ask the signer what his sign is or what his birthday or height is. If he does not know his sign or birthday based on the ID, then his ID is fake. If he does know his sign that is great, but does not prove the ID is real.

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THUMBPRINTS

If you value your life, ask for journal thumbprints. They can keep you out of court. People might complain about being asked to be thumbprinted as it can seem like an invasion of privacy and a hassle — but a thumbprint is the only way an investigative agency can have a paper trail leading to an arrest of an identity thief. Thumbprints are the only unique form of identification a Notary can use at this point in time. No two thumbprints are alike, and they cannot be forged at a Notary appointment unless they wear a latex thumbprint on their thumb which would be easily detectable.

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Notary Public 101 — Certificates

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

You might also like: 10 tight points on loose certificates.

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NOTARIAL CERTIFICATES

There are certificates for various types of Notary acts. Acknowledgments, Jurats, Proofs of Execution. Some states even have certificates for Oaths and Affirmations. Let’s focus on Acknowledgment Certificates for now.

There are various parts of an Acknowledgment form.

(1) The venue. The venue is normally on the upper part of a certificate. In California now there is some verbiage in a box that I am not trained in. But, above the boiler plate wording there is a venue which documents the county and state. Is a venue the county where you did a transaction or two lines of information in a form? Both! However, the documentation of the venue is the one in the certificate and it is informally called the venue and not the documentation of the venue.

(2) The date. The date is a field the Notary is often held responsible to fill in. The date falls into the area of the boiler-plate wording of the form which is standardized wording from your state or perhaps another state.

(3) The names of the signers. As a Notary, you need to input the names of the signers or affiants into the Notary certificate if required. Sometimes it doesn’t make it clear whose name goes in the form. If it says, “Subscribed and sworn to before me by,” then after the “by” put the name of the affiant or signer otherwise you will ruin the form.

(4) The name of the Notary. The name of the Notary once again is entered into the boiler-plate wording area.

(5) Pronouns, singulars and plurals. Each state has a different wording for Notary certificates for each act. However, it is common and typical to have some sort of Notary verbiage that includes he/she/they executed the instrument, his/her/their signature(s), or his/her/their authorized capacity(ies). The critical thing here is to cross out the incorrect words and leave the correct wording. If you do a notarization for John, then cross out the her and their and the (s) assuming John only signed once. If you do a signing for Bruce Jenner then use a special form called the T-acknowledgment which says he/she/it’s complicated/they

(6) Testimonium Clause. Where it says “witness my hand and official seal,” that is called the testimonium clause. Below the boiler plate wording is the signature area where you sign and then affix your notarial seal. And by the way, “Locus Sigilli” means the location of the seal.

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CHANGES TO CERTIFICATES

Making any change on a Notary certificate is messy in my opinion. You can consider crossing out and initialing wrong information. Remember that ONLY the Notary can initial or write on the certificate forms and the signer cannot touch it. However, it is cleaner to create a new certificate using an Acknowledgment that you get from a pad that you keep your Notary bag. That way you can start all over, fill the form out correctly and then staple it to the document in question.

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ADDING LOOSE CERTIFICATES

If you notarize a document that either does not have acceptable Notary wording or doesn’t have any Notary wording (or wrong information on the form) then you might want to add a loose certificate from your pad of certificates that you purchased from the NNA (recommended). Additionally, if there is no room for your seal in some pre-existing Notary verbiage, you might be forced to add a certificate for logistical reasons.

You might also like this blog article:
Sending loose certificates in the mail is generally illegal!

If you add a loose certificate, the certificate must be filled out thoroughly. This means that in addition to the legally required verbiage, you fill out the ADDITIONAL INFORMATION section. The additional information section includes:

Document name — if you don’t put the name of the document on your loose certificate, it might be unstapled and added to a wrong document by accident or on purposes.

Document date — if you don’t put the document date, your certificate might be added to a different document with the same name by accident or fraudulently.

Number of Pages — if you put nine pages, then it will be hard for a fraud to swap the certificate and put it on a similar document with eight pages.

Other Signers — You can name the other signers on the document.

Capacities — California no longer allows this, but you can mention if any of the signers are signing as Attorney in Fact or some other capacity.

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EMBOSSERS

Cautious Notaries often use an embosser when notarizing. You can use an inked seal and also a non-ink embosser that leaves a raised seal. If someone photo copies your certificates, the embossed impression will not show up in the photocopy. Additionally, you can emboss each page of a document to discourage page swapping.

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AUTHORITY

If there is a disagreement between a Title company involved in a transaction and a Notary regarding what venue or information goes in an Acknowledgment or Jurat certificate, the Notary has absolute authority. The Notary may ask for the Title company’s preference if there are two legal ways of doing something such as crossing out and initialing vs. adding on a loose certificate if there is an error. However, it is the Notary who is legally responsible for filling out the form and it is the Notary who will end up in court if there is a problem.

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WHO TO ASK FOR HELP WITH CERTIFICATES

If the Notary does not know what to do when filling in forms or notarizing, do NOT ask the Lender or Title companies as they have a beneficial interest in the transaction AND because they are not experts in the field. The tiel rep might be a Notary, but not necessarily in your state, and not necessarily an informed Notary. Title and Lenders will typically tell you whatever it takes to get the job done whether it is legal, recommendable, safe, or kosher, or not. They don’t care just as long as their loan goes through and YOU, the Notary are the one who gets locked up if you did something illegal just as long as it is your seal on the page.

If you need help with a Notary problem, consult your state’s Notary division as a first resource and the NNA hotline as your next resource. I would be very wary about trusting anyone else.

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Notary Public 101 — Basic Notary Acts

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

BASIC NOTARY ACTS

Each state has a different list of official Notary acts. Some state handbooks don’t make it clear if certain actions are considered “official” notary acts or not. However, all states or the vast majority have Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, and Affirmations. Many also have Protests and Proofs of Execution, while only a few have Witnessing, Attesting, immigration form filling, and depositions as acts. There are a few more acts I will not mention as they are obscure and very state specific. Let’s focus on the main acts that we will hold you responsible for knowing.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

When I studied to be a Notary, my teacher said you Acknowledge a signature, Execute a Jurat and Administer an Oath. This is not true. The Notary is not the one who acknowledges a signature. The SIGNER acknowledges the signature and then the Notary CERTIFIES that the signer acknowledged the signature by virtue of filling out the Acknowledgment Certificate. Here are some basics on Acknowledgments.

1. The signer acknowledges having signed the document.

2. The signer must physically personally appear before the Notary for such an act.

3. The signer does NOT have to sign before the Notary according to most if not all states such as AK, IA, SC, SD, VT, and WV. Lenders might require the borrower to sign in the presence of the Notary, but that is a particular Lender’s standard and not necessarily a state standard or even a best practice.

4. The Notary must positively identify the signer using identification documents acceptable to their state which normally include Drivers Licenses, State issued identification photo ID’s, Passports, and Military ID’s. Other ID might be accepted on a state by state basis and you can look that up in your handbook. Also, see our section on identification.

5. The Notary should ideally keep a journal entry of all Notarial acts even if their state does not require this.

6. There should be Acknowledgment wording appropriate or acceptable to your state inscribed within the document, or you can attach a loose acknowledgment form with a staple.

7. After you fill out the certificate form, you sign and stamp the page (some states allow you to write in your seal information without a stamp.) Make sure your stamp is clear and not smudgy otherwise the county recorder has the right to reject the Notarization.

8. Note — some states require the Notary to ask the signer to attest to the fact that they signed in their own free will. Please be aware if your state has any unusual requirements or special wording on forms.

9. A California Notary faces many restrictions as to what type of out of state forms they can use. Please check the California Notary Handbook to see what you can accept and what you can’t otherwise you could get in trouble particularly if it is a recorded document.

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JURATS

Jurats are a Notary act where the signer or affiant by definition signs and swears (and/or sometimes affirms) before the Notary. Jurat wording differs from state to state. However, some basic verbiage includes the phrase, “Subscribed and sworn to before me.” What does this mean? This means that the document was signed in the physical presence of the Notary Public as well as sworn to before the Notary Public at the signing. In an Acknowledged signature you can sign prior to seeing the Notary, but you acknowledge before the Notary. A Jurat is completely different. Modern verbiage for Jurats sometimes says, “Subscribed and sworn or affirmed to before me.” This does not mean that you can administer an Oathfirmation and mix the Affirmation and Oath verbiage. This means that you can have the client choose if they want an Oath or Affirmation and do one or the other. Don’t mix these Notary acts unless your state specifically says you can.

Many Notaries are unaware that when executing a Jurat, you do need to administer an Oath particular to the document being signed. Please see our commentary on Oaths below. Failing to administer an Oath on a Jurat is illegal and could void the legal completeness of the document. Some states additionally will reserve the right to suspend your commission if you omit a legally required Oath.

“Subscribed and sworn to before me” is NOT Oath verbiage! That is the written documentation that you gave an Oath. When you ask the affiant to raise their right hand, do NOT utter the words, “subscribed and sworn to before me.” otherwise they will think you are an idiot and there will be no way for them to respond unless they repeat. Start an Oath with, “do you solemnly swear” after they have raised their right hand.

A good Oath for a document could be, “Do you solemnly swear under the penalty of perjury that the information in this document is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” Then the other person says, “I do.” Then you pronounce them “man and document” by the powers vested in you.

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OATHS

Not all Notarial acts include a written document or written certificate. Some are purely oral. Oaths and Affirmations are oral acts where most states do not have a certificate for the Oath. You should write in your journal if you administered an Oath and where it says, “Name of document” you should write that you gave an Oath about a particular topic. You do not write the actual verbiage of the Oath in your journal. You might write, “Oath regarding military duty” or “Oath of citizenship,” etc.

Oath verbiage is generally up to the Notary and few states have any actual requirements for what you should say. However, common sense and tradition dictate certain things about Oath verbiage.

Raise Your Right Hand — you traditionally have the signer raise their right hand before swearing under Oath.

Solemnly – it is traditional to ask the signer if they solemnly swear. An Oath is a solemn occassion and swearing to a Notary is as official as swearing to a judge in a court of law.

Swear — you must use the word “swear” in an Oath otherwise it is no longer an Oath.

Document or Statement — in an Oath you should make a reference to the content you are swearing to. It might be a document, or a statement you are about to me. Just make sure you reference the content in a way that makes sense. Asking someone to swear to “the information” is not as precise as asking them to swear to the truthfulness of “this document” while pointing to the document.

God — Oaths traditionally refer to God. If someone doesn’t like God, rather than remove God from the Oath, do an Affirmation INSTEAD of an Oath.

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Correct Oath wording for a Notary to make for a Document
“Please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the document you signed is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” — The answer would be, “I do.”

Wrong Oaths for a Document
“Do you solemnly swear that the statement you are about to make is true?”
“Do you solmenly swear that the information you provided is true?”

Commentary
If you are swearing to a document there is no statement you are about to make. There is a document you already signed that you swear to. You cannot swear to a statement you are not going to make — that is nonsense. The information in the document might have been provided by a Lender or Attorney, so don’t make them swear to WHO provided the information. Just have them swear that it is true.

Administering an Oath
When you are a Notary and you give or supervise an Oath to someone, you are administering an Oath. When you administer an Oath there are two ways to do it. You either ask an Oath question such as the ones mentioned above, or you say, “Repeat after me.” Repeating after me is really tenous as every three words the affiant has to repeat those words and it is like being six years old doing the pledge of allegience. How annoying!

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AFFIRMATIONS

An Affirmation is similar to an Oath. The are equal in their significance and used during the same situations. Affirmations are legal in most states. Check your state’s handbook to see if they are used in yours and if there is any state specific wording that you must use. However, you cannot mix and match the wording in an Affirmation. If your client wants to do an Affirmation, you use the word Affirm or State rather than swear, and you do not mention God. Leave God out of it! Other than that, the verbiage is the same as an Oath, so help you nobody!

To better understand choosing Oaths vs. Affirmations or mixing them up together read this fun article about Airline Meals versus Oaths and Affirmations.

To administer an Affirmation for a document just say, “Do you solemnly affirm or state that the information in this document is correct?” or for a purely oral statement just say, “Do you solemnly affirm or state that the statement you are about to give is true and correct?”

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PROOF OF EXECUTION

Not all states allow proofs of execution, but it is a traditional Notary act that I would like you to know about. In a proof of execution, the principal who is the one who signs the document signs when a subscribing witness is witnessing his signature. The definition of a subscribing witness is one who watches someone else sign. Then the subscribing witness appears before a Notary and swears under Oath that he/she witnessed so and so signing the document. I have never heard of this act being done, but for less formal documents, it is often allowed and it is interesting to read about as it is so unusual.

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PROTESTS

Not all states have protests. Protests are normally done by people working in banking to protest the non-payment of a bill or bounced check. We do not hold our Notaries responsible to understand this act although it is good to know what it is.

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