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November 18, 2011

Notarizing multi-page documents

Issues with Notarizing Multipage Documents / Documents with multiple pages
Most notaries can barely function doing the simplest of simple notary jobs.  When confronted with anything harder than doing a simple Acknowledgment or Jurat signing where the signer has acceptable identification and can easily sign — will throw most notaries off guard. There are many situations where you need credible witnesses, subscribing witnesses, have a power of attorney signing, attorney in fact signing, or other issue which can become a snag to many notaries.  Multi-page documents (documents with multiple pages) seem easy to notarize, but are they really? There are issues, but is the notary you erroneously hired aware of these issues?
Page swapping after the fact
Most notaries think they are there to notarize signatures on documents, and that is it.  The bigger function of a notary is fraud deterance, and to identify the signer.  If a notary does the minimum of what their job description requires, they might be acting within the law, but are they really being helpful to their clients, or to society as a whole?  If a notary notarizes a ten page document or multiple page document, and the document custodian (whomever is in charge of the document after it is signed) decides that page four needs to be edited, then what? 
In some circumstances a corrupted signer or document custodian will substitute page four with a newly written page four.  He/she/they will unstaple the document, hopefully as cleanly as possible, remove page four, and add another very similar looking page four, and hope nobody notices.  If there are two signers to the document and both have a copy, then there is evidence of tampering, but what if you don’t have copies, or you lost your copies.  There is no way to prove that the document was tampered with other than the faulty looking stapling job which would make any judge say, “hmmmm” and raise his eyebrows (judges often have bushy eyebrows by the way).  
Should you have the notary come back?
One signer asked me to kindly give them a new notary certificate for the new page they were adding to an already notarized document. I told them that documents are notarized as a whole and that if you change even one word, that the whole thing needs to be re-notarized.  They didn’t like that since they had already paid a travel fee. I made them redraw the signature page too, since I wanted fresh signatures which reflected the fact that they were signing in agreement to the whole document.  All of my prudent behavior aroused tremendous resistance, “oh come on’s”, and other complaining. The law is the law.  If you want to screw around, you shouldn’t be hiring a notary in the first place, right?  So, I made them start all over again with a complete redraw despite their complaining, and we notarized everything, and it was kosher.
Safeguards against fraud
In the case of multipage documents, the most effective way to safeguard against fraud (page-switching) is to emboss all pages of every document notarize.  If someone protests your embossing, tell them that you don’t have TIME to go to court after they do something fraudulent with their document, therefor, you take precautions against any tampering by embossing every page.  It is hard to forge an embosser, and hard to use it in the same way a notary uses it.  It might be easy to spot a false notarization which is important to get you out of court fast.  Imagine how many hundreds you would lose every day you were hijacked by a court case!
Initialing changes?
Initialing is a technology that I don’t like much.  If someone adds a new page to a multipage document, the initials “prove” that all signers agree to it, and safeguard against page-switching after the fact.  But, initials lack the same characteristics as a well established signature.  People don’t initial that much, and it is easy to forge them without detection. I think that initialing is better than nothing, but a poor safeguard against fraud.  I feel that if a signer gives a thumbprint on all pages of a document, that is much harder to forge.  I see no harm in signing all pages of a document. That is better than initialing since a signature is usually consistant (more or less) each time you sign.  Initials might not be, and it is yet another mark with it’s own characteristics.
Notarizing multiple pages without initials?
Not all multiple page documents require initials.  It is up to the company who drew the documents if they want initials or not. There is no law requiring that documents have initials, but Deeds of Trusts and Mortgages normally have places for the borrowers to initial at the bottom of all pages.
Forging initials
It is common for Title companies to forge someone’s initials on Deeds if the signer forgets to initial.  Forged initials on date changes are common as well.  Illegally forging someone’s initials on a name change happens all the time.  It is very hard to know for sure if an initial is forged, but the people who illegally forge signatures, are usually overworked clerks in large companies who have very little time — and they are sloppy how they forge initials. The forged initials don’t look at all like the real ones.  These workers need to know that they might have to go to jail for a crime like forgery, so they should refuse to do it!

You might also like:

Signing agent best practices

Sending loose certificates is illegal

Fraud and Forgery related to the notary profession

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  1. My opinion on this subject has reversed 180 degrees in the last ten years. Looking for a reason to be lazy could be the why or just eventually realizing that notaries are there to identify a willing signer. The content of the document and especially preserving the content is just not what we do. My opinion on that subject is the more we do to protect the integrity (content) of the document the deeper we sink ourselves into the deal. Maybe write in your journal that there were 12 pages but why alter the document in any way anywhere above the acknowledgement? To be fair I do emboss documents that I know are leaving the USA but I have yet to authenticate another notary’s signature on a set of documents that were similarly embossed. What I do see is the notary stamping those pages with the notary stamp that is in direct violation of the notary code.

    Comment by Joe Ewing — November 18, 2011 @ 3:44 am

  2. It is NOT a violation of notary code to use an INKLESS embosser to emboss pages of a document. It is not a “real” notary seal and cna not be used independently of the inked seal. It is just a way to prove to the world that a particular page was part of a notary at the time you notarize it.

    Comment by admin — November 18, 2011 @ 7:50 am

  3. Joe and the admin seem to think the idiots who answer the phone at the California Secretary of State’s office rule the whole country.

    Comment by g — November 18, 2011 @ 10:25 pm

  4. The rule should be NO SELF NOTARIZATION like is allowed in Texas. The embossing seal is better than a ink seal since you can remove an ink seal IMPOSSIBLE to remove a embedded on

    Comment by Joe Downey — November 26, 2011 @ 7:29 pm

  5. I know the intent of these blog articles is to help notaries do their jobs better. The opening phrase “Most notaries can barely function doing the simplest of simple notary jobs.”

    What is the author really saying here, that we’re all a bunch of dummies barely functioning in our jobs? I’d like to request a rewrite. There are plenty of bright astute notary public’s out here who know what we’re doing in many levels. I have a paralegal certificate for instance.

    Comment by CM — November 27, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  6. I think g (November 9) is mistaken. The people at the California Secretary of state’s office really rule the whole world and they know, without a shadow of doubt, that everyone else, especially Notaries, that dosen’t work for the Secretary of state is mistaken and or out of order. And thats what we pay high taxes.

    Comment by Raymond Cote — December 14, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  7. I see so many poor notarial work efforts – please think of the people on the receiving end who need to prove that the document and signatures and seals are authentic.
    Multiple page documents must either bear a seal on each page or be joined with a ribbon under seal. The subscription must reflect the use of the notarial act – no good saying a true copy if what is required is authentication of a signature or seal.

    Comment by Greg Finlayson — August 24, 2017 @ 3:38 am

  8. There are many legal notarize companies who legally notarize documents. So I would say please don’t go to any ill legal process.If you need to notarize the documents do it in a legal way otherwise you’ll have to face some problems and again need to notarize. So its the best way to legally do it. There are many companies available who provides Authentication and Legalization Service worldwide.

    Visit or call them for more information.

    Comment by International Notarization Company — October 11, 2017 @ 5:05 am

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