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May 2, 2020

Can you ask a borrower if they have been out of the country?

Is it legal, ethical, or advisable to ask borrowers if they have been to a highly infected area recently such as Italy, Iran, China, South Korea, etc? Someone asked me this today. The answer is that you might get lenders mad at you.

The rate of infection in these countries is measured in infections per million and they are generally between 50 and 200 cases per million. So, being in these countries presents a very minuscule risk to the notary.

On the other hand, if a borrower exhibits Covid 19 type symptoms such as a dry cough, trouble breathing, etc., then you might be advised to stay away. I cannot advise on this as much of the transmission of Covid 19 happens with people who exhibit no symptoms.

Disinfecting the signing table, pens, cell phones, etc., makes a lot of sense. Having the signers wash hands thoroughly immediately before the signing is also a good idea. If they were a mask, that would be the icing on the cake.

I don’t know what you can ask or should ask without upsetting lenders and title companies. So, it might make sense to ask them.


March 11, 2020

Nice comments about 123notary on our blog

Filed under: General Stories — admin @ 8:17 am

Comments that were nice about 123notary

I personally really like 123 notary. The contacts I get from here tend to offer more reasonable pay than on Snapdocs. Plus it’s just nice to get contacted via phone call instead of an automated message sent out to dozens of people.

The wealth of knowledge I have received from 123 Notary’s blog is worth it’s weight in gold! The standards make 123 Notary a cut above the rest. Venting notaries is something every company should do.

I would love to know what you think about this name:
Around the clock mobile Notary

Jeremy’s comment
The name has a nice ring (even though it is not an alarm clock). It would be ironic if your answering machine said, “Around the clock mobile notary, sorry we’re closed.” It is a good name. You get my approval.

Jeremy, I’d like to get in on the free training mentioned in this blog. I looked for a means to do that the other day but wasn’t successful. Can someone send me a quick note on hos to get that going?

I find 123Notary is indeed well regarded. It was one of the top two groups recommended to me by a mortgage broker operating with multiple lenders US wide while he was in California, Nevada, Oregon and Ohio.


As always your blog provided me with tons of good nuggets! Thank you for sharing and caring about the business!

Deborah Planet

I think of Jeremy as a businessman that cares!
I appreciate 123 notary


October 4, 2019

Is it practicing law to explain a notary act?

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 11:19 pm

Many Notaries think they are practicing law by explaining a notary act. Notaries are not allowed to choose a notary act on behalf of a client, but can they explain the requirements?

As a Notary, you have to have a signer sign in your physical presence for a Jurat, but not for an Acknowledgment (except in a few underpopulated states). So, are you practicing UPL or engaged in the unauthorized practice of law by explaining that distinction to a client?

For an Acknowledgment you do not have to sign in front of the Notary, although many lenders require the signer to do so. Is it UPL to explain that too?

Is it UPL to word an Oath for a client for their Affidavit? You kind of have to do that otherwise you cannot administer an Oath or Affirmation.

The fact is that your state authorizes you to do Notary work and perhaps even tests you on it. You are authorized do do all aspects of Notary work by law. You are not authorized to explain Mortgage documents but notary procedures are NOT Mortgage documents although they might be done to Mortgage documents.

How do you deal with this quandary?

You might also like:

Unauthorized practice of law in the notary industry

30 Point Course – what to explain and what not to


August 18, 2019

Here is why you should keep a journal…

Filed under: Carmen Towles — admin @ 11:40 pm

I was speaking with one of my notary colleagues and I don’t know how the topic of journals came up but it did. This notary lives and works in Florida and they are not required to keep a journal but he does. He says that he always has since day one. He says that it has saved him on more than one occasion.

He shared with me a couple of incidents that he felt have saved him from wasted time, lawsuits and lawyer fees. After a 5 year old notarization, he received a call from an attorney that wanted to know if he remembered notarizing for a Haitian woman whom he had met with. Typically he doesn’t remember them after a few years but he did remember her. The lawyer went on to tell him that the woman had since passed and the son was contesting the POA he had notarized, He said that his mother would not have signed such a document. It seems she had given one of the other sibling POA and this angered him. So, the notary found the journal entry, made a copy and sent to the attorney and that was the end of it. He never heard from him again.

On another occasion he actually received a subpoena and had to actually appear in court. It seems this was around the time of option arm loans and subprime. In any case, the signers of the loan were claiming fraud on the lenders part. Because no-one is required in Florida to keep a journal he was not asked for a journal entry. However, on the day of his court appearance he brought along his journal. Upon taking the stand to be questioned, he mentioned to the judge that not only did they appear before him and indeed sign the loan documents, he had journal entries along with thumbprints to prove it. The judge looked at the journal and in annoyance banged his gavel and said case dismissed. Pay your bills he directed to the borrower/signers.

Now think about this; what if in both these occasions he had not had a journal to prove that these people had met with him. Both these cases had the potential to drag on for weeks perhaps even months.

So moral of the story, PLEASE keep a journal for your own (and others) protection. For most states this is not a requirement. And, if your are precluded/prohibited form keeping one (Texas comes to mind) then by all means follow the rules/laws of your state. But for the rest of you that have no such restriction please keep a journal. It is so worth the extra effort. The benefits for out weigh the expense (buying journals) and the extra time required too fill them out. A journal could save your life…..

You might also like:

Do you keep a journal to please the notary division, judges, or the FBI?

Notary Public 101 – Journals


December 18, 2018

Beginner Notaries 103 — Gaining Industry Knowledge

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 12:52 pm

Gaining Industry Knowledge
Return to Table of Contents – Beginner Notaries 103


There are many ways to learn about this business. Here are our suggestions.

1. Technical information
For technical notary knowledge, your state is the authority. NNA is often a good source of information on notary law, but your state is the final authority. Refer to your handbook regularly so you can be an expert at your state’s notary laws and practices.

2. Industry information
You can learn a lot by reading what people are talking about on Notary discussion groups. Keep in mind that you don’t know how smart or correct some of these Notaries are. Many are seasoned Notaries who know this business inside out while others are a bunch of hostile complainers who are not good Notaries. Don’t take anything you read as gospel, but just as input that might be informative or even useful.

3. Signing Companies
Once again, to learn which signing companies are popular with others, forums and lists of signing companies with reviews as the place to go and 123notary and Notary Rotary have this type of lists with ratings.

4. Mentors
Many Notaries find a mentor, or someone experienced that they can ask questions to. Carmen at 123notary is very helpful about answering questions by phone and Jeremy answers questions by email. We are here to help. But, you can ask around and try to find a mentor as well. It would be nice if you can reward them for helping them because they deserve something if they are boosting your career.

5. Courses
We discussed courses before in one of the previous chapters. 123notary has free courses right on the blog which are actually almost as good as a paid course. You can learn a lot about loan documents, loan signing, and dealing with real life scenarios in our courses. Visit our blog and look at the categories on the right to find some of our courses and compilations and other sections.

6. Real Life Scenarios
Knowing notary and document knowledge is not enough. Knowing how to handle real life snags and situations can save you from court cases and a lot of grief. We have a page on Notary Public 101 in our blog called Real Life Scenarios. I highly recommend this page.

Notary Public 101 — Real Life Notary Scenarios

7. Experience
Just by doing a lot of work and keeping your eyes open you can learn a lot about this business. Those Notaries who are like a sponge seem to absorb a lot of knowledge. Those who just know enough to get by seldom learn much.

8. Talk to people who hire you
If you talk to Lenders, Settlement Agents, Escrow Agents, etc., you might learn a lot about this business. You could learn about the Escrow process, recording process, what can go wrong if you put your initial in the wrong place, what can go wrong if you identify someone incorrectly, and more. There is so much to know about this business, and the people who hire you are sometimes a wonderful source of endless knowledge — and sometimes they are unfriendly jerks who won’t tell you anything. But, let’s focus on the positive and you will be surprised how much you can learn.


May 1, 2018

Letter to California Notary Division

Filed under: California_Notary,Popular on Facebook (very) — Tags: — admin @ 10:46 am

Dear California Notary Division,
I am someone who runs a Notary directory and is acutely aware of the deficiencies in Notary knowledge throughout the state and the nation. California Notaries are better than those in other states on average due to the excellent training, but the training does not cover practical aspects of the Notary profession. Additionally, there are issues with fees that need to be addressed.

As there are so many ethical violations out there among California Notaries, and misunderstanding of Notary law, it is clear that a longer and more comprehensive notary training is necessary. However, I also think that due to the incompetence out there, a few other pre-measures should be taken.

1. A IQ test should be administer to applicants. It can be a ten minute quiz. Notaries with low intelligence often bungle and misinterpret Notary laws which can lead to illegal activity and wrongful explanations to clients of what can and cannot be legally done.

2. A meticulousness test should be administered to Notaries to see if they can be orderly about conducting tasks which require multiple steps. Being a good Notary means filling out journals and forms correctly in their entirety, and a meticulous person is less likely to make errors. The majority of your Notaries are far from meticulous.

3. Following directions and ethics are some other problems that are common with California Notaries. How you test this is hard. You have to find a way to trick them into doing something right or wrong while they are being watched.

4. Preference to those with clerical, police, military, legal, mortgage, or settlement backgrounds might help attract better quality Notaries as those are professions that are normally high in terms of integrity, and clerical skills which are both critical in the Notary profession.

A single day course on Notary Public knowledge is not enough. California stresses theoretical knowledge and does not test on hands on aspects of being a Notary. When a Notary is out there in the field, they need to know how to handle various types if situations. Here are my detailed comments.

1. Oaths & Affirmations
Administer Oaths correctly and roughly half of Notaries in California do not administer Oaths at all, or not in a relevant and acceptable way. Here are some examples of irrelevant or wishy-washy Oaths.

(a) Many Notaries have the signer to swear to their personal identity rather than to the truthfulness of the document.
(b) Many Notaries make the signer swear they signed the document but not to the truthfulness of the document.
(c) It is common for Notaries use Affirm in an Oath when they should ideally use the verb swear.
(d) Many Notaries do not understand the term “administer” in the sentence “Administer an Oath to an Affiant.”
(e) Many Notaries use a court Oath for a witness asking if they swear to the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth when the document does not necessarily reflect a whole truth.
(f) It is common for Notaries not to mention the document being sworn to when administering an Oath, hence administering an Oath that is regarding thin air.
(g) Most Notaries do not know the difference between a court Oath for a witness, a document Oath and an Oath for a statement that has not been made yet.
(h) Notaries need to be taught asking “Oath questions,” such as, “Do you solemnly swear this document is true and correct?” or “Do you solemnly swear that the statement you are about to make is true and correct?” Many Notaries will ask the Oath question about the statement, get a yes, and then not have the Affiant make the actual statement. This is why an IQ test should be mandatory and a result of 95 or higher should be required. Most of the problems I have with Notaries arises from low IQ’s and bad attitudes.

The handbook makes it clear that an Affiant must swear to the truthfulness of a document. However, there is no prescribed wording or guidelines. My solution is to have prescribed components of Oaths, but no official verbiage just to keep life flexible. At a minimum, in an Oath, the Affiant must use the word “I”, and then the word “swear”, mention the foregoing document, and make reference to the fact that they feel the document is authentic or correct. Using “affirm” was asked to administer an Oath means that the Notary has overided the client’s request to have an Oath which means that the Notary chose the notary act instead of letting the entity who is paying or swearing.

2. Fill out their journal correctly
Many Notaries are unclear as to how many journal entries should be filled out if there are multiple signers signing multiple documents. The 2018 handbook does not make it clear HOW MANY journal entries are necessary if there are multiple documents per signer all using the same Notary act. This should be clarified as it is an area of common misunderstanding. One journal entry per person per document is how I was trained. Additionally, the use of arrows for repetitive information in appointments with multiple documents per signer are discouraged now from what I have heard, but the handbook does not mention this. There needs to be a SINGLE SOURCE of notary law information and that source should be the handbook and not some bulletin or blog article or other supplemental sources (although those can help teach the materials in the handbook.)

3. Understand the components of notary forms including the “Additional information” section of an Acknowledgment which might not be legally required, but deters fraud by making it very detectable if someone swaps an Acknowledgment and puts it on a different document than what was intended.

4. Many Notaries do not understand how to handle requests that are illegal or seem illegal. Many Notaries will accept illegal requests while declining acceptable requests. This is due to poor training. So, training needs to focus on handling questionable requests. Many Notaries feel it is illegal to EXPLAIN the various notary acts to clients while it is not. It is illegal to choose for them, but not to explain them as far as I know.

5. Foreign language signers are an area of misunderstanding as many Notaries are not aware that they are NOT required to understand the content of the document but ARE required to have direct communication with the signer/affiant.

6. Many Notaries are unaware that the ID does not have to exactly match the name on the document but must PROVE the name on the document. Many Notaries take liberties and will Notarize a signature that says John W Smith with an ID that says John Smith, etc. It is common for Notaries to refer to the “more than but not less than rule” which is a rule created for Title companies and not a law which states that the signer can over sign their name to include more middle initials or names, etc. However, the Notaries who remember this law often do not care if it is legal to notarize a name that is over signed. It is not clear whether you can notarized John W Smith as John Smith if the ID says only John Smith. This is another common occurrence that needs to be clarified.

7. Credible Witness law is a little bit complicated and perhaps should be simplified. Most Notaries are unaware that the handbook states that the credible witness is the entity who has to swear to the fact that he/she believes that the signer cannot easily obtain an ID. Since the Notary has OFTEN seen an ID with the wrong name on it, how can the Notary ACCEPT an Oath from a credible witness that the Notary knows to be based on false information or made fraudulently regarding how the signer cannot find an ID? This law about CW is convoluted and a source of a lot of trouble. Close to NONE of your Notaries would be able to recite these laws by memory. Therefor, I suggest simplifying it because most notaries cannot learn it properly and the CW rules are convoluted and make no sense. Here is my idea of a better set of rules.

(a) A Notary can use the Oaths of two credible witnesses to identify a signer.
(b) The credible witnesses must either be immediate family members or know the signer intimately enough so they know his/her middle names without being reminded. (The law for how well you have to know the signer to be a CW is convoluted, wishy-washy, and useless currently.)
(c) The Oath for the credible witness should be, “I solemnly swear that the signer in front of me is legally named _____.”
(d) A CW can be used regardless of whether the signer has ID or not as names on ID do not always reflect the whole, complete or current name of a signer.
(e) A journal thumbprint must accompany all Notary acts done involving credible witnesses.
(f) The CW must not have any beneficial or financial interest in the document being signed.

8. Acknowledgment confusion.
(a) Box at top of page
Many Notaries get confused by the information in the box at the top of an Acknowledgment. Many Notaries feel that the signer does not have to verify the validity of the document where it says clearly that the Notary does not have to. It is better to clarify this point as many Notaries are lacking the gift of logical thinking which can cause a lot of confusion.
(b) Perjury clause in Acknowledgments
Many Notaries feel that the signer is signing under the penalty of perjury in an Acknowledgment where it is clear that it is the Notary who is filling out the form correctly under the penalty of perjury. This point is widely misunderstood and needs to be elaborated since there are so many who cannot think logically about this point.
(c) Notaries are often unclear about whether the signer has to sign in their presence. Since the signer must personally appear, Notaries misinterpret this to mean that the signer must sign while they personally appear which is not true in California. The signer can sign ten years ago, but cannot be notarized until they appear.
(d) Notaries are often unclear about who is acknowledging what in an acknowledgment. Many thing that the Notary is acknowledging that a signature is correct. This is not true. The signer needs to acknowledge that they signed a document in the presence of the Notary. This point needs to be clarified for your notaries because there is too much confusion and misinterpretation going on out there.
(e) The additional optional information on NNA forms should be REQUIRED by law on loose certificates as it deters the fraudulent switching of acknowledgments to other documents by virtue that it identifies the name of the document, number of pages, document date, signers, and more…

9. Chain of Authority.
Many Notaries work with Title companies regularly and think of the Title companies as their boss. Wrong! The state is not exactly their boss, but is the entity they have to refer to if there is a legal question. It is common for Notaries to ask Lenders and Title what they can and cannot do as a Notary. This is wrong. They will get either a wrong answer or an answer that benefits the Lender or Title both of whom have beneficial and financial interest in the documents being Notaries. This point needs to be drummed into the Notaries heads. The State of California should ideally have a Notary hotline because there are so many times when Notaries have questions about what they can and cannot do, and often late at night when help is not available. The point of a Notary is to ensure the integrity of transactions done involving signed documents. If the Notary cannot find out what the law says, then the notarization will not have any integrity. This is a very serious issue.

10. Hands On Training
Notaries take a written exam, but this is not really as important as practical matters. What is important is to have someone do hands on training and testing to see if the Notary can fill out forms, journals, administer Oaths, take thumbprints, use credible witnesses, and decipher between legal and illegal requests. A written test cannot do this.



1. Notary training should be two, three or four days long for new Notaries with a refresher every year to keep everyone serious.

2. Notaries should be trained by hand to see if they can handle requests, explain terminology and fill out forms, etc.

3. Notaries need to be audited regularly. Not only journal auditing which you are already doing (super!!!) Auditing people by pretending to be customers and asking them to do Oaths, or asking them if such and such a notarization would be legal under particular circumstances will let you know which of your Notaries are acceptable and which are criminals. It takes work, but you are a prudent organization that values integrity and I believe you will do the work.

Jeremy Belmont
123notary manager


You might also like:

Letter to Florida Notary Division

Logic errors can cost you as a notary

Letter to Trump about the sad condition of American Notaries


April 5, 2018

The name on the ID vs. the Acknowledgment, Document, and Signature

Filed under: Technical & Legal — admin @ 11:08 pm

As a Notary, you will be confronted by a myriad of inconsistencies. Names on identifications don’t always match names on documents. We have discussed this multiple times in our John Smith examples where the name on the ID is shorter than the name on the document which in my examples is normally John W. Smith. However, I want to introduce the complexities of name variations in an organized way.


RULE #1: The name on the ID must prove the name on the Acknowledgment
The name on the ID is not always identical or “matching” the name on the document. I do not like the term “matching” because it has multiple connotations and therefor is not clear. The name on the identification must PROVE the name on the Acknowledgment as a minimum.

The name on the ID says John Smith.
The typed name on the document says John William Smith
The signature on document says John William Charles Smith
The name on the Acknowledgment cannot say more than John Smith otherwise you are notarizing someone whose name you cannot prove.

Whether or not your state approves you notarizing a signature that is longer or not matching the name on the identification is between you and your state. But, according to sensible practices, the main thing is what name you are Acknowledging the person as, because that is your job as a Notary. As a Notary, you have to prove the identity of the signer and certify that information in the form of a Notary certificate. What goes on the certificate must be true under the penalty of perjury in California and must be true in other states otherwise it could be considered fraudulent. In this example, you can prove the signer is John Smith, he over signed the document which the Lenders don’t usually mind, and you notarized him once again as John Smith — nothing more, nothing less.

RULE #2: The typed name on the document ideally exactly matches the signature, but, if the Lender says it’s okay, an over signed version of the same name would suffice.

i.e. If the typed name says John William Smith, then the signature could be John William Charles Smith.

RULE #3: The name on the Acknowledgment can be an exact match of the signature if provable by ID, or a partial match of the signature that is proven by the identification.

i.e. If the signature says John William Charles Smith, you can notarize the signature as that name if it that name variation is entirely provable based on the ID, or you can notarize him as John Smith as the ID proves that name.

RULE #4: The typed name on the document is supposed to match the name on Title.

The recording agency has a particular name on title, and loan documents are supposed to match the name on title. Sometimes people change their name on title using Grant Deeds and Quit Claim Deeds and which form you use to change a name on title depends on what state you live and your individual situation, and I am not trained in these matters, (sorry.)

Rule #5: Just because you are obeying sensible practices and the law doesn’t mean the Lender won’t get mad and fire you.

The Lender wants the name notarized based on how the name reads on the documents as a general rule. Usually times you can get away with notarizing a shorter version of the name for legal reasons. If you have a situation where you have a choice between breaking the law and pleasing the Lender, choose obeying the law. If you have a choice between pleasing the Lender and taking liberties identifying someone which is a wishy-washy point in the legal code in many states (look up your state’s requirements for proving someone’s name — many states only say that you have to check their ID, but not see if the names exactly match) then you have a judgement call.


Summary of rules using fortune cookie English

1. Name on ACKNOWLEDGMENT must be proven by name on IDENTIFICATION

2. Name on ACKNOWLEDGMENT must be part or whole of name on SIGNATURE

3. Name on SIGNATURE can match exactly or be a longer variation of TYPED NAME on document.

4. TYPED NAME on document should MATCH name on TITLE

5. LENDERS want name on the Acknowledgment to match TYPED NAME on document, but this is not always legally possible.


You might also like:

The ID says John Smith

What’s your sign? A guide to spotting fake ID’s.

Credible Witnesses – the ins and outs



April 3, 2018

Notary Public 101 Scenarios: Confirming the signing

Confirming a Notary Signing

As I continue to teach people and quiz Notaries on the subject of confirming the signing, I realize that the subject is more complicated than I previously realized. When confirming the signing with the borrower, there is a lot to go over. But, sometimes you don’t have the means to know what you should ask, especially when you have not received the package. Sometimes there are instruction pages with requests for checks or Quit Claim Deeds where non-borrowing in-laws need to sign. You might not know this until the last minute, but you could put it on your list of things to ask about during your initial call.

Since there are so many things to ask about during a confirmation call, it makes sense to keep a cheat sheet in your wallet with a list of things to ask about.


1. Identification
It is common for Notaries to confirm that the borrower(s) has/have a current government-issued identification card. That is not good enough. If the name does not match, you will have a very short or cumbersome Notarization. You can avoid a three hour trip that you don’t get paid for by making sure the ID proves that the name on the document is authentic.

2. Signers
Make sure all of the signers will be present. Not all signers are borrowers. It is common to have a non-borrowing spouse, or even in-laws who are on title. It is also common for people to sign off title if they don’t want to be part of a loan. There might be Grant Deeds or Quit Claim Deeds in such cases.

3. Paperwork going back to the Lender
There are often personal checks, cashier’s checks, tax or insurance forms or copies of ID’s going back to the Lender. Make sure that if there is anything going back, that it is in a folder on the signing table when you come so you don’t have to waste time finding it or forget.

4. Surface
To do a signing, you need a surface to do the signing on. Normally, homeowners sign on their dining room table. Many title companies are making sure that the table is clear before the Notary arrives to save time and grief. If you don’t make sure there is a surface, you might be signing on the floor or crouching to sign on a cluttered coffee table.

5. Duration
Many signers are not aware of how long a loan signing takes. It might take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the length of the package, the degree of familiarity with the process and how much reading the borrower intends to do. The Notary should confirm how much reading the borrower wants to do, because the Notary needs to be on time for his/her next appointment. Find out in advance how much time the borrower wants, otherwise your schedule might get very off track.

6. Introduction
Many Notaries go over the fact that they are the Notary, what their name is, what their function is, and how they cannot answer legal questions, etc. Introducing yourself is great. But, if I am quizzing you with one minute to go over confirmation, and you waste the entire minute explaining the details of how you introduce yourself and forget to mention that you made sure all the signers would be there with ID’s that match the names on the document, you will fail.

7. The Numbers
If you want to go over numbers on the CD or HUD-1, you can think about that. These days, the Lenders normally do a good job of that on their own, but a last minute brush-up can reduce the chance of last minute surprises.

8. Where to Park & Directions
If you want to go over directions and where to park, that matters too. That is the last thing I want to hear if I quiz you, but in real life, where to park can be a serious consideration.


The purpose in confirming a signing is to introduce yourself and go over all issues which would cause a glitch in the signing to make sure the glitch doesn’t happen before you get in your car and drive. Be prepared to confirm a second time after you have the documents printed out as you might learn more about what needs to be done after printing. Be prepared to cancel the signing if any information doesn’t check out as well. Be thorough, don’t leave any necessary information out, and you will have a more organized and stress free profession.


You might also like:

Confirming the Signing

Real Life Notary Scenarios

Notary Marketing 102: Phone & Communication Etiquette

Notary Etiquette from Atheist to Zombie

Don’t Call Title or Borrower


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.


You might also like:

The 30 point course – initialing

The man who wouldn’t use his middle initial.

What is the cleanest way to rectify an error on a certificate?


The ID Says John Smith

Filed under: Technical & Legal — Tags: — admin @ 10:56 am

Q. The name on the ID says John Smith, but the typed name in the document says John W Smith… Can you notarize the signature under these circumstances?

A. You can have him sign John Smith and notarize him as John Smith. The might not wash with the Lender but looks legal. Or, have him sign John W Smith, but put only John Smith in the Acknowledgment. That way you are ONLY certifying the name he proved to you was really his.

Other things you could do…
Ask for other ID. If they don’t have it, if your state allows credible witnesses, use them to identify the signer. You can always notarize the signer based on his name on the ID regardless of the typed name on the document. The Lender might not like that, but your main job is to please the law.

For the most part, signers will have identifications that are thorough enough to use for purposes of notarization. However, it is possible that an ID will have a name that is either shorter, or that doesn’t match the name on the document. Notaries scramble the requirements for positive identification. There is the “you can have more than but not less than” rule. More than what? Less than what? This is a bad rule to learn because it gets scrambled more than not. Here are some basic principles:

1. You can always over sign (Lender principle)
This is a Lender or Title requirement, not a law. The law does not say anything about over signing in anything I have ever read. If the document says John Smith and the signer signs John W Smith, that might be okay with the Lender, but it might not be acceptable to notarize. Your job as a Notary is NOT to please Lenders, but to notarize people who you have positively identified. If the ID says John Smith then you can notarize the signer as John Smith prudently, but nothing longer than that.

2. The name on the document must be provable based on government issued photo identification.
I will not go over the particulars of an acceptable ID, and some of the particulars are state specific. As a general rule, a state issued photo ID card, driver license, passport or military ID are fine for a Notary to accept. If the ID says John William Smith and the document says John Smith, then you are fine, but if the ID name is shorter then you cannot prudently use it to identify the signer. If the ID says John Smith, but the signature on the document says John W Smith, you cannot prudently notarize that name even if the Lender says it’s okay. The Lender is not your boss, the laws of your state’s state notary division are, so obey the right entity, and stay out of jail.

3. You cannot use an AKA statement
A Signature Affidavit with AKA statement is not an acceptable primary or secondary ID. As a Notary you cannot use it to identify a signer ever. It is for the lender only.

If I ask you if it is prudent to notarize a signature that says John W Smith when the ID says John Smith, if you make me repeat myself, scramble the scenario, or quote some dumb rule that doesn’t apply in this situation such as point one in this article, you will not only get the question wrong, but get marked up for having poor communication skills. This is a yes or no question, please answer it accordingly.


You might also like:

Notary Public 101 — Identification

The 30 Point Course – a free loan signing course on our blog

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