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February 24, 2016

Notarizing John W. Smith

Recently, I have been calling many notaries over the phone and asking them Notary questions. The Notaries on 123notary typically are fairly strong about signing agent knowledge, but weak on basic Notary skills. Many Notaries are unaware that you cannot Notarize someone unless you personally know them (allowed in some states) or can prove their identity based on satisfactory evidence. The state laws do not always give case studies of tricky cases as the states don’t make it their business to make sure Notaries are understanding or obeying the law.

The example I give is:

You are asked to Notarize a person whose ID says John Smith. The document says John W Smith. Do you Notarize based on the name on the ID, the document, or cancel the signing.

The types of answers I get are.
(1) You always notarize based on the name on the document because that is the name on title.
Commentary: Unfortunately, the Lender won’t be able to sell the loan if the name notarized doesn’t match the name on the document. However, your commission can be revoked if you get caught notarizing signers based on names not documented in their identification. If the ID says John Smith, you cannot notarize a longer name variation in any state that we have heard of.

(2) Get a 2nd ID.
Yes, in real life, you would ask for another ID or perhaps try to get some credible witnesses if your state will allow for that. However, in our question , it is multiple choice, and asking for a passport is not one of the choices. This error falls more in the category of listening and following directions which is crticial in any profession.

(3) You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the document.
Commentary: WRONG. You got the right rule, but in reverse! You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the ID — NOT the document. If the name on the document is longer than the name on the ID, then you have not identified the signer as the person named in the document.

On a more humorous note. I think it would be funny if one of the Notaries I called was named John Smith. On the other hand, we have a customer named Pocahontas. She’ll probably laugh when we talk about Notarizing John Smith. But, don’t worry, OUR Pocahontas is over 12 years old — or at least that’s what her ID says!

You might also like:

The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial

Hospital signing issues

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  1. You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the ID
    To clarify: \shorter\ is not the operative word. Fewer components is the issue.
    If the ID has JOHNATHAN to notarize JOHN (shorter) is wrong.
    If the ID has Tom G Blue – then Tom Blue (one component less) is OK.

    Comment by Kenneth Edelstein — February 25, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

  2. This is also tricky when notarizing say, Latin names that have several names especially for women. You must make sure which name is on the document and that the ID includes those names. Such as: Donna Marie Lopez Diaz then the ID must read the same otherwise you may be notarizing the wrong Donna Diaz.
    This can present a particularly difficult situation on the Patriot Act as you can’t use a credible witness there. You might want to check to see if Marriage Certificates can be used in your state as they would probably have all the names on it. A birth certif. would be short the married name.

    Comment by Margaret — February 25, 2016 @ 8:26 pm

  3. In Washington state, you can notarize shorter names – i.e. If the ID says Jonathan and the document says John, that works. You can’t go the other way, though.

    Also, some states don’t allow Passports as ID. Washington state does, as of 1/1/15. Before that, the law specified that the ID has to have a physical description of the person, and passports don’t do that. But, as I stated, Washington modified that law as of 1/1/15.

    Interesting point, though, is that my state doesn’t allow you to notarize someone using credible witnesses. You have to have personally know them, and you must know them well, not in passing. I’ve caught grief over the years, from California-based title companies who want me to use a credible witness, and I can’t.

    Comment by David Krause — February 26, 2016 @ 12:39 am

  4. What’s stunning to me is how the title experts do not know the laws and will try to get you to do the job even when tell them the ID is bad for whatever reason. In Florida, you can use credible witnesses ONLY if they swear that the subject party does not have an ID and will not be able to get an ID. So if the party present you an ID and it’s not valid for whatever reason you can’t use credible witnesses in Florida.

    Comment by John Axt — October 23, 2017 @ 12:30 am

  5. Florida law 117.05(5)(b)1(a-e)

    Comment by John Axt — October 23, 2017 @ 12:35 am

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