February 2012 - Notary Blog - Signing Tips, Marketing Tips, General Notary Advice - 123notary.com
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February 23, 2012

Rules for Notarizing Minors

Rules for notarizing minors 

You can notarize the signature of a minor, however, their signature is not legally binding since they are under age. The minor still needs to be positively identified, so they need an identification document of some sort that is current, government issued, has a photo, physical description, signature, serial number, and expiration date.   It is prudent to document in your journal, and on the document the age and possibly the date of birth of the signer, so everybody reading the paperwork will immediately be aware that the person is under age.  Rules for notarizing  minors could vary state by state, so please ask your state notary division what their recommendations are.

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February 21, 2012

All you need to know about notary work

All you need to know about notary work 

There is a lot to know about notary work.  You should visit your state’s notary division website to learn what they want you to know about your state’s notary laws.  Regardless of what state you are in, you need to know:
 
Who can become a notary?
Generally state residents who are 18 or older who don’t have a felony conviction or misdemeanor involving dishonesty.  Some states allow residents of neighboring states to apply to be a notary as well.
 
What is the application process to become a notary?
Some states have online  applications, while others require you to mail it in. Each state has a different application fee. Check your state’s notary division website for more information
 
What is the procedure to get my official notary seal?
Most states require the use of a notarial seal, but some states have authorization forms to get your seal.
 
How do I get my notary commission paperwork?
Most states will mail this to you.  Many states require you to file an Oath and Bond at a county recorder’s office, or some other government office in your area.

 Do I need to be bonded to be a notary?
Refer to your state’s notary division website for information
 
What notary acts do I need to know about?
Most states allow notaries to perform notarial acts such as:Acknowledgments, Jurats, Affirmations, Oaths, and Protests.  Some states allow copy certifications for particular documents, and there are other types of notary acts as well that are particular to certain states. Please read your state’s notary division website to learn the details.

 Do I need to keep a journal of notarial acts?
Most states require a journal, but even if they don’t, you should keep a journal for your records in case you are called into court.  A well maintained journal is evidence that can be used in court, or keep you out of court.  You will not remember someone you notarized five years ago, so keep good notes in your journal if something strange happens at the notarization.
 
How do I identify signers?
Generally, a current drivers’s license, state identification card, or password will do.  The ID should be a current government issued photo-ID with a physical description, signature, serial number, and expiration date.  Other forms of identification might be allowed, so please visit your state’s notary division website to learn the details of your state’s rules
 
Attaching certificates.
Notary acts such as Jurats and Acknowledgments require notarial paperwork to accompany the act.  Oaths often do not require a certificate though. Notary certificates come in pads, and you simply fill out the certificate with information about the document and the signer, the date you notarized the document and a few other pieces of information — then you stamp the certificate paper, and staple it to the document.  The document itself might have the certificate on it which means that you do not have to attach a loose certificate.
 
What else do I need to know?
You could learn about how to use credible witnesses, signature by mark, and other types of notary procedures.  You should learn how to take journal thumbprints for your security in identifying potential frauds.  Become an expert on your state notary handbook (if your state has one).  You are responsible for all laws pertaining to notaries in your state.
 
Can a notary notarize outside of their state?
There are some weird exceptions in two states, but as a general rule, you are not authorized to perform notary acts outside of your state boundaries.  If you live near a border, consider getting commissioned in the neighboring state if that state will allow it.
 
How long is a notary term?
Notary terms can range from three years to life, however, the majority of states have a four or five year notary commission term.
 
How do I make money as a notary?
Become a mobile notary, get a loan signing course from 123notary.com, and advertise on our site to get business as a loan signer and mobile notary if your state allows loan signing!

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Sending loose certificates is illegal
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How much can a notary charge in 2013?
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February 14, 2012

Immigration documents for gay lovers.

Immigration documents for gay lovers 

I’m glad I got to publish this one on Valentine’s day! I have done many types of notary jobs, but this one is one I’ll remember for a long time.  In my career, I notarized documents for gay couples in West Hollywood many times.   It is a little different, but I got used to it. By the way, West Hollywood is a place where close to half the population is gay, and the other half is either Russian, or in the film business in one way or the other.  When you work as a notary public in Los Angeles, you see all areas and will see many movie sets, domestic partners, gang members, jails inmates, busy businesmen, people who speak languages other than English, and regular suburban folks too.
 
An affidavit of support for a non-relative – this job was different
I was to go to the San Fernando Valley to Encino to notarize documents for a middle-aged American man who looked like he was in his 50’s.  He was very nice and very gentle and lived in a very comfy house with a big living room. And there was another man there too, in his early twenties, Asian, also very nice, very lean, and very gentle too.  The document to be notarized was an affidavit of support.  What I learned, was that the older man was having a relationship with the younger man who was from Hong Kong, and the older man wanted to support him.  They had a very loving way of looking at each other. Love was in the air… I hope it lasts!!!
 
Checking Identification
I checked everyone’s ID at this notary job.  Since I’m a nosey person, I wanted to see how old everyone was, and that information is on every Driver’s license. I wanted to be polite, so I didn’t comment on how old…. or not old…. certain people at the signing were…. or weren’t.   I had everyone sign where they were supposed to sign.
 
The Oath and the paperwork
 Next, I had to have them raise their right hands and solemnly swear under oath that the contents of the document were true and correct and that they promised to abide by the terms of the document.  The response was, “I do!”, and they gave each other more loving stares. This was so romantic, like a movie!  I filled out my journal entry, had them sign the journal,  filled out the notarial wording, signed, and affixed my seal.  Done!  That was easy.  I collected my fee and was on my way.
 
Affidavits of domestic partnership
I’m not sure if this document is still used or not.  However, about a decade ago, I used to notarize many affidavits of domestic partnership for gay couples  in West Hollywood. It was one of those standard documents that you have done a thousand times. I think they need this type of document for saving on taxes or getting other benefits.  I am not clued in on this, so if someone wants to fill in the blanks with a comment on this blog, that would inform everyone.

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February 13, 2012

Certified Signing Agent – what does it mean?

There are different signing certifications out there.  There are NNA certified signers, 123notary certified signing agents, and many other agencies have a similar type of test and certification.  But, what does it all mean? 
 
NNA certification is famous, and people think that they are a government agency.  You can learn a lot from the NNA certification process. It is a good use of your time.  My personal opinion is that the test covers much more information than you will ever be able or authorized to use, and that it lacks focus as a result.  I feel it is better to focus on what you will be using daily and to be good at it which is a daunting task for most notaries — believe it or not!
 
123notary’s certified signing agent process
Most NNA certified signers do not want to take another test, and they don’t take ours seriously.  What they fail to realize is that they should not take the test because they like our test.  They should take our test because the visitors to 123notary WILL NOT HIRE THEM as a first choice unless they are certified by us.  Our test is short, not expensive, and to the point.  It is also timed which makes it less popular with the notaries.  A timed test is harder to pass, and that means that you really have to know your stuff and be able to function under pressure.  Most of us can not function under regular circumstances and fall apart under pressure. This is how we separate the ladies from the girls, etc.
 
History of the 123notary certification test
We used to give the test over the phone.  We didn’t have money or technology in those days.  Notaries would say, “Ummmm, ahmmm, I know this”, and think for two minutes when we asked them simple questions about what information is where.  If you have to spend long amounts of time thinking in front of a borrower, they will think that you are an unprofessional idiot, and they will be right.  If you can pass our timed test, that proves that you are motivated, smart, can think under pressure, have a little bit of money, and know your basics.  Passing our test doesn’t mean that you know the subtleties of the profession, but most notaries have enough trouble with the basics which is why we place very little emphasis on the more sophisticated points.
 
Whose test do I take?
Want to be a loan signing agent?  You need marketing.  If you want to advertise with the NNA, then pass their test. If you want to advertise with 123notary, then pass our test.  Get certified by whichever agency you plan to be with — on their jurisdiction (their site).  It is similar to different state laws.  If you are in Ohio, get commissioned by the Ohio notary division, and if you are in Montana, then get commissioned by the Montana notary division.  Don’t tell the Montana notary department that you are ALREADY certified by Ohio, because they don’t want to hear that.

 123notary certified loan signing agents get 3x the business
We tell our clients that they will get 3x the business if they get certified by us.  Our statistics demonstrate this fact.  The smarter notaries get with the program and just do what is necessary, but we get a bunch of arguers who want to spend two hours convincing me that they don’t need the test.  Don’t tell me — tell the hundreds of visitors to our site who refused to call you because you don’t have the certification icon next to your name!
 

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February 11, 2012

The Power of Attorney Signing

The Power of Attorney signing
 
Less than 1% of notarial signings are power of attorney signings, but they happen, and you need to know what to do.  The Grantor is the person who grants power of attorney to a Grantee who is the attorney in fact.  Depending on the terms of the power of attorney, the attorney in fact has special powers and rights to perform certain functions in good faith on behalf of the grantor.  In fact, a living Will is a type of health care power of attorney that gives someone the right to make health care decisions for you should you be incapacitated.  A banking power of attorney gives someone the right to do your banking for you. Attorneys in fact are generally family members, and you better trust them with your life, because your life will be in their hands.
 
Getting a power of attorney
To sign as an attorney in fact, you need to have a notarized power of attorney document.  BTW, banks will typically only allow their own custom made forms from their particular bank.  These forms typically don’t have room for your notarial seal, but the banks don’t seem to mind!
 
Signing documents
At a signing, the attorney in fact was there to sign a Deed on behalf of the grantor.  John Smith was signing on behalf of Reginald Smith.  The verbiage you can use for signing is:
 
Reginald Smith, by John Smith, his attorney in Fact    or
John Smith, as attorney in fact for Reginald Smith.
 
I prefer the latter, because it allows you to sign your own name instead of forging Reginald’s name. 
 
Initialing?
Since it was a Deed of Trust, it needed to be initialed at the bottom.  But, how do we do this?  JS, as attorney in fact for RS?  JS for RS?  RS by JS?  There is no standard way of initialing as an attorney in fact.  Perhaps John should initial only as himself without mentioning capacity?  JS… 
 
Conclusion
Power of attorney signings are not hard.  You just need to know the basic procedure and you are fine.  Take thumbprints for all notarizations involving  a power of attorney.
 
Commenting on this blog
If you would like to comment, you are invited.  Even if your opinion is far out, we and the other readers look forward to it.

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February 10, 2012

Power of Attorney at a nursing home

Power of Attorney signing at a Nursing Home
 
This was a signing that was doomed from the beginning. I was a relatively new notary, and hadn’t been burned enough to have any sense.  I was like the cat who hadn’t learned to be wary of crossing the road. On the other hand, during my childhood, we had a cat who regularly sat right on the yellow line in the middle of the road.  Let’s just say that she had a good sense of timing.  My timing unfortunately wasn’t so good this time, and neither was my judgement.
 
A call from a convalescent home
It was a call from a lady in her late fifties.  She seemed like a very normal person.  She was taking care of an elderly lady who had nobody.  Of course, when I got the call, I didn’t have the sense to ask who was going to pay me or how they were going to pay me. This job was so bizarre, that even the most experienced notary has probably never seen anything like it.  So, I went to the nursing home and went in the door.  This place was horrible.  People were screaming and moaning all the time.  Plus the stench was horrible. The nurses didn’t want to open the windows because they didn’t want bacteria coming in.  My news for them is that there would be more bacteria going out than in if they opened the window. 
 
A walk down the hallway.
“Help me…. help me…. will you help me?”.  An old bedridden lady wanted to be turned over. I am not skilled at pampering the elderly, and the nurses were ignoring these helpless victems.  A crazy old man tried to make conversation with me walking down the hall.  This hallway should be called the hall of desperation. I got to the correct room number finally. If only I had brought an oxygen tank so I wouldn’t have had to breath in there. The lady in her 50’s wanted me to have the elderly lady sign a power of attorney document. Neither one of them had a clue how these documents worked. They needed my help filling it out and I told them that I don’t offer legal advice.  So, I had to wait while these crazy ladies took thirty minutes to do what they should have had prepared long before they called me. I neglected to ask them if their document was complete by the way.
 
The finished power of attorney
They kept asking me what to do. I kept saying, “you need to talk to an attorney”. I asked them why they had me come all the way down there when they were not ready to sign a completed document.  I had to teach them what a grantor and grantee was.  I told them that in this other place, they should write what the powers the grantor is assigning to the attorney in fact (grantee).  That helped get them through this daunting task.   Finally, the document was done.  The old lady could hardly sit up, let alone write anything.  She wrote some chicken scratch which was not even ledgable. I had to do a signature by X with two subscribing witnesses with her.   Finally, we were done.

 The payment
The attorney in fact got out a checkbook and proceeded to pay me.  I said, that the check didn’t belong to her, but to the old lady.  The lady in her 50’s said that she had been granted the power to do financial transactions for the older lady and would use the old lady’s check book to write me a check.  I didn’t like this idea. I said that I wanted to be paid in cash please. Neither ladies had a dime on them. So, I took the check, and needless to say it bounced. 
 
Insist on cash
If you do a jail or hospital signing, you will be dealing with very unreliable people a very high percentage of the time. Get your travel fee upon walking in the door before you even meet the signer.  If for any reason you can not complete the signing, you at least have some cash in your pocket.  Knowing how to do a signing by X is a valuable skill that experienced notary publics use if you work with the elderly.

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February 9, 2012

Notary Business Names

Notaries often ask me, should I use a business name?  Do notaries need to register as a business?  Does a notary public have to get a business license? The answer is yes.  Any business, including a home-based notary business needs a business license, otherwise, you might be operating illegally. For a notary to get a business license is not hard, just contact your county clerk’s county recorder office and ask them what the procedure is.  It is generally under $200 and the paperwork is not difficult.  Getting a fictitious business name for your notary business can also be the prerequisite to getting a bank account with your company name on it!
 
But, what to name your notary business? Too many notary businesses have similar sounding names, and they all become one big blur.  We wrote a blog entry all about signing company names which sound similar which is a fun blog entry to read.
 
Yellow Page Names
It is common for notaries advertising in the yellow pages to want to show up at the beginning of their section.  Names like A1 Notary, AAA Mobile Notary, AAAA Traveling Notary, and Aardvark Notary are common. Unfortunately, your clueless customers will get mad when you are not the auto club and tell you to change your name!!!  It happened to me, I know.
 
Glamour Names
Then, there are those who want the glamourous names like Royal Notary, Elite Notary, On Time Notary, and other vanity names.  You could capitize on a character trait such as Integrity Notary, Rapid Notary, or Honest Notary.

 Geographic Names
Geographic names are very good for website optimization.  If your business name is Glendora Mobile Notary Service, then your website will show up very well for local keywords. 
 
 
Personal Names
We have one client who’s business name is Ellen the Notary.  That is easy to remember and very personable too!  Johnson’s Traveling Notary is another example of a personal type of a notary business name. Sam’s Meandering Notary is yet another.

 Unique Names
But, what about more unique sounding names?  I generally recommend either geographically recognizable business names or unique ones. A confusion between your business and some other business with a bad reputation can be crippling!  If it were me, I would really put a few weeks of brainstorming and asking your friends to find that perfect name for your notary business.
 
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February 8, 2012

Can a notary notarize a birth certificate?

Can a notary notarize a copy of a birth certificate? 

Notaries are advised to stay away from notarizing copies of vital records including birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates.  The state and/or county clerks are in charge of vital records.  Just politely decline when asked to notarize a signature on a brith certificate.  These types of vital records must be certified by the entity (the county clerk).
 
No place to sign!
Additionally, there is no place for a signer to sign on a birth certificate, so how can you notarize a document without a signature?  Conceivably, you could draw up an Affidavit that claims that the copy is a true and complete copy of the original birth certificate.  The signer could sign that affidavit, and you could notarize the signature on the affidavit and give them a quick oath. But, this is not legal in many states in conjunction with a birth certificate.

 What should a notary do?
As a notary, you should know the name of the document that is to be notarized BEFORE you get in your car.  Imagine driving 45 minutes in traffic only to find out that you are going to be asked to notarize a birth certificate. Have fun getting your travel fee in that case when you tell the client, “no can do”. 
 
Fetal Death Certificates?
I never knew this existed until I read someone’s reply to a forum post about notarizing (or not notarizing) birth certificates.  I never knew there was such thing as a fetal death certificate.  How can you give a certificate to someone who has not yet been named?  Do souls have an SKU number?  Was the fetus mature enough to have been infused with a soul yet?  When you study spirituality, you start asking questions like this!  On a brighter note, the fetus will be reincarnated, and won’t suffer much according to a colleague who specializes in past life regression!
 
Notarize THIS!
I am remembering this great mafia movie about the mafia boss and the shrink called Analyze this!  Imagine a movie about mafia people and notaries!
 
 
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February 6, 2012

Fraud & Forgery related to the notary profession

Fraud and Forgery in the notary business 

There are many types of fraud that a notary might run into in their notarial career, forgery being one of the more common types of fraud. But, let’s take a closer look at what specific types of things could happen.
 
(1) Someone could forge your seal and pretend to be you.  It happened to me.  Unfortunately for them, they didn’t forge my signature very well, and didn’t copy my style of embossing every page either.  Putting technicalities aside, I bet they were not able to forge my quirky sense of humor.  Notary seal forgery is not common. In my case, I think they used a really good photocopier.  BTW, a photocopier can NOT copy the RAISED impression of an inkless embosser which is why I used it.
 
(2) Page swapping — the old bait and switch routine.  I got called to notarize many multi-page documents. I put my embossing seal through all of the pages leaving a raised impression on each page.  I usually did these individually. Sometimes it is better to do all pages together so the seal goes through the same location in each page.  However, the seal comes out more clearly if you go page by page.  In any case, if you see a ten page document where all of the pages EXCEPT for page four are embossed, that would raise my eyebrows.  I have had many situations, where the signer wants me to give them another acknowledgment certificate for a new page they are adding to the document. I tell them that I have to notarize their signature ALL OVER AGAIN, and that is the law no matter how many times you say, “Oh, come on”.  With that attitude you might as well notarize your own signature as a non-notary!
 
(3) Title companies have a common practice of initialing for the borrower if they miss an initial. It is “easier” than sending the documents back to the borrower.  Whether it is signature forgery to forge initials is a matter for an attorney to decide, but it seems pretty illegal to me to engage in initial forgery. I don’t think that anyone audits loan documents to see if anyone is engaging in initial forgery, but perhaps they should — many Title companies might get busted or investigated at a minimum.
 
(4) Refusal to be thumbprinted?  You must be up to something if you don’t want your thumbprint recorded. Maybe you have a fake identification card, right?  You can fake an ID, but you can not fake a thumbprint.
 
(5) Signature forgery.  If someone forged a signature on a document, they will have to have a fake ID and forge the same signature on the ID and in your journal. It would be a tough crime to pull off. I think that nobody in their right mind would attempt this.  Normally, people try to do crimes of fraud in private, and wouldn’t be willing to let other parties see what they are doing, no matter what!
 
(6) Notarizing out of state?  If you don’t have a commission in a particular state, you can not notarize there, with a few exceptions. Military notaries have special rules. A Virginia notary public may notarize out of the state of Virginia, but only for documents that are to be recorded within the state of Virginia. In any case, from time to time we will hear rumors that a notary public is operating illegally in a bordering state where they are not commissioned, and people want us to enforce the rule. I tell them to report the individual to the state notary division that is applicable.
 
(7) Charging more than the state maximum notary fees is illegal, and charging more travel fee than your state allows (roughly eight states have restrictions for travel fees) can get you in trouble too.
 
(8) Filling out an Acknowledgment or Jurat form when you never saw the signer and never had the signer sign your journal is a really serious act of notarial misconduct.  You can lose your commission and get fined or jailed for this.

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February 3, 2012

Must a thumbprint accompany a notarized document?

Filed under: Legal Issues,SEO,Technical & Legal — Tags: , — admin @ 9:38 am

Must a thumbprint accompany a notarized document? 

To deter fraud in notarizing, thumbprints are sometimes required by law in certain states, but are always a good idea.  California notary law stipulates that the notary must take a journal thumbprint when notarizing signatures on powers of attorney or deeds effecting real property such as Grant Deeds, Quit Claim Deeds, Mortgages, Subordination Agreements, etc.   Other states have their own rules.  Texas has some rules restricting the use of thumbprints, but I don’t know enough about those restrictions to comment.
 
Prevent fraud
As a general rule, if the notary public you use takes a journal thumbprint (many do not bother with this or even own a thumbprinting pad), you have more security.  The thumbprint is proof that nobody faked an ID and pretended to be you, or forged your signature.
 
Serious documents should have a thumbprint
If you are having a serious document notarized, you might ask ahead of time if the notary carries a thumbprinting pad.  They are two inches in diameter and weigh about half an ounce, so it is not a burden to the notary, assuming he/she is prudent about notarizing (that is assuming a lot).
 
Does the thumbprint go on the actual document?
I have never heard of a procedure which requires a thumbprint on an actual document, but it is not a bad idea. You could neatly put it to the right of a signature and document which thumb was used from which individual.  If you are missing a thumb, you can use the other thumb or a finger, just document it somewhere.

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