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April 2, 2018

Cross out and initial, or use a fresh form?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 6:41 pm

Most Notaries like to cross-out and initial changes in certificates. Keep in mind that these are legal documents affecting million dollar properties. Cross-outs look like tampering. It is CLEANER to take a fresh acknowledgment form from your Notary bag, fill it out thoroughly including the additional information section with the name of the document, number of pages, etc., And then staple it on to the document. On the other hand, using a new form could change the recording fees for the loan which would affect the truthfulness of the information on the Closing Statement.

If there is a cross-out for a name on a certificate that is a quite serious legal issue. It could lead to complications should you ever go to court. It is your right to decide to use a fresh acknowledgment form and staple it on the document even if the Lender doesn’t want it that way. Lenders sometimes prefer to use the original form because it is inscribed within the document. But, also because a new form will be charged extra money from the county recorder. Lenders sometimes lose loose acknowledgment forms which is yet another reason many Lenders prefer to fix the original.

As a Notary, you may be faced with the unpleasant reality that the Lender may have already filled out your Acknowledgment form, and with wrong information. If the form says you are in Orange County when you are in Seminole, you cannot notarize that form as is. So, what do you do and what are the consequences?

I cannot tell you what your state laws allow or require, I can only tell you how to handle forms in a prudent way.

Fix the Existing Form
If you are going to fix the existing Acknowledgment, just cross-out the wrong information with a single line, write in the correct county, and the Notary initials. The borrowers can initial changes to documents, but should not initial changes to certificates unless your state says so in writing. Fixing the existing form has the advantage that there will not be any changes to the recording fee for the loan. If you start adding additional pieces of paper, that will change the information on the HUD or CD and open a can of worms which some Lenders don’t like. On the other hand it is cleaner to replace the form rather than to fix it as fixing it looks like potential tampering.

Replace the Form
To replace an Acknowledgment, just staple on a new Acknowledgment, fill it out, sign and seal. Please also fill out what is called the optional and additional information which is normally about the document such as number of pages, document date, etc.

Communication Errors
When I ask Notaries how to fix a wrong county on an acknowledgment, some of them tell me how to replace it. Fix and replace are not the same word, so please do not answer a different question from what I asked. Please also be aware of the benefits and costs of replacing the form rather than fixing it.

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You might also like:

The 30 point course – initialing
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14463

The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4040

What is the cleanest way to rectify an error on a certificate?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=20018

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October 18, 2013

Cross Out and Initial

Cross out and initial

What if you are in the notary business and you just made a mistake, or someone else made a mistake in a document. Simple, just cross out and initial, right? Maybe not. Putting aside the questionability of the legitimacy of a document with cross-outs, the future document custodian might not like cross-outs.

Picture yourself as a lender. You are having a loan signed, so you can sell the loan to yet another bank. That other bank doesn’t like it when people cross out and initial information on their loan documents. It looks sloppy and unprofessional to them. So, as a notary, what do you do when there is a problem with a document? You ask your contact person what they want to do.

They can either redraw the document at great expense, coerce the borrower to sign the document “as is”, or have you cross out and initial. Let your contact person make the decision so they get in trouble — not you!

Redrawing documents means that you will have to wait for the new documents to be typed up, sent via email or FedEx, and then you need to make a new appointment with the borrower on a subsequent date.

You might also like:

The 30 point course section on cross-outs
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14406

Signing agent best practices: 63 points
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4315

Cross-out happy; Not a good idea
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4449

Industry standards in the notary business (covers cross outs, initialing, and more)
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4370

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June 25, 2019

What is so critical about crossing out the he/she/they?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 12:17 pm

FAQ of the day

The he-she-they being filled out is important because if someone fraudulently adds a name to the certificate making the people involved a they and no longer a he or a she, then it makes it a lot easier to make sense of the “he said/she said/they said” that will ensue.

You might also like:

A Los Angeles detective seizes someone’s journal and complains about a blurry thumbprint.
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=22237

Penalties for notary misconduct
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=21315

13 ways to get sued as a notary
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19614

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March 22, 2015

Point (12) Cross-Outs; Marcy & The Flood Affidavit

Filed under: Loan Signing 101 — Tags: — admin @ 10:06 am

Our friend Marcy is very flustered by now. Everything she does is just plain wrong. But, she has no other way to make a living, so she just continues to, as her friend puts it, “Go out there!”

MARCY: Hi, I’m Marcy, and I’ll be your Notary tonight.

SALLY: Thanks for coming Marcy. Let’s get this signing started.

MARCY: Sounds like a song the way you say it.

SALLY: I listen to a lot of music. I’ve looked over the documents, and everything looks good except for the Flood Affidavit. I refuse to sign this no matter what.

MARCY: Oh boy. I’ll call the Lender. (ring-ring) Nobody answers. I’ll leave a message. “Hi, this is Marcy the Notary for the Rodriguez Signing. Sally Rodriguez is refusing to sign the Flood Affidavit.

SALLY: And one more thing. I don’t like one of the names in the Name Affidavit.

MARCY: Well, in my first Signing Agent course it teaches us to just cross-out any wrong information. Not sure what my second course says as I am only half-way through reading it.

SALLY: How reassuring. I hope it was not the part that was crossed out. I’ll just cross it out.

MARCY: Great. I’ll send these documents back with a note.

Marcy made several more mistakes here. Her self-esteem must be zero right now. Poor Marcy. But, it is her fault for not studying more! First, she did not put the unsigned flood affidavit on the TOP of the package. It was not found until after it was too late. Sally lost her lock as a result and had to pay an extra half a percent interest which cost her $20,000 over the life of the loan. This is partly Sally’s fault for refusing to sign, but partly Marcy’s fault for not putting the note on the top of the package with the document, so whoever opened the package would know there was a problem right away.

The second mistake Marcy made was allowing a cross-out. As a general rule, you cannot make cross-outs on documents. On Notary Certificates you can cross-out, although recorders don’t like it and might reject a Deed with a cross-out. But, on Legal documents crossing something out is as good as shredding the entire document in most cases. White-out is even worst — never use white-out no matter what.

However, there are times when Notaries can and should use cross-outs, so read the text!

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Point (12) Cross-Outs

Notaries are often too happy to cross-out and initial.
Some signing courses teach notaries to cross-out anything which is wrong and have the borrower initial. There are many Lenders (Provident Title being the most famous) that will not allow any cross-outs on any documents no matter what. You will ruin the loan by crossing anything out. So, ask your contact person for permission to cross anything out. If a contact person is not available, read the LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS. In any case, cross-outs should be done as a last resort if done at all. If the signer won’t sign the document in any case, and you can not find out if the lender will permit them, maybe it is worth the risk to cross something out, if the signer will at least sign the document.

Wrong Names?
If a signer needs to sign his name differently than typed (with permission of the Lender) do NOT cross anything out. The processor will make the necessary changes, just sign as instructed.

The RTC
If the dates are wrong on the right to cancel and there are no borrowers’ copies with the dates left blank, you can cross-out and have the borrowers initial the change in dates. If the borrower signs where it says, “I wish to cancel” and there is no borrower copy, you might be forced to cross-out and have the borrower initial, and hope for the best as there is no other alternative.

Acknowledgment & Jurat Certificates
If a date or county is wrong in a Notary Certificate, it is better to start with a fresh certificate. But, if it is not possible or permitted by the Lender to use a new certificate, you are forced to cross-out and initial. On certificates it is the Notary, not the borrowers, who does the initialing.

County Recorders
The County Clerk is likely to reject a notarization if there are cross-outs in the notary section. For Deeds, be extra careful not to have any smudgy seals, cross-outs, or anything else wrong. Each County Clerk is different and some are pickier than others. As for those who insist on calling a tomato a fruit, don’t even get me started!

The 1003
Borrowers can usually get away with cross-outs on the 1003 as this is not a final document in the loan process. It is still unadvisable to cross things out as the Lender might reject the loan. Lenders often want to sell loans, and if there is anything wrong, then the 3rd party buyer might decline not only that loan, but all of the loans in the package from that particular Lender. So, try to avoid making a mess.

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You might also like:

30 Point Course Table of Contents
http://blog.123notary.com/?cat=3442

30 Point Course (13) Call The Lender?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14421

Cross-out and initial?
http://blog.123notary.com/?tag=cross-out-initial

Cross-out happy; Not a good idea
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4449

Common mistakes on 1003 and crossing out, RTC, TIL & APR
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4553

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November 15, 2013

Common Mistakes with: 1003, Crossing out, RTC, TIL & APR

The problem with the signing agent industry is that education is simply not taken seriously. Newer signing agents will take a certification course somewhere, pass by the skin of their teeth, and then say, “I’m done learning”. The effect is that their brain turns off, and there is no more curiousity to learn or thirst for knowledge.

123notary offers a lot of information in the blog which is free, not to mention a plethora of signing courses and new testing systems that are currently being experimented with. Please take advantage of the information that is out there for best results.

Here are some common mistakes that are really dumb that newer signing agents do.

(1) Call the lender about the 1003
The 1003 is always wrong. It is not a final document by the way. The natural order of documents in terms of the finality of information starts with the 1003 which is an application. This application is typed up by minimum wage workers who systematically make mistakes, and the lenders as a group seem to think it is okay to make mistakes on loan documents for loans of half a million dollars. First of all it is NOT okay, secondly it upsets borrowers, and thirdly, it leaves signing agents in a perceived quandary. They think they need to call the lender if information in this document is wrong. This is the one document you can do cross outs on. It doesn’t matter. The next version of information about names and numbers would be the Good Faith Estimate. It is once again a preliminary document and just an estimate. The final document with numbers is the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. If there is an error here — then it is time to call the lender and perhaps even redraw the documents or just cancel the entire loan process

(2) Just cross out and initial
Many lenders have low standards. We live in a world where standards are pathetically low. Just because a handful, or more than a handful of the lenders you work with have low standards doesn’t mean that you should. There exists a concept called “Best Practices”, and that concept involves not making a mess unless you really are compelled to. If names are wrong on documents AND THE LENDER IS NOT AVAILABLE (which is the norm), you can initial under the last few letters of the last name. This is clean, and the processor can cross-out after the fact or do whatever they like. YOU are not compelled to cross out. Just leave a voice mail for the lender to let them know what you did and why. If there are errors on the notary certificates, once again crossing things out is unprofessional and messy. Keep in mind these are LEGAL documents and making a mess on a legally binding document seems very questionable at best. It is cleaner to get a loose acknowledgment, staple it and start fresh without the cross outs. So, when do you need to cross things out? On the right to cancel if you need to change dates, and there is no borrower copy with the dates left blank — THEN, and only then in my experience are you compelled to cross out the old date and write in a new date and have the borrowers initial

(3) RTC
Guess what. The day of the signing is NOT included in the (3) days to rescind. Many newer notaries don’t know this. The reach for their rescission calendar because they can not think on their own. Learn to calculate, learn to count, and learn to think. Learn when the Federal holidays happen and learn to calculate rescission dates when a signing happens right before a Federal holiday.

(4) TIL
Many signers think that there is detailed information about the prepayment penalty on the TIL. Wrong. The TIL states that you will, won’t, or might have a prepayment penalty. That is not what I consider detailed, that is merely a tidbit of information.

(5) APR
Few if any newer signing agents, or even experienced signing agents can discuss the APR and sound professional doing so. Learn and memorize a professional sounding definition of this figure so that when asked, you will be able to answer FLUENTLY, even in your sleep.

You might also like:

How do you explain the APR to a non-borrowing spouse?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4455

Minimum competency guide discusses RTC, APR, Journals & more
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4337

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February 15, 2011

Cross-out happy; Not a good idea

Some lenders allow cross outs. Others will fire you after the first cross out. Some signing agent courses recommend that you cross things out without a second thought. Others don’t. Even our loan signing course teaches you to cross out wrong dates in the right to cancel document. But, if you work for Provident or other lenders who don’t allow cross outs — you’re fired! Gulp?

Don’t worry, just read the instructions. Many loans have an instructions sheet. If there is no letter of instructions, then ask before you cross, okay? Don’t assume that you can just cross anything out. First of all, remember the golden rule of cross outs. Don’t cross out unless: (1) you have permission and (2) it is a last resort.

What about the 1003? The 1003 loan application has endless wrong information. It is my personal belief that the clerks they hire are required to make endless mistakes — otherwise they will be fired on the spot. If they get your social security number right they will be laid off immediately, right? In any case, the 1003 is not binding in the loan, but has to be sent back signed. Borrowers whine endlessly about this carelessly prepared document. What is the solution? Cross out and initial? Hmmm. Not sure…

My take on the 1003 is that you will cost yourself 30 minutes of wasted time if you call your contact person about anything, so don’t call unless you really need to. Otherwise you will never get out of the signing. If the lender allows cross outs, you will not endanger your loan by crossing out in the 1003 or for wrong dates on the right to cancel. If the lender doesn’t allow cross outs, then don’t do it.

Trick question

Q. What is the only document the is in a completed loan package that REQUIRES cross outs?
A. Acknowledgment certificates require the notary to cross out the his/her/their, etc.

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May 8, 2020

Notary Test about Notary acts and more

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 9:41 am

Here are some test questions for you guys to see who’s got it and who has been faking it all this time.

1. In an Acknowledgment, who acknowledges what?

2. In a Jurat, does the signer swear that they:
(a) Signed a particular document and that they agree to it
(c) Are the person who they claim to be
(d) All of the above

3. If a document was signed on March 1, 2001, and today is March 2, 2020, what type of notary act can you use to notarize the document without having it resigned?

4. When administering an Oath to an affiant, after having the affiant raise their right hand (or paw) the Notary should start with the words:
(a) I solemnly swear
(b) Do you solemnly swear
(c) Do you affirm
(d) I solemnly affirm

5. What is the difference between an Oath and an Affirmation?
(a) In an Oath you swear; In an Affirmation you Affirm;
(b) They are essentially the same
(c) In an Oath, the affiant swears under God; In an Affirmation the affiant affirms on their personal honor;
(d) In both acts the affiant makes a solemn promise

6. A proof of execution is an act where the principal signer:
(a) Does not show up
(b) Must show up because the signer must show up for all notary acts
(c) Does not show up, but has someone show up for them
(d) There is no such act.

7. If you have two names on an Acknowledmgent (John & Sally) but Sally cannot make it, what is the most pressing benefit to crossing her name out on the form rather than using a fresh form.
(a) Your recording fees will not be affected
(b) There is less danger of the new form being detached and used fraudulently
(c) It is easier
(d) It will look better in court because it is “cleaner” than using a new form and stapling it to the document.

8. If you are notarizing the signatures of three people each on ten Grant Deeds, how many journal entries should you use?
(a) 1
(b) 3
(c) 30
(d) 13

9. If you are notarizing the signatures of one person on five Grant Deeds, how do you differentiate the Deeds in your journal?
(a) Indicate the property address
(b) Indicate the APN number
(c) Indicate the document date
(d) Just say, “Grant Deed” in your journal entry(ies)

10. If you are at a loan signing and have a question about a notarization…
(a) You should ask title
(b) You should ask the lender
(c) You should ask the NNA
(d) You should ask your state Notary division

Summary
These are very important notary questions. Answering them correctly will help you know your job and reduce your chance of ending up in a sticky situation. You can consult our Notary Public 101 course on the blog to look up content regarding these points although we don’t address these specific questions in particular.

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March 24, 2020

No matter what you talk about, it keeps coming back to Covid-19

Filed under: General Stories — Tags: , , — admin @ 9:18 am

I personally believe that the Covid-19 disease will kill 6 million Americans unless we come up with a miracle cure. All of these lock downs and shut downs will damage or permanently destroy the US economy. It costs more than 1 trillion to lock down for a month giving hand outs to people. During that month, the virus might shrink a bit, and the minute you lift the restrictions, the virus grows again, so you spend trillions, yet accomplish nothing but a delay.

But, I am tired of thinking about this. The stupidity, short-sightedness, lack of any realistic and definitive planning. I am tired of thinking about how the back of the American economy will be permanently broken, or brought closer to the imperative waterfall that we approach each day we allow our debt to rise. I am tired of the refusal of politicians to come up with a long term 18 month plan with clear objectives and price tags. I am tired of hearing who will get handouts and who will not. Trump is sounding more like Bernie Sanders with all of the Christmas presents in the form of hand outs he wants to give. The worst part is that my favorite Jamaican place, although not shut down, closed on their own when they had a thriving take out business. Those jerks. I guess you are what you eat (they eat jerk chicken.)

Bars, Restaurants, Sports? Not Anymore!
So, I am trying to shelter myself from the crisis and think about something else. No problem. I’ll just go to a bar. Ooops, all bars are shut for God knows how long. Okay, I’ll drink at home. No problem, I’ll just go to the supermarket, stand in line just to have permission to enter, go in, and find that 80% of the store is stripped bare. So much for not thinking about the crisis. The human reaction to the disease is worse than the disease itself – at least for now. No problem, I’ll just go to my favorite restaurant — closed. I’ll talk to my friend on the phone — no matter what we try to talk about it always ends up being 90% of about Covid-19, or what I call “The Hitler Disease” as I think it will kill 6 million Americans in FEMA concentration camps. On a brighter note, I could just watch some sports on television — except those have been cancelled. I would take a walk down the street – and be reminded that most places are closed and see a bunch of people wearing face masks.

Acupuncture & Massage? Cancelled!
Even acupuncture and massage have been shut down, as supplemental health services are seen as not essential, while the marijuana dispensaries are open. I guess it is better to keep the populace high so they won’t care how stupid the politicians are being. People also tend to spend more time washing their hands when they are high.

I did see the acupuncturist two days before they were shut down. She apologized because she had touched my credit card. I explained that to get there I had to touch five different cross-walk buttons that had been touched by God knows who, and never washed by the very same city officials who are shutting everyone down. How about touch-free guys?

My Symbolic Dream
I even tried taking a nap, but fell asleep and had a bad dream. I analyzed the dream and the empty zoo I walked through represented how everything was closed. Then I walked near the sea which represented infinity — and infinity of everything being closed in the entire planet except perhaps Kenya… for now. And then I was in a parking lot which represented not going anywhere. But, there was relief. A Japanese couple said I could hitch a ride with them in their little car if my driver license was not attached to my credit card. My psychic said that meant that my identity was not attached to spending lots of money. That makes sense, because during this crisis, the one thing I still can spend money on is in the supermarket if they have anything — and everything else is off limits. So, I am cooking more. So, even when I sleep, I am dreaming about Covid-19. What a drag.

I am tired of this disease. I am tired of shut downs. I think we should create a few million temporary hospital beds, train some temporary nurses (perhaps 100,000 of them) and let this thing rip. Our immune system was built by nature to solve the problems of diseases — also created by nature. Modern human beings do not live with a consciousness of nature which is why they are foolish enough to think they can conquer nature. Pandemics are one way nature kills off certain members of a species. As Americans, we need to be more complacent to the reality that we are mortal, we all die, and we might die of an infectious disease, and that is how the universe operates. You can’t cheat death. Living forever wouldn’t be that nice either. We are acting like three year olds who say, “Grandpa… why do people have to die?”

So, I am depressed. On a brighter note, I still have work since I work from home. I still get customers daily, although not as many as before. I can sort of afford to pay Carmen during this crisis. I am at low risk to get sick myself because I have hardly any human interaction even when times are good which for the first time in my life turns out to be a good thing.

I just wish I could press the Corona-Be-Gone button. I can even imagine how that button would look with those little prongs coming out of it just like the virus itself. It looks like the type of mine you put in a harbor and is equally deadly.

I’m not sure how life will be like with over a million people dying each month. I’m also not sure of how life will be like with the FED printing out endless money keeping us shut down forever foolishly thinking that the economy will “bounce back” and that pent-up desire to go shopping and spend money will naturally revive this economy. When it is all over, so many people will be so broke, they won’t be able even to pay rent. People will be foreclosing by the millions, and the homeless shelters will be filled with out of work bar tenders. The future is grim guys. But, we will always need mobile Notaries so look on the bright side.

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September 19, 2018

123notary’s quiz questions routinely accused of being state specific

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: — admin @ 11:03 am

The people who accuse us of having state specific questions are never specific about which questions are state specific. Such ambiguity over specifics. We change our questions over time and questions are now based on Notary Public 101, and not a particular state. We don’t even cater to California rules when we are in California. We test on good practicies, NOT state specific practices. It is up to you to know your state rules and I’m sure you do … (or not).

Here are some questions that might seem state specifics.

1. Proof of Execution — state specific
This act is done in about 45 states which is almost all. However, Notaries never do this act in real life. I don’t even know which states don’t have it. Some call it a verification upon proof or some other similar name. I ask this question not because of its practicality but to see if you even read my materials before the quiz. I think it is a waste of everyone’s time to quiz when you didn’t study.

2. John Smith — NOT state specific
We ask this question about good old John as a prudency question and not a legal question. Is it prudent under the circumstances to notarize the signature John W Smith on a document when the ID says John Smith.Most Notaries cannot give a straight answer — they change the circumstances to asking the signer for another ID. That makes it a completely different question. Whether your state requires an exact name match or not, it is still NOT PRUDENT if you can’t a prove a person’s identity. That is the whole reason for having notaries in the first place.

3. Fixing Notary Certificates — state specific
This one is very important and definitely state specific. We ask a question that California Notaries are not allowed to do simply because the folks in the other states still need to be tested on this. How do you fix a wrong county on a certificate? In California you have to use a clean new form or redo the notarization. In other states you can cross out and initial, but don’t have the borrower initial a notary form. This is critical information here. Maryland does not allow the use of loose certificates, and Oregon does not allow the Notary to make any changes to certificates or even add new ones as that might be considered UPL the way they see it in the drizzly state. Food for thought.

4. FBI Thumbprint Question — NOT state specific
If the FBI shows up on your doorstep investigating a notarization you did involving a fake ID, your fake info in your journal won’t cut it even if your state doesn’t require or permit thumbprints. The FBI is federal and has some bad guys to catch. They want a thumbprint whether your state allows you to have it or not. This is a Federal specific question as the FBI is federal and doesn’t care about your petty state rules. This question is NOT state specific because it does not ask what your state wants or allows or permits.

5. Journals – sounds state specific, but not the way we ask it.
Many states don’t require a journal, so my journal questions are not based on state rules, but on the rules of prudency which are universal. Your journal is your only evidence in court of what happened at a notarization. Not keeping one is like not wearing a seat belt on the freeway. Eventually something will happen and there will be injuries. This is a good practices question and once again NOT state specific.

6. Oaths & Affirmations – not state specific, but…
Oaths & Affirmations Universal — like God himself. But, the 2018 California Notary manual no longer has a set fee if you do these as separate acts not connected to a deposition or jurat. Hmm. So, you can do these acts in California, but what would you charge?

If you have been asked any other annoying questions by us which you feel are state specific, please mention them in the comments section clearly and please be to the point without any tangents so that the readers can get to the point. And once again, none of our questions are based on California practices, but are based on best practices (which often overlap with what California practices are — but not always.)

You might also like:

Notary quiz of the day
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=21266

Fixing certificates is a state specific nightmarish scenario
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=21083

Thanks

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August 24, 2017

Letter to Donald Trump about the sad condition of American Notaries

Filed under: General Articles — admin @ 12:56 am

Dear Donald Trump,
I run a nationwide Notary Public directory called 123notary.com and have some sad commentary about the general state of affiairs in the Notary industry. The most pressing is the dismal quality of the knowledge of general Notaries about their rights and responsibilities as well as the poor level of screening that the state notary divisions engage in.

Since you have entered office, my personality has changed. According to feng-shui principles the members of an organization tend to take after the leader of the organization in some subtle or not so subtle ways. Since April, I have been preverbially draining the swamp of “fake notaries.” Some people with absolutely no Notary knowledge whatsoever are commissioned by states run by idiots who will commission anyone — sad! What the states don’t realize is that bad Notaries are a danger to society by empowering and facilitating identity thieves. An improper notarization or improper bookkeeping at a notarization done by a shoddy Notary can make it easy for an identity thief to drain a person’s equity from their property, steal their property, or defraud people in other ways.

In a nutshell, the real problem is that the states do not screen their applicants, do not educate applicants in all aspects of Notary education and do not have sensible testing either. California’s screening is far better than any other state, but still falls short of the mark as our local California Notaries do not always know how to explain notary acts, keep proper records, or which acts are legal versus illegal to do.

My solution is to suggest some Federal guidelines with Federal enforcement. Since the states don’t enforce proper notary procedure with the exception of California who audits journals (but, not anything else), it is necessary for the Feds to step in and add another thin, but intelligent layer of regulation to the industry. Here are my ideas.

1. Standardized Notary Education and Enforcement.
Many states have differing Notary Acts, and that is not a bad thing. However, if there would be a core of universal Notary Acts used in all states, territories, and military bases, that would make education and enforcement easier on a national level. The most critical elements to teach would include:

(a) Proper identification of signers
(b) Proper journal record keeping
(c) Oath giving (Notaries are required to do this but more often then not don’t know how or don’t bother)
(d) General understanding of Notary law, acts and procedures.

2. Reduction in the quantity of Notaries, with an increase in quality.
Judging the quality of Notaries might be hard for you to do, but I do it daily and have the art refined in certain ways. I will vouch for what I condsider the characteristics of a good Notary verses a bad one.

(a) An IQ of 100-120.
Being a Notary requires a certain amount of intelligence as a rudimentary knowledge of law, and applying the laws relating to Notary Public are required to perform the duties of Notary Public and faithfully discharge your duties lawfully while accepting lawful requests and declining illegal requests. Most Notaries do not correctly distinguish between what they are allowed to do and what is illegal and prefer to rely on what they feel comfortable with which is neither here nor there. Those unlawful Notaries need to be weeded out. Notaries that are too smart tend to leave the industry early and are not a detriment, but will not be likely to stick around.

(b) Attorney Notaries are not generally good Notaries.
Many states like the idea of having Attorneys do certain Notary functions such as loan signings. In my experience, Attorneys are over-priced, the least likely to be available, and also are the bottom of the bottom of the barrel in the legal world and are so incompetent that their average stupidity exceeds that of our average non-Attorney Notaries. I am not against Attorney Notaries providing they can pass a tough Notary test to prove their basic knowledge. Attorneys should also be declined any special privileges in the Notary world. In New York, I heard an Attorney can become a notary without a test at all which I feel is a mistake.

(c) A clerical background is desireable.
If someone has a background doing clerical work in a capacity which requires being picky and attentive to detail, that would be a good background for being a Notary Public. Notaries fill out certificates and journals and being nit-picky and anal precedes you as a good Notary. On the other hand a clerical background filled with clerical errors that have gone unnoticed for years would be a disaster.

(d) Being meticulous and having integrity.
Those who dot their i’s and cross their t’s are the types I would like to see as Notaries. Those who are ethical and care about safeguarding society are also idea. Having a generally good attitude matters too.

(e) Willingness to study and learn.
My biggest complaint about Notaires Public is that so few of them read their state’s Notary Handbook. If you aren’t willing to read your state’s laws and Notary rules, how on earth can you possibly enforce them?

3. Regular auditing of Notaries
Notaries need to know someone is watching them as few uphold the law. If Notaries are audited by a mystery person who appears to be a client, that client can ask them to do something seemingly illegal to trick them into incriminating themselves. This is the only reliable way to catch large quantities of bad Notaries. Having Notaries come to the county clerk for a pop quiz once a year is another highly recommended idea. The quiz should be hands on Notary work in addition to multiple choice questions. To audit all Notaries twice a year requires there to be less Notaries to audit.

4. Higher pay for Notaries
To attract good Notaries, there needs to be a good minimum wage for Notaries. I suggest $40 per appointment minimum on the East and West coasts and $30 in the interior states. Additionally, many Notaries travel and states should have minimum travel fees of $40 for appointments that are 30-60 minutes away plus waiting time. Travel fees should be paid in cash at the door or by paypal to eliminate what I call “Beneficial Interest” which is a term that depicts a person who is named in a document who stands to benefit from the document being signed in financial ways or by gaining privileges. By being a Notary whose travel fee is contingent on a document being signed, the Notary will be swayed to accept non-matching identification or comply with illegal requests so they will get their measely travel fee so they can pay their rent. Notaries who are poor are likely to bend the rules to ensure they get paid. Having travel fees paid up front as a matter of law will safeguard the public from Notaries having any semblence of beneficial or financial interest in a document or set of documents being signed.

5. Universal Notary Acts
Most states have Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations, and perhaps a few other acts such as Copy Certificaiton Safety Box Opening, Attestations, Witnessing, etc. The problem is that the rules for these acts are not always consistent across state lines which causes a lot of confusion especially to those of us who run nationwide Notary directories. I suggest these as universal acts.

WITNESSING
Some Notary acts require rigid identification rules. It would be nice for those who don’t have identification or don’t have identification with the correct name variation on it to be able to get notarized on informal documents in any case. Having a witness notarization with optional identification would be convenient without being a risk for identity fraud since the documents being witnesses would not concern large sums of money by definition.

A signer could:

(a) sign in the presence of the Notary in a witness notarization.
(b) Identification could be a choice of a thumbprint, an ID with a non-matching name, or an ID with a matching name.
(c) The description of the ID should ideally be documented on the Notary certificate for this act as well as the Official Journal of Notarial acts.

Some states already have an official notarial witnessing act. But, having universal and flexible standards would be wonderful.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Formal documents such as Deeds, Powers of Attorney and contracts normally use an Acknowledgment. Acknowledgments in most states require:

(a) The signer to be identified by the Notary using state approved types of ID cards such as passports, drivers licenses, etc.
(b) The signer has to acknowledge having signed the document in the physical presence of the Notary in a non-verbal way by presenting the document to the Notary with the request for it to be notarized.
(c) California requires the signer to be named in the document
(d) There is an Acknowledgment certificate which must be embedded in the document in question or added as a loose piece of paper and then stapled to the subject document.

The first issue with Acknowledgements on a national level is that there are six states which specifically require an Acknowledged signature to be signed in the presence of the Notary Public while the act intrinsically does not require this. The second issue is that Notaries in states that do NOT require the Acknowledged signature to be signed in the presence of the Notary typically require the document to be signed in their presence because they feel uncomfortable with the alternative. Notaries let their petty comfort related concerns supercede the law which is a problem that needs to be dealt with and enforced. This constitutes the denial of a legal request which by definition is not legal as Notaries Public must provide the public with Notary work for all legal requests unless (in particular states) there is some legitimate reason why the Notary feels that it would not be safe to notarize the person. Standardizing the rules of Acknowledgments makes a lot of senses as that single act constitutes 80% of Notary work nationwide. For those signatures that must be signed in the presence of a Notary, there are other acts such as Jurats and Witness notarizations that require that.

JURATS
Jurats are notarial acts where the signers must sign in the presence of the Notary Public and swear under Oath to the document in some way shape or form. Whether they swear to the truthfulness of the document, or whether or not they signed the document using their own free will, or whether they agree to the terms of the document could all reasonably be sworn to. Most Notaries omit the Oath or give an Oath which makes no sense under the circumstances which is unacceptable.

OATHS & AFFIRMATIONS
Most if not all states have these acts. However, some states (such as Florida) require a certificate for an Oath. If a certificate is to be required, it should indicate the nature of the Oath. Florida’s documentation of Oaths does not require any indication of what the Oath was about. There is no point in keeping paperwork if the paperwork has no pertinent information on it. As a former Notary, I will vouch for the importance of issuing certificates as it is a record for the customer to keep of what happend. The more critical information the merrier (without going overboard.) Notaries need to be taught how to administer good and relevant Oaths and Affirmations as 90% do not know the difference. Oaths use the word swear and normally mention God while Affirmations use the word Affirm or state and leave God out of it which is something that ultra-religious and athiests both agree upon.

6. Thumbprinting
Journal thumbprints are a matter of contention. California is the only state to require it for Deeds affecting real property and Powers of Attorney. Several of the Notaries listed with us were able to provide critical pieces of information to the FBI which helped nail identity thieves, ponzi schemers and other fraudulent menaces to society. Many companies and individuals object to being thumbprinted which creates pressure for the Notary to not thumbprint unless required to by law. Therefor, the only way to safeguard the equity in your real property from being syphened by identity thieves is to require journal thumbprints nationwide.

Since journals are NOT required in all states, it would be necessary to require journals in order to require journal thumbprinting. I recommend a thumbprint requirement for all notarizations of Deeds, Living Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Subordination Agreements, or notarizations where the identification did not completely match the signature on the document.

7. Proper Journal Entries
Most Notaries who I deal with keep a journal, but do not keep it correctly according to what I consider best practices to be. It is common for Notaries to enter multiple documents on a single journal entry which is signed once by the customer / signer. This is a bad practice because it would be possible for the Notary or someone else to add extra document names to the journal entry AFTER the signing was over which would constitute fraud. It would also be possible for someone to accuse the Notary of fraud when he/she did not engage in fraud with such shoddy bookkeeping practices. Therefor, it should be necessary by law to have one journal entry per signer per documents which would be six entries if you had two signers each signing three notarized documents at a particular appointment. The primary purpose of a journal is not to please the state where the notary is commissioned. The primary purpose is to please judges and investigators who use the journal as perhaps the primary or only piece of evidence in an identity fraud court case or investigation. The journal is the only evidence a Notary Public has of what Notary work they have done, so it behooves society to ensure that journals are filled out prudently, completely and correctly.

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You might also like:

Letter to Donald Trump about the State of the Notary industry
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19908

Is Trump to blame for a Notary slowdown?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19138

If Trump hired you as a Notary, would you get fired?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19120

Letter to California Notary Division
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=19939

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