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July 1, 2016

Fly JurAtlantic Air

The waiting room at the gate was filled with Notaries. But, who would get called to board first?

JURATLANTIC: To get on the plane, you need to show your ID

NOTARY#1: Okay, here’s my ID. It’s current too. Like my signature?

JURATLANTIC: Next!!!!

Everyone boarded the plane, and now it was time for announcements.

JURATLANTIC: Please stow all embossers and Notary carry all bags in the overhead bins. Please stow all embossers in the overhead bins. Please watch the safety demonstration in front of you. Please put your seat in an upright position during take off. If there is a sudden drop in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will drop down from above you. Just breath normally into it.

MALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Let me show how to inflate your self-inflating notary seal. (Accidentally inflates inflatable woman) Whoops, wrong one!

FEMALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: There are emergency exits to the sides of the plane, and to the rear of the aircraft.
If your name doesn’t match between the documents and the I.D., please use the rear emergency exit…right now!

CAPTAIN: Welcome aboard JurAtlantic flight to Newark, New Jersey.
During takeoff, feel free to do a takeoff on Notary work, signing companies, or Notary airlines. After we reach a suitable altitude, we will be having refreshments.

ANNOUNCEMENT: The captain has turned off the no-notarizing sign. Please feel free to notarize throughout the cabin.

CAPTAIN: Lovely day for signatures. Look outside your windows, you’ll notice a huge crop circle shaped like a notary embosser. If you should experience turbulence while signing, be sure you don’t wind up getting pen marks on your leg. If you should experience turbulence between the husband and wife at a signing, simply attach your seatbelt and remain calm.

MALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I once notarized at 30,000 feet. I’m an official member of the mile high notarization club now!

FEMALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Now it is time for our mid-flight entertainment. Notarizing. For an additional $3.25, we can offer you a disposable Notary seal. To use your Notary seal, simply pick up the Notary seal like so. Take the document with your other hand, and press using moderate pressure — then release. Additionally, we will be serving refreshments now. We are serving Signa-Cola, the drink that makes you feel that you can sign anything. Just remove the protective seal from the container and enjoy. Also enjoy some Prepayment Peanuts too. For those who want to relax a bit, we have Piggy Back Cabernet. They had to get a double mortgage to keep the vinyard going, hence the name…

CAPTAIN: If you look to the right, you will see a very oddly shaped cloud. It looks almost identical to my doctor’s signature. No… wait.. I guess it changed its shape. Now it looks more like my signature! Talk about freaky! We will be landing soon. Please extinguish all notary materials. Please do not try to use your Notary seal during landing as we might experience turbulance and there might be some bumps during landing. Oh, look, a Notary seal from Chuck Smith slid into the cockpit. Hmm, must be from last landing. I guess the clean up crew didn’t get that. Am I still on the air? Ooops. Disregard!

FEMALE FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Thank you for flying JurAtlantic. We have landed now. We hope you have a pleasant trip to wherever your final destination is and remember — all of the notarizations you did on the plane are void because they were not within your state of commission. Have a nice day — bu-bye, bu-bye… bu-bye….

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A signing with a former airline captain
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Notary frequent flyer miles
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February 24, 2016

Notarizing John W. Smith

Recently, I have been calling many notaries over the phone and asking them Notary questions. The Notaries on 123notary typically are fairly strong about signing agent knowledge, but weak on basic Notary skills. Many Notaries are unaware that you cannot Notarize someone unless you personally know them (allowed in some states) or can prove their identity based on satisfactory evidence. The state laws do not always give case studies of tricky cases as the states don’t make it their business to make sure Notaries are understanding or obeying the law.

The example I give is:

You are asked to Notarize a person whose ID says John Smith. The document says John W Smith. Do you Notarize based on the name on the ID, the document, or cancel the signing.

The types of answers I get are.
(1) You always notarize based on the name on the document because that is the name on title.
Commentary: Unfortunately, the Lender won’t be able to sell the loan if the name notarized doesn’t match the name on the document. However, your commission can be revoked if you get caught notarizing signers based on names not documented in their identification. If the ID says John Smith, you cannot notarize a longer name variation in any state that we have heard of.

(2) Get a 2nd ID.
Yes, in real life, you would ask for another ID or perhaps try to get some credible witnesses if your state will allow for that. However, in our question , it is multiple choice, and asking for a passport is not one of the choices. This error falls more in the category of listening and following directions which is crticial in any profession.

(3) You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the document.
Commentary: WRONG. You got the right rule, but in reverse! You can notarize a name that is matching or shorter than the name on the ID — NOT the document. If the name on the document is longer than the name on the ID, then you have not identified the signer as the person named in the document.

On a more humorous note. I think it would be funny if one of the Notaries I called was named John Smith. On the other hand, we have a customer named Pocahontas. She’ll probably laugh when we talk about Notarizing John Smith. But, don’t worry, OUR Pocahontas is over 12 years old — or at least that’s what her ID says!

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

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March 27, 2015

Notary Etiquette from Atheist to Zombie

AKA: How to be polite when you’re in Affix!

Atheist etiquette
If you are notarizing an Atheist and he/she sneezes, don’t say God bless you.

Don’t sell people’s signatures
If you are notarizing a celebrity — Don’t rip out the portion of your journal with their autograph on it and sell it on ebay. That is considered to be bad manners in certain circles and is also a violation of notary law! Don’t sell your roommate’s notary seal on ebay either.

Don’t second guess family relations.
If you notarize who you think is the guy’s mother, but the woman is the guy’s wife, keep it to yourself. I once asked a guy, if I was going to notarize his mother, then he said, “That’s my wife.” — awkward… Oh, and don’t ask people if they are lesbian lovers even if you are asked to notarized an affidavit of domicile. Let them volunteer that information if they care to do so.

Guns & Religion
If you bring a gun to a signing, don’t talk about other loaded subjects like religion. On the other hand, if you go to a signing in a church, circumvent the issue of circumcision. If the phone rings during a Church signing, if it ain’t Jesus, don’t answer it.

If you are doing a signing for a hunter, should you bring up guns?
It’s worth a shot!

Tips for Notarizing Assassins
Avoid asking an assassin any direct questions such as, “What do you do?” Rather, ask more roundabout open ended questions, such as, “Have you done anything interesting recently with your career?” After all, if their deeds were done in some African country, they can speak freely in the United States about it with no fear of an awkward moment at a party.
If you make a mistake notarizing an assassin, don’t say, “SHOOT!”
If you are doing a signing for an assassin, make sure you include their middle name in the document.
I once asked an assassin, what is the difference between a murder and an assassination — where do you draw the line?

Loud televisions
Instead of bluntly asking someone to turn the TV down, you can say, “It’s very hard to hear you — did you say you liked your rate, or that you were having trouble staying awake?”
If you are mumbling under your breath, “What an idiot” in the context of asking someone to turn their TV down: make sure you say that with a safe margin of error before they actually turn the TV down.
If an elderly relative is watching a loud television. Politely let them know that you don’t want to let them know that you don’t want to become as deaf as they evidently are.

Notary Notes Sections
Rather than write the regular stuff in your notes section, you could write, “I will never insult the borrower, and I have a policy against parking in people’s lawns.”

Going to the bathroom in an outhouse
Notaries should never make a signer feel uncomfortable about having an outhouse. You should gracefully address the issue, but only if you actually are forced by natural causes to use that infrastructure. “I just loved the quarter moon in your outhouse, how quaint.”
“I just loved the latest issue of Outhouse & Gardens that I read while I was doing my business.”

Signings with beautiful women
If they ask you to do a Deed, it will be far more disappointing than doing “The Deed.”

Tips for Notarizing Zombies
It is considered bad manners for the notary to participate in the chanting, especially after they bring out the dead chicken, unless given express permission, otherwise it might cancel out the curse. Never tell a zombie that they look deathly ill — rather, tell them that they look deathly well. If you are having a zombie swear to the authenticity of a curse, it might be wiser to have the swear to a written version of the curse verbiage rather than to have them do a completely sworn Oath (otherwise you might become cursed or start hearing voices.) If asked to notarize a zombie’s death certificate, rather than claiming that it is against notary law to do so, ask them, “Which one?”

Popular Zombie Documents
It is common to have a formal Affidavit of transfer of Custodianship of Soul. This is where the zombie officially grants Power of Attorney to the “Bokor” or sorceror to have full control over their soul and body (or what’s left of it.) Please be advised that many zombies only have half a soul.

If a zombie commits perjury, it is punishable by life in prison. But, it is not stipulated which soul will inhabit the body during the sentence.

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Borrower etiquette from A to Z
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2995

Notary etiquette from A to Z
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=300

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March 8, 2015

Point (10) Signature Affidavit; Marcy Cancels the Signing

Our friend Marcy had screwed up a few signings by now. But, she wouldn’t give up. She was determined. She was unfortunately determined to go out there because her friends told her to have confidence and go out there. What she really needed to do is more studying before she screwed up anyone else’s loan. Maybe after this screw up she’ll hit the books before she accumulates some more bad karma.

ROCHESTER: Hi, you must be Marcy, the Notary.

MARCY: Sure, yes, just call me Marcy. Oh, that’s what you called me. Yes, I usually go by Marcy.

ROCHESTER: So, can I offer you a glass of orange juice before the signing?

MARCY: Yes, that would be wonderful. But, we’ll put it on a separate table or chair. I don’t want to tell you what happened at Starbucks a few days ago.

ROCHESTER: Oh, I love Starbucks. How could anything go wrong there?

MARCY: Oh boy. Let’s not talk about it. Let’s just make sure nothing goes wrong here.

ROCHESTER: Nothing can go wrong. I went over all the numbers with my Lender this morning. Just relax.

MARCY: Okay, no surprises then. Here are the documents. Let’s sign away.

ROCHESTER: Okay, hmmm. Uh-oh. My name.

MARCY: Your name? Your name is Rochester Smith.

ROCHESTER: That’s the whole thing. The docs have my name as Rochester T Smith. I never sign that way.

MARCY: No problem, I have the Lender’s phone number on speed dial, and your ID has your name as… uh-oh!!! (ring-ring) hmmm, he doesn’t seem to be picking up. Typical Lender. Always there to sell you a loan, but never there when you’re at the signing and something goes wrong. I think we need a 3-way appointment next time to make sure they are available. I’ll just leave a message.

ROCHESTER: Well, I can’t sign like this. I never sign with my middle initial.

MARCY: I can’t notarize you with the middle initial anyway since it is not on your ID.

ROCHESTER: Well, we’ll have to end the signing then. I’m so sorry Marcy.

MARCY: Oh, it’s okay.

Little did Marcy know that she could use the Signature Affidavit and AKA statement to write in all of Rochester’s name variations including the one without the middle initial. They could sign the docs as one of the variations such as printed on his ID, and the loan would go through unless the Lender objected. Lender’s often plan on selling the loan, so they don’t want too many (or any) discrepencies. Since Rochester wouldn’t be able to get another ID, the Lender wouldn’t have too much choice in the matter other than to forfeit the loan after his many hours of involvement. Once again, Marcy ruined another loan because she didn’t do her homework. Sounds like some of the notaries on 123notary who didn’t want to take additional certification courses and tests because they didn’t “need” to. Oh well. Perhaps it is really the Lender’s fault for choosing an untested Notary.

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Point (10) The Signature Affidavit and AKA Statement

Signature Affidavit
There are many variations to this one. Here are some other names: Name Affidavit, Signature Affidavit and AKA Statement, Signature Name Affidavit, etc. These documents are often sworn oaths; if so, make sure to have the borrower(s) raise their right hand and swear to the correctness of the document or whatever the document asks them to swear to. This document is the one where people have to, or are allowed to, list all of their names including previous names from a long time back.

Generally, the name that the borrower is using in all of the documents appears on the top of the page; they have to sign to the right of that. Then, if they have name variations, those will be listed below. The printed name variations are usually on the left while the borrowers should sign to the right. The spelling of the names on the forms are not always correct. The names are obtained from credit reports that, at times, have the names misspelled. Keep your eyes open. Be sure that the borrower signs the variations exactly as they are spelled. Watch them like a hawk. Borrowers always screw this document up. If the names are not their real names, explain to them that the information came from credit reports. The data entry clerks who work at the credit bureau don’t always have good spelling skills. However on this particular document, the borrower has to sign exactly the way the misspelled name is anyway.

Notarizing the Signature Affidavit
This document is almost always notarized. Be careful doing your acknowledgment wording. If the person has one or more name variations, then the wording should be as follows (this is the California wording, it may not apply in other states, and I’ll skip the beginning wording):

The person(s) [cross out the ‘s’] whose name(s) [don’t cross this ‘s’ out although it is a habit] is/are [cross out the ‘is’] subscribed to the within instrument and acknowledged to me that ——— by his/her/their signature(s) [keep the ‘s’] ——-

It is difficult to remember how to fill out the wording for a single person with multiple names. Please refer to the Signature Affidavit in the sample document section to see how the wording is done.

The most important fact about the Signature Affidavit: If a borrower insists on signing in a way that is different from the name printed on the documents, the loan will often (not always, but often) still go through if that name they are using during the signing shows up in the Signature Affidavit. As always, ask the Lender before you use any name variation that is different from what is printed on the signature area of the documents. But, if the Lender doesn’t answer their phone — and they often don’t, then you are forced to use the skills you learned by learning the ropes! Just be sure not to hang yourself with one.

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You might also like:

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

30 Point Course (11) Following Directions
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=14379

The Signature Affidavit
http://blog.123notary.com/?s=signature+affidavit

The Signature Name Affidavit: Not a substitute for an ID
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3823

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May 21, 2014

If you are a VIP Notary — read this!

Many notaries think it is fashionable to name their business something swanky like VIP Notary Service. But, in real life, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. Your clients might be the VIP’s, but you will not be treated like one. I have gone out on so many assignments for important people. It is a different ball game entirely. They have more to spend, but they cancel more and keep you waiting. You are just a servant to them.

In my experience, the most difficult notary clients are the cream of the crop and the people who meet you to notarize their boyfriend’s signature in a jail conference room. Regular middle-class folks are the easiest to deal with, but not necessarily the most profitable.

I did signings for Attorneys who were completely unprepared. Their secretary was the one who booked the appointment and the documents hadn’t even been drafted by the time I got there. The signer was 45 minutes late, and they had to talk for 30 more minutes before they were ready to see me. My advice is to get your waiting cash up front in cash so that you can leave if it gets too crazy. Attorneys might be rich, but they are the first ones to chump you out of your waiting fees.

Then there are the famous actors. If you go to their home, you deal with their personal assistant. Unfortunately, not someone named Giles with a distinguished British accent. You’ll get some American guy around 30 who couldn’t find a real job, but wants to work in Hollywood. You’ll wait in the garage or waiting or entrance hall for a long time while the assistant runs up and down the stairs to see if your actor client is ready. They value their convenience, but they don’t care about your convenience or your schedule one bit!

Then, there is notarizing on a set. You might wander around for half an hour looking for someone and asking around, and be kept another half hour until they are free. Important people always have dozens of people tugging on their shirt-tails.

So, if you want to do notarizations for the rich and famous, learn how to handle them. They are a different animal.

Tweets:
(1) If you run a VIP Notary Service, your clients might be important, but you will not be treated like a VIP
(2) The most difficult clients are the cream of the crop and girls who want you to notarize their jail-bird boyfriend’s signature.
(3) VIP’s value their convenience, but they don’t care about your convenience or your schedule one bit!

You might also like:

Notarizing Celebrities
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1081

While you wait
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=7125

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December 21, 2013

Speed Notarizing vs. Speed Dating

Filed under: Virtual Comedy Themes — Tags: , , — admin @ 6:39 am

Speed Dating vs. Speed Notarizing

There was a notary who was single and ready to mingle. He did everything quickly. So, he went to a speed dating event. He met 30 girls in 60 minutes.

When asked how he liked it, he said, “Too slow”. He was kidding. His method was to walk into a room, find the one person he wanted to talk to most, and go talk to them. If that didn’t work, he left and went to another party or gathering. He called it “speed-scanning”.

But, that notary had an interesting situation downtown that reminded him of his speed dating engagement. He was to do some notarizing for a room full of employees for a huge company who occupied an entire floor in a high rise. There would be 100 of them, and he was going to get paid $10 cash per person. Yay! Easy money for once in his life.

The notary arrived at 10am as appointed. The boss came in and said, “Bad news, we only have 70 of our employees in the office now. But, a few stragglers might come later.” The notary, being an organized guy suggested that they make a list of names and phone numbers. One list of people here now, and another of those who were not around. So, one of the assistant’s did exactly that. Our notary had the assistant call in 10 of the signers, and then do a “refill” of five at a time whenever the line dropped to five people. That way there would always be movement and he would never run out of work to do. So, our notary guy got his first 10 signers.

Notary guy made sure each signer had their identification ready, and that it wasn’t expired. He made sure they had a pen handy too. He started them on his left. He recorded the identification and the document name. Then he had them come to the right to sign the journal. Then, he filled out the form. It was like an assembly line with a stamp! But, the dialogue was different based on a force of habit that notary guy learned — well, you know where!

Notary: “You have beautiful eyes”
Signer: “Excuse me?”
Notary: “May I see your ID?”
Signer: “Sure, if I can see yours!”
Notary: “Okay… here’s mine. So, what do you do?”
Signer: “I’m in bookkeeping”
Notary: “Just don’t keep my book, I might need it tomorrow!”
Signer: “Oh, I wouldn’t think of it!”
Notary: “Please sign the journal”
Signer: “Okay!”
Notary: “Are you sure you are not a doctor? That looks like a doctor’s signature!”
Signer: “No, I just sign a lot, so my signature is really fast. You should see me at the supermarket on those digital signature pads — swoosh!!!”
Notary: “So, what do you do for fun?”
Signer: “Well, I like to…”
Notary: “Buzz…. sorry, your two minutes are over. NEXT!!!!”
Signer: “I don’t get it”
Notary: “Oh, sorry, I do a lot of speed dating. I guess I have done it so much, that I am still doing it even when I am not doing it. We can exchange phone numbers if you are still interested!”
Signer: “Well, I don’t usually…”
Next Signer: “Hey, there are other people in line”
Notary: “See why speed dating experience comes in handy? Learning to deal with time pressure comes in handy right about now!”
Signer: “Boy oh boy… you don’t kid around. If we do on a date, I hope it is more than two minutes!”
Notary: “Thanks for your phone number, and yes it will be. It will be at least 20 minutes — as a matter of policy”
Signer: “20 minutes — I have never heard of anything like this before.”
Notary: “It is a system… it works”
Signer: “How long is the 2nd date”
Next Signer: “Hey, do you mind? — here’s my ID”
Notary: “My personal rule for the 2nd date is that it is two hours. You ease into knowing the person. You don’t just spring it on yourselves”
Signer: “Wow, that is really interesting. From 2 minutes to 20 minutes to 2 hours. If you like each other, is the 3rd date 2 days?”
Notary: “It could be, but let’s take this step by step. Just bring a pen to the first date?”
Signer: “Why, are you going to ask me to sign your speed dating journal?”
Notary: “You’ll find out, but there is a very distinct chance that you might be right!”
Signer: “See you then.”

Our Notary guy made off with 10 phone numbers of beautiful women. He dated them all for exactly 20 minutes at the same Starbucks — one after the next. The phrase that kept being repeated loudly three times per hour on schedule at the frappachino line was,

“You’re dating him too?”

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Having Emmy’s for notaries!
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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.

You might also like:

Notarize copies of passports (Forum)
http://www.123notary.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=1904

Can a resident alien card be used for a notarization?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=8282

A California Notary Acknowledgment goes to Taiwan
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=6981

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October 18, 2013

The Notary, the Realtor, and the half bathroom

A notary is notarizing for a realtor. He asks where the bathroom is…and says it’s too small… the realtor says “That’s a half bathroom.” The notary says, “Well why don’t you save money by hiring half a notary to fit in the half bathroom?”

The Realtor replied that they called a notary service called, “Half Notary”, but they were busy. Then, there was “Half-hour Notary”, but they said they couldn’t be there for another six hours. Then they called a notary with a scientific background called, “Half-life Notary”, but they wanted to be paid in used plutonium (odd request). The Realtor told the notary that he was the best that they could do.

So, the notary squeezed in that tiny room, did his business, and then came out.

He said, “Maybe they should have a new Real Estate Term for that type of bathroom, it is more like an eighth bathroom if that exists.”
Realtor: “Never mind that the toilet seat was too narrow, because you are a half-assed notary.”
Notary: “I object to bathroom humor, but I’m partial to half bathroom humor!”
Realtor: “Fair enough, how much more of this signing do we have to complete?”
Notary: “Oh, we’re about half done!”
Realtor: “You know, with loans like this, they’re easy to get, but if the interest rates go up, you’ll never be able to pay them off.”
Notary: “Kind of like an eighth bathroom: you can gargle, but you can’t spit out.”
Realtor: “I think I need to use the bathroom now!”
Notary: “Oh really? Are you going to do a number 1/2 or a number one?”
Realtor: “I don’t know, I’m not good at fractions.”

(1) Why don’t you save money by hiring a 1/2 notary who fits in the 1/2 bathroom?
(2) Never mind that the toilet seat was too narrow cuz ur a half assed notary!
(3) Realtor “I need to use the half bathroom”; Notary: “Are you going to do a #half or a number 1?”

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The Real Estate Agent and the evil girl scouts
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=6620

The Alaska Real Estate Broker and the Notary
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=6623

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September 3, 2013

Notary For Minor — Notarizing Children

Have you ever been requested to do a notarization for a minor? Doing a notary for a minor is unusual, and notaries don’t always know what to do. A signature of a minor is not legally binding, but that doesn’t prevent you from notarizing their signatures. If you are notarizing a minor, take the same steps you would take notarizing anyone else. But, take one extra precaution in your paperwork — indicate the age of the signer in your journal, and perhaps on the document so there is a record after the fact! Remember, the purpose of a notary public is to keep accurate and complete paperwork on signatures / transactions so they can be queried after the fact. The exact rules for how you do your documentation vary from state to state, and country to country — but the basic purpose of a notary public worldwide is still identical.

The next problem you might encounter when notarizing a minor is that they don’t always have photo identification. If there is no ID, then without credible witnesses, you can not identify them properly for the notarization. Not all states allow the use of credible identifying witnesses, so learn your state rules on the matter. Identifying a minor is not always possible, so just do your best.

The most important thing to understand when doing a notarization for a minor is not to panic. Just follow procedure and make special notations in your journal about whatever is unusual about the signing — especially the fact that the signer is under 18 years of age!

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July 26, 2013

Notarizing an Ax Murderer in San Ysidro

“PSST: Can you notarize an affidavit of citizenship so I can get an ID and get back in the country?” the hand whispered. Well, the voice seemed to come from the hand, which was behind the fence. It was at the border–the border between Mexico and the United States, and the hand was waving at me and snapping its fingers through the rough poles. Somewhere near San Diego I will never forget. San Ysidro.

I happened to be there as a notary. I had been called by someone I knew from San Diego State University, and was enjoying a three-day vacation at the home of this friend, in exchange for notarizing a loan document for her family. They were happy to have my help, and I was happy to leave Los Angles for a few days. I had never seen the border, so I went to see it. I was shocked that here I was, and that someone could gesture and speak right through the fence– and beg me this way to do something that I felt might be wrong, illegal, and personally dangerous. If I thought living near downtown Los Angeles was scary, this area was 100 times more frightening. The land to the North of the fence seemed peaceful…like a room where everything is in its place…a place where everything good was possible, guarded by officers who made tried to protect us from harm. The side of the fence to the South seemed like another world–smog, cigarettes, noise, and many many people who were obviously poor or looked desperate. There was nothing that even pretended to be glamorous. It was as if the real world I believed in disappeared here, and behind that fence lay a counterfeit world that was a cheap, sordid copy of the worst aspects of the world I knew, all thrown together and somehow waiting to suck the life out of my world. The man behind the fence tried to look me in the eye and hold my glance. But I didn’t walk away.

He held a black satchel in his right hand. With his left, he pushed at the fence and motioned for me to come. A citizenship affidavit? Was that all he really wanted?

“Wait–please–” he pleaded, sounding less suspicious, more emotional. “I lost my passport. I need to get back into the U.S. to go help my family in Compton. My mom is real sick…” he began. “I need a notary…Can you help me find one?”

“Do you have the paperwork?” I asked suspiciously, annoyed. I didn’t mind notarizing some documents for my friend’s family, but who was this guy–and how was he going to pay me? How was I going to find proof that he was who he was? What information would he be able to provide–and was he really someone I ought to be dealing with anyway? There was a sickening feeling in my stomach. I suddenly realized it was hot. I wanted to throw up.

Instead of walking away, I said, “I am a notary. Do you have any ID?”

The man’s face changed. There was something in his eyes that made me sorry I had told him I was a notary. Something ugly. Something frightening. Like he was going to jump out and grab everything in his way. But there was no going back now. I was a notary.

“I have a California driver’s license. I lived in Palo Also. I am from Palo Alto, California” he said, as if he had memorized that. “My family is in Compton. I have money to pay you.” He reached in his pocket, took out a roll of bills, and pushed a one-hundred dollar bill through the fence. I just looked at it.

“Show me your ID,” I told him grimly. He almost immediately pushed a driver’s license through the fence–carefully holding on to one corner tightly, as if he believed I might try to steal it. His eyes looked evil. His ID seemed real. It did say Palo Alto. “You need a second ID, ” I told him. “What else do you have?”

“I have a resident alien card, but I do not have it here. I can get it and come back whenever you say. Later today.”

“Can you get front and back copies of the two IDs? Can you do this and come back in a few hours? I can get the document printed out and meet you at the border gate.”

“Ok. I will be waiting there by 1 pm. I will bring my IDs. My name is Malo.” Great, I thought. Just great.

I wanted to just disappear and not return, but I had given my word. I printed the affidavit of citizenship–the “citizen affidavit page” as it was called on the form–and came back with my friend’s brother. What had I expected to happen at the border? This was what the border was about– getting in, getting across. Then what?

“Malo” was waiting at the guard station. I filled out all of the paperwork, and the section that says, “Subscribed and sworn before me on this day…” I applied my stamp. Then I told Malo, “Look, you need to follow the instructions on the form. You need to email this or mail it as soon as possible. Follow the instructions on this page…” In the meantime, the guards let him in with his two forms of ID and the notarized citizenship affidavit… I took the $100 and handed him $50. The words “Blood Money” flashed in my mind. “Idiot” I heard my father say. I had the feeling this had been a bad, bad choice on my part.

A few weeks later, the newspapers and Internet exploded with pictures of this man, who apparently murdered a family with three children in Compton. He had used an ax. The pictures were horrible. Only three weeks after I had notarized the affidavit of citizenship. I didn’t sleep for about a week. I felt I had used my power as notary improperly, without good judgment–just because I had been asked to, because I was frightened…not because it was right.

How is anyone to know what someone will do after the documents are notarized?

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