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August 17, 2014

Why do new notaries go to “sites” to get answers to questions?

I have been reading some of the various sites lately like Linkedin, etc and it just amazes me how many new notaries go to these sites to ask other folks notary questions from people that may or may not be in their state, or my not even be seasoned enough to give an acurate answer. Why not try reading your notary handbook or calling your Secretary of State. After all they are in most cases the folks that issue the commissions and make the rules that you need to follow.

Then there are questions about what to ‘look for’ in a trust signing, POA, etc. People remember you are there not to interpret or read documents. You are there to verify signature and identity. And the following will apply: The person must have current government issued identification Make sure there is no duress or influences from others for a person to sign. They must not be on any mind altering medication, and there should be no blank spaces. And naturally, they should have ability to pay you if you are charging a fee. Remember, don’t analyze just notarize. We notarize signatures on documents not the documents themselves.

People remember, in most cases the best place to get your questions answered is from the source….the people that hired you!

Until next time, be safe ~Carmen

(1) Don’t analyze: Notarize; We notarize signatures, not the documents themselves!
(2) Don’t visit private agency websites for answers to notary questions. Go to your Secretary of State!

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January 13, 2014

Honey, I notarized the kids (don’t try this at home)

We were expecting a notary
It was about nine o’clock. We were expecting a notary at the house to do a refinance. My wife Molly had been away all week. It was an investment property and Molly did not need to be here to sign. The kids would just not go to sleep…

“Why can’t we watch TV anymore?” Joey whined.

“Because someone is coming. Someone from the bank is coming to see us…”

“Who? Do I have to be good? Do I have to stay in my room?”

Joey started chasing Milly around the house… “Joey! Milly! STOP THAT– stop running or the notary monster will notarize you!”

“What’s ‘notarize’? Who does that? What is it?” Milly squeaked.

“The notary has this big clamp. He puts it on the paper we are signing… and if you are not good, he will clamp you with it, too. And it will hurt!”

Joey jumped up and tried to touch the lamp hanging from the ceiling. At that moment, the bulb popped…

“That’s IT!!! You’re done!!!” I yelled. Just then the doorbell rang.

The Notary arrives
I opened the door. It was Mr. Eugene the notary. He was about 5′ tall, with black hair streaked with gray…and he had dark inky circles around his eyes. He carried a notary bag and walked with a limp toward the table. “I’m Mr. Eugene,” he pointed out.

“Eugene– great to meet you. We are going to whip through these documents…but we might also want to notarize these kids,” I winked. But let’s do the signing first.”

We did whip through the documents. He was a thorough notary, and seemed very intent on every detail. When we were done, I asked, “May I see you in my office here?” I led the way…

Would you wear this mask?
I shut the door so we would have a moment away from the kids. “I sort of threatened the kids; they’re really being bad this week… Would you help me ? I made this stamp out of this cardboard…and this costume…I’m going to–would you wear this mask? It will look really scary…”

“I really shouldn’t do this… ” he looked blank.

I decided then and there to be the notary monster myself.
I had cut up an inkpad (I had one from my clerical days) and made a cardboard stamp that read “notarized.” The stamp was 6″ across and looked scary…especially when I inked it up with black ink. I put on the two-headed black monster mask, adjusted it, put on the cloak, grabbed the seal… Mr. Eugene followed me out of the room. He looked worried.

“Where are you kids?” I bellowed in a strange, foreign, angry voice. The stamp said notarized backwards turned like a mirror image…

“No! NO!” yelled the kids, running away from me…” I caught them just as they were headed into the garage… and stamped each of them on their foreheads…then all over their arms and legs…

Just then the phone rang…
Just then the phone rang. It was my wife, Molly. “Honey, I notarized the kids.”

“What do you mean?” she asked. I heard the door slam. It was Mr. Eugene.

“I’ll explain later… I can explain… Don’t call the police.”

(1) Kid: “Do I have to be good?” Mom: “Stop running or that Notary monster will notarize you!”
(2) The stamp said “notarized” backwards turned like a mirror image. The kids were terrified.
(3) I decided then and there to be the notary monster myself.
(4) The notary has this big clamp, and if you’re not good, he’ll clamp you with it, and it will hurt!
(5) I cut up an ink pad and made a cardboard box that read “notarized” backwards like a mirror image.
(6) Frank: “Honey, I notarized the kids.”
Molly: “What do you mean?”
Frank: “I’ll explain later, don’t call the police!”


January 6, 2014

Can a Notary notarize a Will or Living Will?

To make it quick and simple — Yes, a Notary can notarize signatures on a Will, although it is generally discouraged unless given written instructions by an Attorney. Wills are normally witnessed, but not notarized. But then, why be normal?

Can a notary witness a Will?
YES, a Notary can witness the signing of any document. However, it is discouraged for a notary to be involved in any transaction as a witness or Notary where they might have beneficial interest or financial interest! If the notary benefits in any way from a Will being signed or is closely related to a beneficiary, they could be said to have beneficial interest. Anybody eighteen years of age or older who can sign their own name and watch someone else sign can be a witness to a will. It is that simple!

Can a notary draft a Will?
Document drafting might be considered part of the practice of law in your state. You can ask your state bar association if a Notary can draft a document, or if a notary can draft a legal document. The answer is most likely no. Unless you are trained and authorized, I would stay away from document drafting of legal documents since it is so sensitive!

Then who can draft a Will?
Ask an Attorney to help you draft a Will. Ask the Attorney if the Will should be notarized or only witnessed. The witnesses of the Will can also be notarized by the way!

What about a Living Will?
Living Wills are typically very long documents drafted by Attorneys who specialize in Health Care legal documents. Health Care Power Of Attorney documents are close relatives of Living Wills. Living Wills are typically notarized and often need a notarization in the middle of the document as well as at the end of the potentially dozens of pages.

Can a notary notarize a Living Will?

How about a Dying Will or a Won’t? Or a Living Will that doesn’t have a pulse! I know a Notary who is dying to notarize a Won’t with or without instructions from an Attorney!

(1) Yes, Notary can notarize signatures on a Will, although it is generally discouraged w/o written instructions from an Attorney.
(2) Document drafting may or may not be considered practicing law in your state. Ask the Bar Association.
(3) The difference between a regular Will and a Living Will is that the latter has a pulse.

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October 26, 2013

How to Notarize a Copy of a Passport

Notarize a copy of a passport

There is always some confusion about the legality of copying and notarizing official documents. You cannot notarize a birth, marriage or death certificate. There is no official certification procedure for getting a certified copy of a passport. California notaries can make a certified copy of a power of attorney, but that is the only type of document that you can get a certified copy of. So, what type of notary act can you do to notarize that copy of your passport?

There is a notary act called a copy certfication by document custodian. This is basically a Jurat with some unique wording. It makes the sign swear under oath to the accuracy and completeness of the copy. It is common for students to have copies of transcripts notarized using this procedure. I used the copy certification by document custodian form regularly when I was a notary since it was the only way to accommodate requests for copies.

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June 18, 2013

Notarizing an I-9 employment verificati​on document

Have you ever notarized an I-9 before? If it were me, I would ask an Attorney, the Secretary of State, or Immigration if a notary public could notarize this form. If you are a notary, the most important thing to do is to clarify that you are NOT an Attorney, and can not give legal advice. Also clarify that you are not an immigration expert and can not advise on matters pertaining to immigration either.

But, it is not generally illegal to notarize a signature on a document.

Have any of you had to notarize an I-9 before?
How about a K-9?

(1) Ask an Attorney if a Notary can notarize an I-9 employment verification document.


April 14, 2013

Minimum Competency Test Study Guide

Filed under: Loan Signing 101 — Tags: , , — admin @ 1:21 am

We really want all of our notaries on the site to pass our certification test. So far, roughly 1700 people out of 7000 on 123notary (March 2013) are certified or elite certified by The others are not, and they are not interesting in paying for any study guide or tests. So, my solution is to offer something more basic that is FREE.

We will have an online test eventually for minimum competency. In the short run, we will do an over the phone test. We don’t even have the programming for an icon for the minimum competency, but we will have one soon. In the future, we will set a requirement for how soon you have to pass our MC test to stay on the site. But, for now, there is no rule — only FREE study materials.

Here are the topics we are including in this test:

(1) Confirming the signing & confirming identification
Many signing companies do not want the notary to confirm the appointment. However, if you don’t, then the borrowers might not be ready for you when you come. If you have a busy night of signings, you can not afford to be kept waiting. Additionally, if a non-borrowing spouse is on three or four of the documents (which is typical), you need to make sure that they are there, or else you might not get paid. Be careful of companies that don’t want you to confirm unless they have a spotless payment record with you and on (i-phone accessible list of signing companies with reviews).

When confirming a signing, introduce yourself and let them know that you are the notary. Let them know what time you are going to see them, what their NAMES are on the documents, and WHO is required to show up.

Notary: Hi, my name is Charles Notarinsky, and I will be your notary public this evening. I will be showing up at 6pm. Peter J Selinsky, and Jane Doe will be signing documents this evening. Will both Peter and Jane be able to be at the signing at 6pm? Additionally, may I ask if Peter’s identification has his name typed exactly as Peter J Selinsky with the middle initial J, or a middle name starting with the letter J?

Borrower: Why do you care?

Notary: Legally, I will not be able to notarize Peter’s signature if there is no middle initial or middle name beginning with a J in his identification document. Additionally, I need to make sure that both signers have CURRENT government issued photo-ID.

Borrower: Oh, I didn’t realize that. Hmmm, let’s see. Yes, my ID is a current California Driver’s license expiring in 2017 and has the name Peter John Selinsky. It looks like we are in business. Jane’s license also has her name as Jane R Doe which is longer than the variation on the document. That is okay, right?

Notary: Longer on the ID works — shorter doesn’t. We are in business. See you at 6pm, and in the mean time — cross your eyes and dot your tees. See you soon.

Note: Some states will allow an expired ID if it was ISSUED within a specified number of years.


(2) What to say and what not to say
(a) Once assigned a signing, proceed to the signing at the appointed time.

(b) Don’t park in the driveway as that is considered rude — unless you have permission to do so. Don’t ask permission to park in the driveway unless there is a problem parking on the street. If the borrower has a one mile driveway that goes up a steep hill, or lives in a condo complex with assigned parking — ask for help.

(c) Don’t call the borrower a customer or client. The Title company is the end-user here hiring the signing company that hired you. You are the notary signing agent and they are the BORROWER.

(d) Answer the phone stating your name. Don’t say, “Hullo” and keep people guessing as to your identity. First of all it makes them ask who you are which is an unnecessary and aggravating extra step. Second, it is not professional. Third, they might confuse you with your daughter and start explaining the loan process to your daughter.

(e) Don’t let other people answer your business line. If your daughter uses the same line, then she must introduce herself when answering the phone.

(f) Don’t have background noise when answering the phone, and if there is noise, then apologize for the noise and move to a quieter location.

(g) Don’t answer the phone only to tell someone that now is a bad time to talk. If now is a bad time, then don’t answer the phone. If you answer the phone, give people at least 90 seconds of your time out of courtesy.

(h) Think twice before answering your phone at a signing. If you don’t, then you might miss the opportunity for your next job. If you do, then you will be being rude. Weight the factors before you answer your line.

(i) Tell the borrowers at the BEGINNING how long you can stay. Tell them that this is a signing appointment, and that if they need to read everything in detail, that they are welcome to read after the signing, and that they have (3) days to rescind if they don’t like what they read.

(j) This is a business meeting, so don’t talk about politics or religion as that might offend people. Even talking about the weather is off-topic. Your job is to get in, sign the documents, and get out to your nearest Fedex station as soon as possible.

(k) No drinks on the table — ever


(3) Signing as printed
Borrowers must sign their name exactly as printed — unless the lender or your contact person specifies otherwise.

If the name on the document doesn’t match the identification, then legally you can not notarize them under that typed name. In such a situation, consider using the Signature Affidavit to document the other names the person goes by and signing as the identification reads. In this situation you have a choice between satisfying the LOAN OFFICER, or your state’s Secretary of State. The lender can not put you in jail, but the latter party can. The law takes priority in this case.

If the signer’s name is James J Johnson, then they sign James J Johnson, and the middle initial J should ideally show up clearly. Otherwise the lender will have trouble selling the loan to a third party. Please take this into consideration as most loans are sold.


(4) When to call the Loan Officer, Title or Signing Company
If the borrower has any SPECIFIC questions about their loan, call the Loan Officer or whomever you have been instructed to call. If your appointment is under time pressure because you have to go to your next appointment, let all parties concerned know that you have to leave at 8pm whether their documents are signed or not. If you are knowledgeable enough to answer general types of questions about documents, you might consider answering them yourself unless your state has a law against notaries opening their mouth such as in Attorney states.

If the your contact person(s) is/are not there, then leave a message and wait 20 minutes for a return call. If you don’t get a call back, then leave another message and wait another 5 minutes before you give up.


(5) Your job is not to coerce
If a borrower doesn’t want to sign something, call the lender or your contact person. If you left a message and they don’t call back, don’t take matters into your own hands until after you called twice leaving the appropriate amount of waiting time between both calls. If you don’t hear back after the second waiting time, then explain how the borrower has three days to rescind and that they can talk to their lender during those three days to have the situation explained to them. Additionally, explain that their loan might not fund if they don’t sign.


(6) Reading instructions
Many loans come with an instructions sheet called a letter of instructions. Read that before doing anything. Take note about oral instructions too. Each lender has their own rules. It is your job to follow the rules. Some lenders want you to call them about any little thing. Others allow cross outs. A few don’t want you to confirm the signing. Many want you to break the law. Don’t break the law — but follow all legal instructions. By the way, if you don’t know your state’s law, then you won’t know if you are breaking it, and you can end up in court or jail very easily. Know the law!


(7) Following instructions
A lender named Chad assigns the notary a signing. Chad says that if there is any problem, to call him at 333-333-3333 immediately, otherwise you are fired. The notary goes to a signing for Joe. Joe gets half way through the stack and finds that he doesn’t like the XYZ document which is not notarized. Joe says that he refuses to sign. The notary calls the lender and gets, “Hi, this is Chad, I’m not here right now…”

Q. What is the next thing that the notary should do?

A. Leave a message and wait for a response. In the mean time, don’t twist the borrower’s arm into signing.


(8) Listening and answering questions
I ask notaries questions, and it is like pulling teeth to get responses.

Q. How many loans have you signed?

A. I have been signing loans for three years… actually, three and a half years.

Q. I think you didn’t understand the question. How many loans have you signed?

A. Oh, well, I do about five loans per week.

Q. I think we are having a communication gap, how many loans have you signed in your career?

A. Hmmm, I never thought about that.

This is an easy question, where the notary is really testing the signing company’s patience.

Q. What are your hours of operation?

A. Well, I’m flexible

Q. I’m sorry, but that is not an answer. I don’t know what flexible means. Please tell me what hours you are available to work.

A. Well, I start at 8am.

Q. Thanks for the starting time, without an ending time, I don’t know when you can work until, and this is incomplete information

A. Well, it depends.

Q. You are not being helpful. Please just tell me what hours you are generally available for signing work.

A. Hmmm, I guess from 8am until 10pm, unless my daughter is staying late for softball practice in which case only until 9:30pm, and then if I’m feeling tired then perhaps 8:45 pm, but then I am rarely tired, and then…

Q. I’m sorry, but I am filling in a form that has room for numbers — not stories. Do you have an ending time? If not, then I have to remove you from my list permanently.

A. Just put 8am to 8pm.

Q. Wouldn’t it have been easier for both of us if you had just started out saying 8 to 8? It was like pulling teeth to get a simple answer from you.

Many notaries cannot answer simple questions. If they are this incompetent about answering simple questions, how will they handle complicated snags in a signing? Will they do something that endangers the loan out of stupidity? I think we all know the answer to that question.

Q. How would you explain the APR to a non-borrowing spouse?

A. Hmmm, well in my state, the non-borrowering spouse is not responsible for signing the documents, except for the …. (long explanation)

Unfortunately, this notary is anwering a DIFFERENT question than the one asked. They will most likely get fired even though they are very knowledgeable. Signing companies need notaries who follow instructions and answer questions — preferably the same question that was asked.


(9) The RTC
For a non-investment refinance, the borrower has (3) days not including Sundays and Federal holidays to cancel their loan. The day of the signing is NOT included in counting the days. If you sign on a Saturday, then Monday is day one, Tuesday is day two, and Wednesday at 11:59pm is the deadline for cancelling the loan in writing by the acceptable stated methods (stated in the Right to Cancel document). Sometimes the notary is expected to write in the dates, or change the dates in the Right to Cancel. If you make a mistake you could ruin someone’s loan. Learn how to count the three days, and memorize your Federal holidays in sequential order. Also, some lenders do not allow CROSS OUTS in the right to cancel, so make sure you know what you are allowed to do or not allowed to do.

If the borrower signs where it says, “I wish to rescind”, then don’t cross out, just grab a borrower copy and start all over. WATCH signers, as they seem to sign in the wrong place a lot these days.


(10) Journal entries
Not all states require journals. However, your journal is your only evidence if you should ever have to go to court. Keep a THUMBPRINT of the signers in your journal just in case anyone suspects fraud. A thumbprint is the most potent piece of evidence about the identity of the signer. Keep in mind that identification documents can be forged. Additionally, women change their hairstyle a lot, so you might not be able to recognize them in their ID photo. Some states require journal thumbprints for documents effecting real property and powers of attorney. Since the notary’s primary job is to identify signers, why not use the most effective means of identification as a supplement to the identification? It is fast and easy and could keep you out of court!

Q. If two signers are signing three documents each, how many journal entries do you need?

A. A separate journal entry for each document per person, which equals SIX journal entries. Each entry needs to be completely documented and signed by the signer.

Please record any unusual circumstances of the signing in your journal if there is any blank space. Sometimes there is an additional notes section. That will be your evidence in court. So, write that information with the intention of understanding what you were talking about when you read it five years after the fact. Your memory will fade, so be as thorough as possible and include all details that will job your memory.


(11) Smudgy seals
New notaries don’t understand that certain documents get recorded with the county recorder. Each individual at each of the USA’s different county recorder offices has different standards. They have the right to be very picky if they like. They might not like cross outs, light seal impressions, seal impressions with missing corners, or smudgy seals. Be careful when you are notarizing a recorded document. If you smudge your seal, you can use a loose certificate, and attach it to the corresponding document. The lender might not like that, but the law likes that and recorders will not complain about that.

Deeds, Mortgages, Subordination Agreements, and documents with the term Lien are likely to be recorded in addition to some Powers of Attorney.


(12) Cross outs (Acknowledgments)
If there is wrong information on an Acknowledgment certificate, what do you do? Out of state wording that is not acceptable in your home state? Wrong information in the Venue such as a wrong county? What if the form says that two signers are showing up, but only one actually shows up? Should you cross out or attach a loose certificate? You can notarize a document twice if you have two journal entries in case you want to do both. If you add a loose certificate, make sure you LABEL the additional information section completely. A fraud could reattach your certificate to a DIFFERENT document signed by the same signer if you don’t document the name of the document, number of pages, document date, and any other information that your loose certificate might indicate.


(13) Don’t leave unsigned paperwork with the borrowers
If the borrower won’t sign one or more papers, then load it up into the outgoing Fedex. The borrower’s copies are for the borrowers, not the lender copies.


(14) Confirmation of completion
Confirming the signing before the signing
Just say, “Hi this is Frank, I completed the signing for the Mazzingos at 14 Cherry Lane, Twingsboro, MA. The Fedex tracking number is 3333-3333-3333, I repeat, the Fedex tracking number is 3333-3333-3333. Call me if you have any issues.


(15) Don’t backdate
If asked to put a date on a notarization different from the date you went out — that is illegal — just say no!


(16) Never use white out


(17) Fedexing the documents
As documents are time sensitive, get them in the Fedex drop box as soon as you can (or drop box of whatever courier you are using). If you need to hear back from your contact person concerning a signing, don’t delay getting the documents back while you wait, as you might endanger the lender from getting things processed before the deadline. If you wait until the next morning to send it back because you are waiting for the signing company to call you, you might get busy the next day, and forget to put the Fedex in the drop box. You might miss the deadline, the documents would get back late. The borrower could even lose their lock in the worst scenario and sue you for $20,000. Don’t play games with time sensitivity.

Also, use a drop box at a Fedex hub, or manned station. Drop boxes in remote areas are not always picked up on schedule, and you will be in big trouble if they are not picked up. Know your local stations by memory so you know where to go, and don’t procrastinate. Get the documents in the box the night of the signing. Don’t wait until the next day unless you are forced to.


(18) Don’t send loose certificates in the mail

Lenders are notorious about asking notaries to send loose certificates in the mail. That is illegal and can be used for fraud. If asked to do this, just ask for them to get the original document back to you with the original certificate. Then, destroy the original certificate and attach a new one. You do not need to see the signer again, just as long as there is only ONE well documented certificate floating around — attached to the document in question. Make sure to label the certificate with the document name, document date, number of pages, and any other identifying information you can think of to prevent the reattachment of that certificate to some OTHER document which would be frauduluent.


(19) Additional visits
You might be asked to make an additional visit to a borrower. Make sure that the company who hires you has a good payment record. You are much LESS likely to get paid for a second visit than you are for a regular signing as it might not be in the company’s budget. Be careful. On the other hand, companies will be very unlikely to use you in the future if you don’t make 2nd visits upon request — so also be careful.


(20) The 48 hour rule
Notaries need to be available by email and phone within 48 hours after the signing. If the signing company or lender needs to talk to you, and they can’t reach you, they will write a complaint on your listing on 123notary and that will stay there permanently. They might need you to go back to the borrowers, or they might need to clarify something with you.


April 10, 2013

Grandma’s notary service & Paralysis notary service

Here are some more notary services that you probably wouldn’t want to hire!

Grandma’s notary service
No signing is complete without home made milk and cookies. And I have the experience to get the job done. I’ve been a notary for 60 years. I’ve been a notary since before many of you whippersnappers were even born! I know my community well, as I have been living here since 1924. My family has owned the house here since the early 1800’s you know!

Cleanup notary service
Half of our new jobs start out as repair work. A less experienced notary would originally be hired, they would screw up the paperwork, and I would be called after the fact to clean up the mess. And that is one reason we are called Cleanup notary service. You will know the other reason when you see the kind of obsene profits that we make!

Comfort notary service
We always make the borrowers feel comfortable. But, please make us comfortable too by paying us on time!

Roxanne’s Naughty or nice notary service
If you have been nice, you will get a present this Christmas. But, if you have been naughty, then call us!

Paralysis notary service
Specializing in hospital signings. We are very familiar with the Signature by X procedure with signing or subscribing witnesses. We use this procedure almost daily — or so it seems. We can also notarize the signatures of dead drunks. Call us for late night bar notarization services. We will notarize what is left of your signature and give you a ride home too!

ARM & LEG Notary
Specializing in Adjustable Rate Mortgages. Give us an ARM, and we will charge you and arm and a leg. How much of an arm and leg? An adjustable arm and an adjustable leg! Just call Armen Kachaturian or email us at armen@arm&

The Notary Nazi
When you call me, don’t tell me your life story — I don’t want to hear it. You must communicate with me exactly as follows:
(1) Tell me your name
(2) Tell me the name of the document you need notarized
(3) Tell me what type of notarization you required. Don’t ask me to make recommendations. I don’t give consultations — Notariations ONLY! — NO EXCEPTIONS!
(4) Tell me what time you need my service
Signings are $40 travel fee and $10 per signature — No Exceptions
Any failure to abide by my clearly laid out instructions will result in suspension of notary services.
No Notarizations For You — 2 months! You are banned from using my service!

I got in this business because Elaine from Seinfeld divulged my soup recipes to everyone. These soup recipes have been in my family for generations. How could she! So, after that I refused to make soup for anyone ever again. I used to be known as The Soup Nazi. Now, I am The Notary Nazi.

Want a notarization — follow the rules — or else NO NOTARIZATION FOR YOU.

Excon Notarizations
Have your notary work done by an ex-con! And my prices are rock bottom, so it will be very exconomical! But, don’t try to fool me, you can’t fool a con! I know all the tricks. I can spot a fake ID from a mile away too. Excon Notarizations — put a little shadiness into your signings!

Shelly’s Bad Notary Service
Why should you hire us if we are bad? We are not bad. We are the notary service you call if YOU have been bad. Shelly’s Bad Notary Service — so good… it’s bad!

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April 4, 2013

How to get something notarized that doesn’t have a signature

Many people want copies of school transcripts notarized. Especially students from overseas. The notary can not notarize a document that is not signed by the signer. Additionally, the signer must be named in the body of the document to get an Acknowledged signature.

So, how do you get something notarized that doesn’t have a signature?

Simple… The notary can draft up a statement stating that you swear that the contents of the copy of the document are a complete, true, and correct copy of the original. It is even better if the notary can inspect the original and testify in writing to the fact that he/she has verified that it is a true copy.

What about notarizing a copy of a birth certificate or vital record?

Talk to your local county clerk and ask them how to get a copy of your birth certificate. Notaries are NOT allowed to notarize copies of vital records.

How do you get a photograph notarized?
You can’t.

Some agencies are happy if the notary affixed the corner of their seal to the back of the photo, or embossed the photograph. But, you can get a signed statement about the photo notarized, and then staple the corresponding photo to the Jurat certificate — be prepared to swear under oath that that is a true photo of you.

So, now you know how to get something notarized that doesn’t have a signature. You don’t. You simply get a sworn statement and a Jurat that DOES have a statement that you can swear to and sign. Easy! But, if you get an inexperienced notary who doesn’t know what they are doing, then the procedure might not be so easy. Shop around and get a notary who knows what they are doing.

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February 15, 2013

Signing agent best practices: 63 points

Here are a few tips about best practices. Maybe nobody will care, or maybe they will even adamantly dislike your best practices. But, if you have any self-respect, you will engage in best practices.


(1) Hand written documents.
As a notary, it is not illegal to notarize a hand written document. The issue is if there are cross outs, or blanks. Blanks make it illegal to notarize, but cross outs are a question mark. Personally, if you care about best practices, and not ending up in court for some stupidity that the signer did, then require typed documents with no cross outs or blanks.

(2) Don’t pick the type of notarization for your signer
That is their job. Legally, you can not choose for them.

(3) Blanks in documents
Put a line through the blanks or refuse the notarize. (that was quick)

(4) Cross outs
I would avoid notarizing anything with a cross out. If you can do a cross out, you don’t know if it was there before the notarization or not. If there is one before, what prevents there from being more after. You can forge an initial without being detected, so cross outs are an indication that you need a redraw.

(5) Affixing your seal over wording
This is illegal in many states. The seal should be placed in an area of the paper where there is no wording, and do not sign or write over the stamp impression or you void it. If there is no space, then attach a loose notary certificate and make sure you document all pertinent facts on it.

(6) Loose certificates
NEVER send a loose certificate in the mail or hand it to a client. Always attach the loose certificate to the document, preferably before affixing your notary seal. Always document the name of the document, document date (if any), number of pages in the document, document description on the certificate in addition to filling in the standardized state wording, signing and sealing the form.

(7) Journals
Keep thumbprints in your journal. If your state doesn’t require journals, write them a letter about how poor their standards are and then go and buy a journal from the NNA. Also, there is a section called, “additional notes” in your journal (hopefully). Please use this to write down anything unusual about the signer during the signing, or anything unusual about the circumstances. Write it so thoroughly, that when you are in court five years later about that signing which could have involved fraud on the part of the signer, that you will have your evidence handy! Impressive!

(8) Oaths
If you do sworn Oaths, make sure to have the affiant (know this term) raise their right hand. Make sure to study up on formal Oath wording. Oaths are serious, and you are a state appointed official, so keep it official, okay?

(9) Embossers
If you don’t have a 2nd notary seal, get one. Embossers create a RAISED inkless impression. Use it as your secondary seal, and you can affix it to all pages of all documents you notarize for security. There are many frauds out there who do page swapping after the fact. To avoid page swapping (which could lend you in court for something they did after the fact) use an embosser. That way when you get a phone call 2 months later to notarize that separate page they are adding, tell them that you have to do the whole thing all over again. Sorry Charlie, that is a best practice!

(10) Learn the correct verbiage for power of attorney signings
But, there are four accepted verbiage variations. My favorite is Joe Doe, as attorney in fact for Mary Doe. Always call the lender to find out what type of verbiage they want at a signing. Remember, it is their loan, and just as long as you are not breaking the law — do it their way!

(11) Overseas documents
People overseas have bizarre standards. Some require the stamp to be on the document itself no matter what, but they didn’t put the verbiage in for your state. There is nothing LESS legal about attaching an acknowledgment form, but it is not about the law at this point. It is about whether or not THEY like it! So, find a legal way to do it the way they like. Once I manually wrote in the California Acknowledgment verbiage by hand and then sealed it. It was legal. Not exactly a best practice, but if they won’t accept best practices, then settle for “best practices under the circumstances”. Chinese are a tough crowd — you will find out!

(12) Initialing
Many Title companies don’t like suffixes such as Junior, or IV at the ends of names. But, if you are Louis Remy Martin IV, then the IV is part of your name, the 4th part of your name to be precise. Ronald R Rubin initials RRR. Get the initials to be correct and thorough. And if a lender doesn’t like it, should you break a best practice for their happiness? I don’t know of any laws about initialing, but making an initial of each part of the name is only logical, right?

(13) Signing for confused elderly people
If you sign for a person in a hospital, or someone who is just elderly. Make sure you have whomever calls you READ the identification over the phone to you including the expiration date. Have them read the name on the document too. Elderly people can never find their ID’s, and if they assure you that they have it, don’t believe it, they are lying. Trust me. I know! I am experienced and you are not! Otherwise you would be writing this blog. Do not notarize an elderly person if they can not move their arm on their own. Do not let their daughter drag their arm across a page that they are signing. You can use the daughter’s arm as a brace, but not a movement device. If the elderly person can not paraphrase what the document says, DO NOT NOTARIZE. And, by the way, the night daughter might be a con-artist who is pretending to help the elderly woman, only to be trying to cheat the old lady out of her money. Notaries beware!

(14) When in doubt, call your state notary division
Sometimes the handbook is just not enough. It doesn’t include all situations, and it is not written in English either. Legalese is not my mother tongue, what about you? Call them and bug them. Do it right or not at all. The NNA offers a good notary law hotline too, but get your information from the SOURCE and call your state notary division as your first choice!

(15) Safeguarding your seal and journal
Keeping it under lock & key is the rule of many states. A locking bag, a locking file cabinet. Keeping it in your car, etc. But, honestly, property DOES get stolen, and you need to protect yourself the best way. If your goodies are in your car, keep in in a place where it won’t get taken in a break-in. Keep it under the seat, or behind some large container in the trunk. I kept it in my trunk, but where the robbers could see it. Everything was in a little bag, and they probably thought it was a lap top and valuable. They were in a rush and didn’t inspect it before they took it. If it is at home, keep it in a locked file cabinet instead of hanging around in your locked bag. Go above and beyond the law for best practices. Keep your seal in a place where it is least likely to be “robbable”.

(16) Be an expert at your state notary laws. Look them up in your state notary handbook. Keep this book with you. It is your bible when you are at work.

(17) Be an expert at credible witness procedure, and signing by X procedure in your state.

(18) Be an expert at all notary and signing related knowledge.
Don’t half know it or kind of know it. Be an expert, and it will show. You will be higher on people’s list if you are.

(19) Keep four phone numbers with you at signings.
In jail you get one phone call. But, as a notary you get many, and should have three phone numbers. The number of the signing company, the lender, the borrower, and the lenders’s wife. Just kidding about the last one. You need to call the lender half the time at a signing because they are such a careless bunch, that they will not have thoroughly prepped the borrower for the signing, plus there might be unexpected surprises on the documents as well. Be prepared!

(20) Using your seal on a blank piece of paper.
ILLEGAL. However, if you go to a jail, they require this for security. So, affix your seal, and then cross it out and write the words void. It is no longer illegal. It is the BEST way to clean up a WORST practice that the jail makes you do. I joked with them and told them that I thought it was funny that I was being forced to break the law by a guard at a jail. What is the world coming to?

(21) Check the signature on the identification
Does the signature on the identification match the one on the document? Did you check? Start checking.

(22) Bad identification?
Is the identification peeling? Is the signature above the lamination? Does it look fake? Do you even have a reference guide to know if it is fake? It is your business to know. Get the NNA book on identification and drivers licenses. Also, take thumbprints. Standards for identification should be a government issued photo ID with a physical description, serial number, signature, and expiration date. Nothing else will do. Whether or not the government issuing the document need to be in the USA or not depends on what your state laws are!

(23) Thumbprints
Take thumbprints for all Deeds, recorded documents, power of attorney — as a minimum. Do this regardless of what your state requires. It could keep you out of court, and time is money. Get an inkless thumbprint pad from the NNA. Get this today. You should not be without it for one nanosecond. They can fake an ID, and fake a signature, but you can not fake a thumbprint.

(24) Don’t notarize for people who ask you to break the rules or who look suspicious
Are you notarizing a kidnapper, or is the signer under duress? Stay away! It is not worth the money and you could get involved in a nightmare that just doesn’t end. What if someone asks you to notarize them under a different name variation than is what their identification says, and you tell them it is not legal. What if they say, “Oh, come on!!!”. What if they threaten to not pay your travel fee if you don’t? First of all your travel fee should be paid in cash at the door, or just leave. Avoid this type of people. They will make your life twisted.

(25) Don’t backdate
Signing companies will put you under pressure to do this if a borrower will lose their lock. Just say no. Tell them that their lock is their business and that your business is obeying the laws of your state which say, “No backdating”. Tell them that the security of your commission is not worth their convenience. Just leave. Don’t deal with these frauds.

(26) Don’t use white out
White out is a worst practice and will get you fired. Cross outs are a bad practice as well.

(27) Name changes the kosher way
A processor I used to work with instructed me not to cross anything out. Just have the borrower initial under the last several letters of their last name and then sign the way the new name will be typed in the document. After the fact, the processor can type in the new name. The cross out simply doesn’t help. They just need the initial. The processor can cross it out in a way that they think is professional.

(28) Don’t explain the specifics of the loan or when the loan will fund
Just explain the basic definitions of loan terms such as APR, or rate if your state allows that. Specific information particular to their loan is for their lender to discuss with them. You can get in trouble if you make any explanations or commentary about information specific about their loan. On the other hand, you should be an expert at looking up specific pieces of information. APR is on the TIL and perhaps the Settlement Statement, so tell them that and show them where it is. The interpretation of what the information on the Settlement Statement is up to them and their lender, not you!

(29) Don’t notarize for someone who you can not communicate directly with
Some states allow the use of interpreters. I say you should not as a best practice. The interpreter could be lousy, and misinterpret something that you said. You are leaving yourself open to communication gaps. If you speak a little Spanish and can get by, and the signer understands you and vice versa, that works. Don’t create opportunities for communication gaps. I have traveled to enough foreign countries to know that people in different cultures communicate differently, they say yes when they mean no, they lie, they misrepresent, they save face, and fail to explain things thoroughly (especially asians who do the quickie explanations that leave out 95% of the meaning). I am not knocking foreigners — I just don’t believe half of what they say — and I don’t believe half of what Americans say either since Americans are a bunch of liars too! Speak directly to your signers! Learn oath verbiage in Spanish, or whatever your rusty foreign language is. Learn how to ask if you understand the document.

(30) Have a registered business name
We have notaries on the site who change their business name on our site every month. Each month it is the name of the month. This is illegal. If you have a registered business name that is registered with your county, then that is your business name, and you should have a bank account that takes checks paid to that name.

(31) Don’t draft documents
Unless you are an attorney, or authorized to draft documents, don’t get involved. You can get into bad trouble.

(32) Don’t give legal advice
If you are not an attorney, do not give legal advice. Interpreting laws, or suggesting that a person take a particular legal action might be construed as legal advice.

(33) Consult an attorney before doing modifications
Although modifications could be legal in some states under some circumstances, they are often done in an illegal way, and YOU are not knowledgeable to know the difference, or to know what you can or can not do. Consult an attorney or stay away!


(34) If you don’t get paid on time, contact the Title company.
They might fire or discipline the signing company in that case.

(35) Charging travel fee in cash upon arrival
It is ILLEGAL for a notary to have beneficial interest in the signing. However, many clients including Title companies will simply not pay the notary if the documents or loan packages don’t get signed, notarized, and funded properly. Unfortuantely, that is illegal to put the notary in the position where they will only get paid if they notarize. It is actually a MISDEMEANOR in many states to ask the notary to do something illegal which could include having beneficial interest. If you don’t get your cash up front BEFORE you see the signers, documents or identification, you will be sorry. Get your cash, and THEN see the document. If it is incomplete, that is their problem. No identification, or the names don’t match? Their problem. Signer is in a coma and can not talk — their problem. Some situations will merit waiting time, and you will have no way to enforce your WAITING FEE if you don’t have your travel fee. You will not be in a bargaining situation as they will have the upper hand. If you have your $40 cash travel fee, you can say that you want waiting time when the clock strikes 20 minutes otherwise you are leaving. You have the power that way, and you DON’T have beneficial interest anymore (learn to define this term to be professional).

(36) Contracts with signing companies
Have your own contract that you make companies sign to get a better price with you. Make sure you indicate that if there is any ISSUE with the signing such as a last minute cancellation, no-sign, redraw, or anything unusual, that you get paid quickly. These are exactly the types of situations whre notaries typically get stiffed. So make them pay you faster in these situations so you don’t get stiffed. Even if you charge them a discounted fee. Make them pay within 10 days for these types of signings or charge them a penalty. No contract on your terms, then no discounts for you! Take the upper hand. You are a business person!

(37) Background check all companies who want to hire you
Check them on NR and the 123notary forum — OR ELSE… You will live to regret it if you don’t.

(38) Don’t put the Fedex in the drop box
Fedex is a great company, but they do hire human beings which is their downfall. Not recommended. If a driver changes routes, the new driver might goof (once in a long while) and that drop box in a remote area might not get picked up on time — or at all. Drop your Fedex at a staffed location. The deadlines are later, and it will be in the right hands 100%. Be safe.

(39) Printing on the road
This is a business best practice. If you can print on the road, you will be on time to more appointments, and can print last minute documents in a flash. You will be popular with lenders, plus gain people’s respect for being a prepared trooper. It is very expensive to have a comprehensive mobile office, so be ready to pay through the nose.

(40) Don’t go to houses that smell bad
You can end up in a hospital with a serious bacterial infection. If it is really filthy or smelly, tell them you will do the signing at Starbucks and that you have to leave at 5pm. Risking your lungs is not a best practice.


(41) Don’t talk about the wrong things at signings
Don’t talk about politics or religion. Stick to the weather and traffic, but not in the context of complaining!

(42) Call back etiquette
Announce who you are when you call back. Don’t demand to know who they are until you are politely introduced yourself and explained that you recieved a missed call from that number. Also, don’t call people back only to tell them that you can’t talk. That is plain stupid and is a worst practice.

(43) Announce who you are when you answer the phone
Do you say, “This is Linda”, when you answer the phone? Or do you say, “Hullo?”. Be professional.

(44) When you confirm the signing, make sure all signers are there
If you do a signing where the wife is not on the loan, she might be on a few of the documents such as the Deed of Trust, Right to Cancel, and one or two others depending on what state you are in and who the lender is. Make sure you know where the wife will be during the signing, otherwise it might be a short signing. Remember, that you don’t know what is on the documents until you get the e-documents which is within minutes of the signing. Plan ahead.

(45) Make sure your answering machine states your name!
Don’t make people guess if they dialed the number.

(46) Don’t ramble, make long pauses, or give opinions
Nobody wants to hear your life story, especially not me or my staff. Nobody wants long answers to quick questions. Nobody likes it when you ask them a question and you pause for 45 seconds to think. Don’t criticize others or give opinions either. Your job is to be a notary. Notaries don’t have opinions — or at least shouldn’t.

(47) Leave enough time between appointments
There is no point being late because you were delayed at your last appointment

(48) Determine how long your signing session will be.
Charge based on time. When you go to a massage therapist, you pay for a 60 minute session. If you go over 60 minutes, the next victem is waiting and they have to stop. Notary signings should be no different. Agree ahead of time how much time they want, and make them commit to that, or don’t work with them. If they want 90 minutes or 120 minutes, that is fine. Have them agree to that up front, and pay accordingly. Your job is not to be delayed endlessly. After all, your next appointment has the right to see your face showing up on time, right?

(49) Don’t have noise in the background when you talk on the phone
If someone calls you and there is noise. Apologize for the noise, and then walk to a quieter location. Don’t let the noise continue otherwise you are unprofessional in my book.

(50) Don’t park in the driveway.
Your job is not to notarize, don’t put the Fedex in the drop box, and don’t park in the driveway. These are my three golden rules for notaries. Notarize only if it is legal to do so. Bring Fedexes to staffed locations, and park on the street unless there is a good reason why you should call the borrowers and ask if you can park on their driveway.

(51) Know your hours of operation
Never say that you are flexible. Tell people when you are available. I am available from 11am to 2am seven days a week unless I am already engaged, on vacation, or dead. That is a quick and professional answer. Don’t say that it depends. Don’t say that you sign anytime. People who say anytime have such restrictive schedules that they won’t sign any time other than 9-6. Flexible means 9-5:30. These terms mean absolutely nothing. Act like a professional and give people hard numbers when they ask a question — and don’t keep them waiting.

(52) Use your notes section to describe your service thoroughly
Don’t use empty adjectives like thorough and professional. Describe what YOU are like at a signing which is unique to you, so people can get to know you through your notes rather than reading something that looks like you copied it from 3000 other boring notaries who use exactly the same adjectives in exactly the same order. Talk about how fast your laser printer is. Talk about your exact counties or cities that you cover. Give people real information, not some empty sounding sales literature that tells them nothing.


(53) Get certified by ALL listing agencies who you advertise with.
If you advertise with ten companies, do all of the certifications. You look like an idiot if you can’t even be a professional at your profession!

(54) Having reviews on your profile from esteemed Title Companies looks great.
It is not a crime to have reviews from “nobodies”, but it is a best practice to have the people who review you be as reputable as possible. Their reputation is your reputation when they write a review about you.

(55) E&O insurance looks professional
E&O insurance looks professional, but is it? It makes it attractive for a company to hire you. E&O doesn’t protect you that much though. You can still get sued if the lender makes a mistake and the borrowers sue all parties involved. This happened before. You will not be covered. It actually encourages lenders to make claims rather than reducing your liability! E&O makes you look good, so get some! But, is it a best practice? Being covered is better than being not covered, so I will call it a “better than nothing practice”. Or, I can call it something that looks like a best practice to the uninformed.

(56) Background screening
If your state doesn’t screen notaries as well as California does with the FBI, DOJ and KGB, then there might be some merit in a background screening.

(57) Advertise on all major directories
Have a well filled out profile, amazing notes, and reviews if possible.

(58) Call all local title companies
Call them up and announce yourself. Call them every month to remind them that you are good, and that you want to work.

(59) Get on the list of all nationwide signing companies.
Fill out the paperwork ahead of time. Make it a best practice to be on as many company’s lists as possible.

(60) Read notary blogs
The more you know, the more impressive and knowledgeable you will be. Know as much as possible to be the best that you can be. 123notary has an interesting Facebook,Linked in and Twitter profile as well. The more you read, the more you know!

(61) Don’t lie about your number of signings
Keep a count. Look them up in your journal. When someone asks you how many signings you have done, don’t ramble about how many years you have been in business. Nobody wants to hear that. Tell them how many you did. 1012 signings, plus there will be another one tonight! Don’t tell them you did two yesterday and three the day before. Nobody has patience to hear you count. Don’t think — KNOW!

(62) Guarantee your work
If you goof, go back and do it again for free.

(63) Send complete bills regularly.
You need to know exactly what information goes on the invoices you send out. Name of borrower, loan number, address, date of signing, name of lender, etc. Bill regularly and keep good records, including the CHECK # of incoming checks. Otherwise you won’t get paid.

(1) Is it legal to notarize a hand-written document? What if there are cross outs?
(2) Blanks in documents? Put a line through it buddy!
(3) It is illegal to use your seal on a blank piece of paper. Yet jails usually require this! (cross it out)
(4) Notary topics: Hand-written docs, Blanks in docs, seal over wording, loose certificates, overseas docs.
(5) Don’t go to houses that smell bad #mobilenotary
(6) Notary contracts, fees at the door, background screening signing co’s, call Title if not paid on time.

You might also like:

Notary Public 101 – a free notary course

The 30 Point Courses – a free loan signing course

Notary Marketing 102 – a free marketing course for Notaries


October 14, 2012

Did you know? Random interesting notary facts…

Filed under: (5) State specific — Tags: , , — admin @ 6:43 am

Did you know?
Did you know that Louisiana Notaries are required by law to carry Errors and Omissions insurance?
Virginia and Kentucky notaries can notarize outside of their state providing the documents are to be recorded in state.
Commissioners in West Virginia can notarize in or outside of the state for documents to be recorded in the state.
In Washington DC, you can become a government notary if you work for the federal government, no matter what state you live in. You could live in Alaska and be a DC Government Notary!
Notaries in North Carolina are not permitted to charge ANY travel fee.  Notaries in roughly eight other states have severe restrictions on travel fees that would make it impossible to legally make a living as a mobile notary!  See details in the forum if you look up the term “travel fee”.
Notaries in Maine, South Carolina and Florida can solemnize marriages? Did you know that?  I do!
North Dakota allows out of state notaries to apply for a notary commission in their state if they live in a county that borders on North Dakota!

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Interesting and uncommon notary acts

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