It’s a sad notary who is writing this installment. I write this in the evening after the culmination of a series of events. My tale will be familiar to many, especially those with years of experience. It started out as a routine request to notarize a Power of Attorney, then the Agent would sign two additional forms using their Powerof Attorney authority. The assignment was from a lost funds recovery agency. The three short documents were emailed to me; and my fee was coming as a check; mailed the same day.
Delays developed into two weeks, presumably, I did not verify; the check cleared long prior to the start of the assignment. As to the assignment: An elderly lady was in a convalescent home, she was to give her son Power of Attorney to dispose of some assets. Immediately my antenna went up. Hospital environments are challenging, seeing proper ID often a major problem. He also assured me that she was rational and able to understand the document she was to sign. The son related that she did not have “Govt issued Photo ID” but a collection of documents that should suffice. We discussed this issue at length. I have wide latitude in what constitutes proper ID in NY State. The rule here is that the notary is required to view “adequate proof”. That’s it. No further guidelines.
The son could produce several original (not photocopies) documents that only a family member would have access to. The sticking point was the aspect of photo ID. Finally, a breakthrough; the facility had in the patient folder an admission picture, and were willing to give me a copy (to be returned with other photocopies of original documents. It was not the best ID situation, but the lady had been in the home for over a decade, and the assets were recently discovered.
I know, I’m letting the son’s “story” influence my “is it good enough” decision. There were other positive aspects of her identification that I will not disclose. Suffice to say, I informed the son that strict adherence to gathering her ID was essential. Looking at the notary section of her Power of Attorney, I noticed that “produced a driver license as identification” was preprinted. I could not edit the file as the PDF was from a scan. I had the attorney send me an editable file and changed that line to mention by name each of the ID components that I planned to accept. A quick scan and I proceeded to send the scan to the attorney for approval. Approval granted.
The next hurdle was witnesses. I could be one of them. The son said he would “draft” a nurse to be the second witness. Been there, suffered that. Many is the facility that I have visited that do not allow staff to sign anything. The son insisted they would. I asked for the name and contact number of the specific staff member to be sure to arrive during their shift. Son was unable to obtain any commitment and a few days delay was incurred as he found a witness.
Finally, after two weeks, we set a date and time. I prepared two of each of the three documents in case there was a mistake. Upon entering her room my heart sank. It was obvious that she would be unable to understand what she was to sign. Additionally, she was physically unable to sign. The floor nurse was called, and confirmed my opinion. She could hear, but not respond to “blink three times if your son is standing in front of you”. The floor nurse called the Social Worker who asked “what’s going on in here”. A brief explanation later yielded “I will not permit her to sign anything”. Of course that was redundant; I would not notarize with or without her permission. The son lamented that the “Court Appointed Guardian” procedure was too time-consuming and expensive. This was my cue to leave, feeling sad for her affliction. But, the law is inflexible, applies to all; and as NY notaries are sworn officers of the State Department – I could only walk away.
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