I got a call to go to a neighbors home. She said we just live a few blocks from you. She stated, my mother needs to sign a Will. She is not well so we will need to get this done ASAP. I tell her I understand. I ask her, does your mother have current ID and is she mentally coherent? She tells me yes on all counts. I tell her great, but I caution her that although we as California notaries are not prohibited from notarizing a Will. We need to make you aware that without proper wording (which only an attorney would know or an line service like Legal Zoom could prepare) you could ultimately do your family members more harm and dis-service than good. Bottom line — a judge could throw it out if the words are not up to snuff. She says that it was reviewed by an attorney and she said the he had given it the okay! I said, ‘ok, well great’. I then ask her, when, where and what time would you like me there? We set it for the following day.
I arrived at our scheduled time and good god the house is an utter mess, and the smell of impending death was clinging in the air. It was horrible. But, they needed me and it is after all what we do. I followed the daughter to the kitchen area where the mother (our signer) was seated. She was alert and coherent. I was offered a seat and sat down. That’s where the problems began.
I ask for her ID and the daughter hands it to me and you guessed it — it is expired. I tell the mother we have a little problem I need current ID. The daughter speaks up and says “oh, I thought it was current” I’m thinking “Yeah right, sure you did”, I ask the mother did she have any other government ID such as a passport, etc.? She says no. So, now I tell them that we can use 2 credible witness but they cannot be a party to the transaction or stand to gain any financial interest in this particular transaction . So the daughter gets on the phone and begins calling. I ask to see the document (the Will) and the daughter hands it to me. And I cant believe what I am looking at! It is a handwritten Will on a single yellow sheet of legal paper written or (I should say scrawled) with different colored inks and cross outs. It was a MESS! A hot mess!
I looked at the daughter in bewilderment and I am at this point a little cross to say the least. I ask her did she remember our conversation the previous day? She said yes, and I go on to re-cap our conversation. She tells me that she is sorry but she thought her mother had current ID and that their attorney HAD actually looked at her Will. I couldn’t help myself at this point and exclaimed…”Are you serious and attorney signed off on this?”. She said, “yes” and I let it go. Because what was the point in arguing with her. She was having it with the mother being ill, now the ID problems and obtaining witnesses at this late date. So I told her that once she got everything in order I would happily come back.
Surprisingly, the mothered offered me my fee, but I kindly refused. It was more than obvious that they were struggling and after all they were my neighbors!
They never called me back….and I never expected that they would!
Until the next adventure…be safe!
A New California Notary Law
A new law regarding California notaries went into effect on January 1, 2012. One of three main changes to California notary law in 2012 is that a subscribing witness may not sign a Power of Attorney in California in a case where a signer is too frail or unwell to appear before a notary. In other words, it is now clearly mandated that a person giving someone else Power of Attorney in California must be well enough to appear personally before a California notary. There are situations in which an actual signer can’t appear before the notary and a subscribing witness may be used, but this is not as strong as having a California notary take an acknowledgement, and ought not to be allowed in most situations. In matters involving finance and property, California previously made clear that important documents such as mortgages and securities may not be signed by a subscribing witness; instead, the acknowledgment must be taken by the notary with the proper signer present. In 2012, California has now wisely added POA to the list of documents that may not be signed by a subscribing witness.
The second of the changes to California notary law in 2012 setsforth the rule that only California notaries who work for the financial institution concerned may demand payment or accept payment on “foreign bills of exchange” for the institution –and only these California notaries may protest for nonpayment. The third change in the law makes clear that these notaries who work for financial institutions will of course no longer be paid a fee for such services—as an independent notary would have been. The world of banking has its own notaries for all occasions, California notary law reminds us.
(1) A new 2012 California notary law – subscribing witnesses may no longer sign Power of Attorney in certain cases.
(2) Important documents such as Mortgages & Securities may not be signed by subscribing witnesses.
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Notary Public California – complaints against local notaries
It is easy to hire a notary public in California that you found online. But, how do you know they are reputable, or any good? You don’t. You take your chances. However, some notaries on 123notary.com have reviews about them. You can read who has good reviews or bad reviews. It is not always safe picking a random notary. As far as horror cases go, we have only had a handful of serious nightmarish notaries over the last decade, and we remove them once we have determined that they are a source of endless trouble!
The Kinko’s story
We had a California notary public fail to print out documents and have the borrower’s pick her up, drive her to Kinko’s where she could print the documents and then driver her to their home. Borrowers are not chauffers, and this notary got dropped off once the borrowers got a hold of the lender. A year later — the drama continues. The California notary public in question is operating under a business name, and hiring other notaries to do tasks for her such as obtaining apostilles in Sacramento. The problem is, that when checks come, they all have an elastic characteristic. Notaries have complained on the forum about this company several times, and this particular California notary is one of the worst notary nightmares we have ever experienced and goes down in history as a legend.
Stories of notaries that fail and what they did wrong – http://blog.123notary.com/?p=143
Affordable Notary Service – http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=4880
24 hour service?
Another California notary public advertised 24 hour service. An individual calls them at 6am with an emergency. The notary hangs up on the individual claiming that it is “too early”. If you are not offering 24 hour service, don’t CLAIM that you do. It is a requirement that if you want the 24 hour icon, you have to be willing to answer the phone after midnight whether you feel like it or not.
The white out story
A notary in California goes to a signing. She forgets to have the wife sign the Mortgage (oops), and then uses white out to change some information in the loan documents. The worst possible thing you can do during a loan signing is to use white out which voids the usability of the document. It gets better — then, the notary blames the Title company for not hilighting the signature areas in the documents where the wife was supposed to sign. When she was requested to return to the borrower’s house to finish the incomplete signing, the notary recommended that they find someone else. The notary replied to this complaint against her by stating that she used the mother-in-law as a required witness to the signing. Then, the Title company asked her to use someone else at which point she used white out to remove the mother-in-law’s signature and go and get a neighbor.
123notary’s opinion: There is no crime in having an additional witness. The problem is using white out, and cross outs also look unprofessional in a loan signing and can cause a loan not to fund. Additionally, a witness should be a party who doesn’t have a beneficial interest in the transaction — they should be uninvolved like a neighbor or stranger.
The four hour rule
Another California notary accepts a job for a signing. Then she cancels at the last minute because she learns that the company who hired her doesn’t pay their bills. There were a few forum posts about the company stating that the company didn’t pay their notaries. In any case, the notary could have researched the company simultaneously while talking to them by using www.123notary.com/s and would have learned that they didn’t pay BEFORE accepting a job from them. Or, the notary could have researched them soon after the phone call and then cancelled. The last minute cancellations cause a lot of grief to many parties and are not acceptable. The Lender emails me stating that the notary cancelled 2 hours after the signing and said that she was, “not able to help”. Then, the notary replies to me stating that she EMAILED the borrower 45 minutes before the signing (that is considerably sooner than 2 hours after like the lender stated). The notary claimed they called the borrowers but couldn’t get an answer or a voice mail. I’m not sure I believe all of this story, do you? How many people do you know who don’t have an answering machine or a disfunctional one? I think that the notary should have given four hours notice in a case like this and should have kept trying the borrowers every 30 minutes until she got them. You can’t just leave people high and dry!
(1) A notary had the borrowers pick her up, take her to Kinkos where she printed the docs & made them pay for it!
(2) 1 Notary claimed 24 hour service & hung up on a client who called at 6am saying it was “too early”
(3) The Notary forgot that the wife had to sign & then used white out to modify the documents!
(4) A Notary accepted a job, then cancelled right before the signing when she learned the signing co. had a bad payment record.
California Notary Law Changes
Notary law has changed tremendously in the last few years across the nation, but the single most important event that shaped notary law was 9/11. It took several years for the various state notary divisions to react and change their notary laws after this catastrophe, but they surely did. Several of the terrorists were easily able to get fraudulent social security cards and drivers licenses. The hijackers paid $100 to an illegal immigrant who had also fraudulently gotten his Virginia driver’s license — to execute the residency affidavit for the 9/11 hijackers before a Virginia notary public. This notarized document from Virginia was sufficient proof to get a Virginia driver’s license which they needed to get on the airplanes. The Virginia notary public involved in this transaction was prosecuted by homeland security.
After that incident, it was found that tens of thousands of fake Virginia identification cards and driver’s licenses were circulating, and Virginia made law changes as a reaction. Notarized documents were no longer sufficient proof to get a driver’s license. Virginia was not the only state to react to this catastrophe. The California notary division, and many others reacted too. Law changes started happeneing slowly, generally in 2005 and 2006.
Some of the main changes to California notary law were that personal knowledge of a signer was no longer grounds for personal knowledge. California notaries also are responsible to make sure the document being notarized is not fraudulent. Jurats now require being positively identified in California and almost every other state in the nation. There are other laws that changed, but now governments are being careful about identification and preventing fraud.
In my personal opinion, California should never had had liberal identification standards to begin with. The governments reaction to 9/11 is like frantically putting on your seat belt right after an accident. The time to wear your seat belt is BEFORE an accident, which means all the time. Additionally, the credible witness procedure in California and many other states is just as ludicrous as the personal knowledge form of identification. If you personally know someone, how well does it mean that you know them? There has never been a definitive standard other than that you knew them from a chain of events and people in various contexts which has several lines of text in legalese which nobody can make much sense of. Credible witnesses do not usually know a signer well enough to identify them before a public official. They know a signer as “Joe” their neighbor, and job could tell them his last name was Wagner, and the CW’s would swear to that before the notary when they don’t even know. California is still careless with its notary laws in many ways.
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