If you are a Mobile Notary, you will undoubtedly get calls from people in hospitals, convalescent homes, and jails. The problem with jail signings used to be lock downs and the lack of an acceptable ID. I’m not sure if ID rules have changed or jail practices have changed in the mean time because I keep hearing rumors that there is some formal jail ID card now.
But, the problem with elder notary hospital signings are different. Here are my points and recommendations for notarizing the elderly and bed-ridden.
1. Read the ID over the phone
Not all elderly people have an ID, and not all have a current identification. Have someone read the identification information and expiration date to you over the phone. That way you will know that they:
(a) Have an ID
(b) Can find the ID
(c) That it reads a name that proves the name on the document (which should already have been drafted)
(d) That the identification for notary work has not expired.
2. Ask if the signer will be drugged within several hours of the notarization.
If the signer is not sober, you should decline to notarize, and let the family of the hospitalized person know that your travel fee is paid in cash at the door. If you feel for any reason that it is not prudent to notarize the signer, that you will walk out for reasons pertaining to legal liability. Here are some reasons to decline service.
(a) The signer is sleeping
(b) The signer communicates incoherently or in a tone you cannot clearly understand.
(c) The signer cannot orally summarize the document in a way that makes you feel sure they understand what they are signing.
(d) The signer has been drugged recently perhaps with morphine.
(e) The signer cannot sign their name. If you know how to do a signature by X procedure that might be a substitute, but check your state laws and procedures before doing a signature by Mark or X.
(f) The signer cannot sit up or move their arm to sign.
If there is a problem with a hospital notarization, it is better to find out before you get in your car. Have the family communicate with the signer, have the signer practice signing a blank piece of paper with the family before you commit to an appointment. There is a lot that can go wrong, so try to anticipate common problems and solve them before you drive over.
3. Legal liability
If you notarize for a person who is bed-ridden, the chances of the transaction ending up in court are at least twenty times as high as for loan signings, so you should charge a lot more for hospital notarizations due to the unseen costs of doing business, not to mention the waiting time and other inconveniences. If you are a sloppy Notary, I would suggest not doing hospital notarizations at all as they will come back to you and your sloppily kept or not kept journal will be the only thing that will save you or not save you in court. Here are some things that can go wrong at hospital notary jobs that can get you in trouble.
(a) The signer claims that they were tricked into signing something that gave their money away.
(b) The signer may be conscious when you are doing the signing, but afterwards might not remember signing something.
(c) Someone might investigate and question whether the signer really signed the document or really knew what they were doing.
(d) Someone might questions the identity of the person who actually signed. That is why I kept thumbprints. However thumbprints for the elderly often are like tires with no tread which makes them hard to differentiate.
You might also like:
When to ask for ID over the phone & fees at the door
A tale of 4 notaries at hospitals
Do you like your job? A story of being kept waiting forever at a hospital.
Hospital Notary job tips from A to Z