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April 3, 2018

Notary Public 101 Scenarios: Confirming the signing

Confirming a Notary Signing

As I continue to teach people and quiz Notaries on the subject of confirming the signing, I realize that the subject is more complicated than I previously realized. When confirming the signing with the borrower, there is a lot to go over. But, sometimes you don’t have the means to know what you should ask, especially when you have not received the package. Sometimes there are instruction pages with requests for checks or Quit Claim Deeds where non-borrowing in-laws need to sign. You might not know this until the last minute, but you could put it on your list of things to ask about during your initial call.

Since there are so many things to ask about during a confirmation call, it makes sense to keep a cheat sheet in your wallet with a list of things to ask about.

THE CHECK LIST

1. Identification
It is common for Notaries to confirm that the borrower(s) has/have a current government-issued identification card. That is not good enough. If the name does not match, you will have a very short or cumbersome Notarization. You can avoid a three hour trip that you don’t get paid for by making sure the ID proves that the name on the document is authentic.

2. Signers
Make sure all of the signers will be present. Not all signers are borrowers. It is common to have a non-borrowing spouse, or even in-laws who are on title. It is also common for people to sign off title if they don’t want to be part of a loan. There might be Grant Deeds or Quit Claim Deeds in such cases.

3. Paperwork going back to the Lender
There are often personal checks, cashier’s checks, tax or insurance forms or copies of ID’s going back to the Lender. Make sure that if there is anything going back, that it is in a folder on the signing table when you come so you don’t have to waste time finding it or forget.

4. Surface
To do a signing, you need a surface to do the signing on. Normally, homeowners sign on their dining room table. Many title companies are making sure that the table is clear before the Notary arrives to save time and grief. If you don’t make sure there is a surface, you might be signing on the floor or crouching to sign on a cluttered coffee table.

5. Duration
Many signers are not aware of how long a loan signing takes. It might take anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours depending on the length of the package, the degree of familiarity with the process and how much reading the borrower intends to do. The Notary should confirm how much reading the borrower wants to do, because the Notary needs to be on time for his/her next appointment. Find out in advance how much time the borrower wants, otherwise your schedule might get very off track.

6. Introduction
Many Notaries go over the fact that they are the Notary, what their name is, what their function is, and how they cannot answer legal questions, etc. Introducing yourself is great. But, if I am quizzing you with one minute to go over confirmation, and you waste the entire minute explaining the details of how you introduce yourself and forget to mention that you made sure all the signers would be there with ID’s that match the names on the document, you will fail.

7. The Numbers
If you want to go over numbers on the CD or HUD, you can think about that. These days, the Lenders normally do a good job of that on their own, but a last minute brush-up can reduce the chance of last minute surprises.

8. Where to Park & Directions
If you want to go over directions and where to park, that matters too. That is the last thing I want to hear if I quiz you, but in real life, where to park can be a serious consideration.

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Conclusion
The purpose in confirming a signing is to introduce yourself and go over all issues which would cause a glitch in the signing to make sure the glitch doesn’t happen before you get in your car and drive. Be prepared to confirm a second time after you have the documents printed out as you might learn more about what needs to be done after printing. Be prepared to cancel the signing if any information doesn’t check out as well. Be thorough, don’t leave any necessary information out, and you will have a more organized and stress free profession.

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September 18, 2012

Notary Stories From the Edge

Rarely, but sometimes, a notary signing agent will meet people who try to give him or her an unacceptable ID…or people who claim they really do not need an ID at all– because they do not want to sign! An ID must be government-issued; unacceptable forms of ID are fishing licenses, YMCA cards, or medical marijuana cards. Gun permits are government issued, and in some states are the most popular form of ID. You may have read elsewhere here about the mistress who actually had a fake ID made up so she could pass as the man’s wife and they could take all the money out of the home (!). Being sure people are who they say they are can be a real challenge, it seems.

The most unusual situation I’ve heard about is the time that, when asked for his ID, a borrower bragged–foolishly–to an Ohio notary signing agent that his identical twin had once gotten a driver’s license for him! He went to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, posed as his brother, and obtained the license. Our Ohio notary signing agent reports, “This twin I was doing a signing for thought this ‘joke’ was quite funny, and then proceeded to tell me another notary had laughed about it, too…and had presumably accepted his ID without question…but,” says our cautious Ohio notary, “I then made this borrower take an oath that the ID he presented to me was in fact his driver’s license obtained by him–ditto his passport! Otherwise, it would not only be an unacceptable ID; it would be mortgage fraud! I also notified the mortgage company, and they agreed I had done the correct thing by asking the man to take an oath. Of course, this all made a dandy entry in the ‘unusual circumstances’ section of notes in my notary journal, where I recorded the details and the fact I had him sign an oath. I also sent an original page entitled ‘closing notes’ and included it in the package with the documents. I get a lot of work referred to me from this company now because they were impressed by my way of thinking and handling this guy.”

“Sometimes,” says another an Ohio notary signing agent, “I have come across a non-borrowing spouse who does not want to sign. These are often angry people who do not want the spouse to get the loan. In the presence of an Ohio notary, the non-borrowing spouse is usually required to sign the deed of trust; the truth in lending agreement;the itemization of the total amount financed;a document correction statement; an agreement about fees due; and the right to cancel. There may also be affidavits…so it’s always best to check with the title company. In any case, there have been many arguments between spouses where one does not see why he/ she has to sign, or one spouse does not want the non-borrowing spouse to sign and seems ready to dissolve the marriage!

One wife ended up walking out on her husband because he found out how much money she had spent–and why she was refinancing. The moment of truth! One husband punched a hole in the wall when he found out how much his wife had spent. Scary! It is always necessary to write it down in notes in your notary journal–and call the loan officer or a legal adviser–when there are any issues that prevent the signing from happening.”

Another Ohio notary told us, “One time when I asked for copies of a signer’s ID, she got nasty. She was the non-borrowing spouse, and she hated her husband; I can’t print here the awful things she was saying about him. It made me feel really uncomfortable. She also made sure there was no room to sign at the table, and then she put a huge glass of Coke on the table–right next to the documents. I was expecting her to knock it over any minute. When I asked her to be careful, she went to the refrigerator and added even MORE Coke to the glass until it was filled to the very brim. She took a sip– then refused to sign at all and started cursing. Then, I called the loan officer. After he got her all calmed down, we signed everything– but I had to go back the next day because an attachment was missing! The minute I drove into the driveway, she started cursing at me that I was wasting her time: “Are you STUPID?” was her greeting. As an Ohio notary, what did I learn from all this? Always check out the people really well before you take a job. If they seem at all irritable or peculiar, figure out if you really need this particular job.”

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September 12, 2012

Tips for notaries

People are making too many mistakes
One experienced Washington, DC notary asserts that, throughout the country, “Some of the people just coming into the profession are not literate and make too many mistakes… I get a few calls a week from titlecompanies where the closing was not done correctly, and they ask me to re-do the work… If we want to be professionals, we have to keep ahead, follow the law, and continue to act in the best interests of all.”

Don’t backdate
“Besides being careful and meticulous,” he adds, “do not backdate documents or signatures, ever! No matter how many times you are asked to backdate documents– supposedly to benefit the borrowers– DO NOT do it. It is illegal. Knowingly putting a different date on a document is fraud and you could go to jail. I have heard of many young notaries who are willing to experiment with backdating. They say ‘What’s the big deal? I was asked to do this.’ As a Washington DC notary, I know I am a state official, and I take this seriously. There is even another notary site where someone claims ‘everyone does this’. NOT everyone does it, and in DC, I personally know several notaries who are now out of work because they got caught. And when your documents are rejected, you will also have legal hassles. Not worth it–if you want to last in this profession. And just as notaries talk–companies talk. Do not risk getting a reputation as an ‘easy’ and inexperienced notary.”

Understand the documents, but don’t advise.
Our Washington, DC notary continues, “READ through all the documents carefully, so you know what the borrowers are and are not being asked to do. The most called-upon notaries and notary signing agents are the ones who know exactly what a document is saying and can confirm that if a borrower asks. If you are a new notary signing agent, read through some sample papers to be able to understand the language and the fees the borrower is agreeing to. Of course, some notaries feel that giving a brief summary of a section could be construed as giving ‘legal advice,’ which is prohibited…so you need to reiterate that you are not giving ‘advice.’ Many borrowers have many questions, and really do not understand a document well enough to sign it; in that case, you must call the loan officer and have him or her speak to the borrower. You can summarize… but you can’t give advice. The better you do your job, the more you will be in demand. This means explaining clearly and in a reassuring way what something says–without giving ‘legal advice.’ ”

Title Producer License
For this reason–the fact that some notaries have given “legal advice”–some states, notably Indiana and Maryland, as well as DC–require a notary signing agent to have a title insurance producer’s license in order to handle loan signings. A North Carolina notary told us that, despite the recent ruling that notary signing agents may continue to do closings, “There is a ‘movement’ in the state to make NC an ‘attorney only’ state.” In Connecticut, attorneys generally handle real estate signings anyway. But Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts (except if the notary works for the lender), South Carolina, West Virginia, and Vermont require an attorney to be involved in the signing…and Texas requires that any HELOC loan be done in the office of a lender, attorney, or title company (but could be done by a notary!). Says our North Carolina notary, “South Dakota is not clear on this issue, and seems to say that an attorney usually handles a loan signing…but attorneys often send their notaries to do it! Honest! The point? This preference for having an attorney supervise a signing is becoming a trend, and you should check with your state and get any necessary certifications that will assist you.”

Taking the trouble to get a new certification
A few notaries have reported that they do not want to go to the trouble of getting a new license or certification of any sort…but it is one more tool to help you get the work you need. A title producer’s license (also called a title insurance producer’s license) just means that you will have taken 50-60 hours of special coursework and will have passed an exam and paid an extra fee. “This license may be one more certification you want to obtain if you want to stay ahead of the game,” our North Carolina notary asserts. “The more certifications you have, the more you will be ready to serve the public as a notary or notary signing agent.”

Have a business plan?
Finally, one of the best tips we’ve heard recently is to have a business plan. It is always surprising the number of people in the notary business who do not have a plan. A plan means knowing what the market is in your area, who your competitors are, how and where you will expand, how much to invest, and also what certifications and credentials you will have. This includes knowing your strengths–what people like about you– and good reviews from those you have done work for. Getting good reviews from people who value your work can give you–as well as others–a fresh idea of what your skills really are, how you look to others. And when others read the reviews of your work as a notary, they will choose you because they will feel your experience and way of doing things are most relevant to their needs.

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November 20, 2011

The Notary Signing Agent Loan Signing Process & Pitfalls

The Notary Signing Agent “Loan Closing” – Process, Preparation & Pitfalls

Perhaps it would be best to cover the events, from the desire for a mortgage, or re-finance, to funding; chronologically, as the timeline is the only common aspect. The borrower completes a Loan Application (more on the importance of this later), and numerous other documents. These are usually signed at the location of the Lending Institution (bank), in the presence of the Loan Officer (LO). Once approved by the bank, the processing becomes very interesting indeed.

The LO’s bank will lend money to the borrower based on the Mortgage as collateral for the loan. Banks do not like to take any risk whatsoever. What if the borrower does not have “clear title” to the property? To protect the bank, the bank requires the borrower to pay for “Title Insurance” issued by a “Title Co.”. So the next step is for the LO to contact a Title Co. to arrange for the insurance. Note that from this point forward the Title Co. “calls the shots”; as the Title Co. is the only party taking “risk”. If they do not issue the necessary insurance, there is no loan.

Eventually, after the loan has been approved, and the Title Insurance has been approved – usually about 2-3 weeks after the Loan Application; the stage is set for the actual processing of the paperwork. Various documents must be notarized, and it is the role of the Notary Public to check the ID’s of affiants on notarized documents; and there will be many! The mortgage is always notarized; and frequently two copies are processed; in case the messenger sent to record the mortgage at the local county clerk’s office loses it on the way. That actually does happen.

At this point the documents, typically from 80 to 125 pages are computer generated and ready for the Notary Signing Agent to bring to the borrower. But first a qualified NSA must be selected. As it is the Title Co. who is most interested in proper completion of the paperwork, they take on a leadership role to get the documents signed by the borrowers. But, not wanting to actually deal with, or have to select notaries, they often use a Signing Service (SS) to actually choose the notary.

At this point the Signing Agent gets a call asking if they are available to be at so and so location at such and such a time. If not, they call the next agent on their list. If it works for the agent’s schedule, they negotiate a fee. That fee is based on the requirements to process the Loan
Package. Variables include the number of pages, the distance to the borrower, time of day (extra for me to be there at 7AM on Sunday), etc. Also discussed are how and when the package is to be sent to the Signing Agent – overnight, usually via FedEx or E-mail. The latter
has usually has an additional fee. Once an agreement is reached, the Signing Service, on behalf of the Title Company sends a “work order” to the Signing Agent.

Now the ball is in the Notary Signing Agent’s court. Everyone who did anything prior to this point is depending on the NSA to get the borrower’s signatures and initials completely, and to do the requisite notarizations accurately. The NSA must also make sure any “non borrowing spouse” is present to sign docs as required by state law. There is much for the NSA to do. First the borrower must be called to confirm the “work order” as to contact information and address and to verify the scheduled time of meeting; and that all will bring proper ID to the table. Next, the NSA must receive and print two sets of the loan documents (borrower copy and bank copy). A good NSA will explain what will take place at the “signing” and remind the borrower to have their photo ID (and a copy to submit) ready for the meeting. A really good NSA will ask the borrower what name is on their ID, as the property “vesting” name sometimes differs from the name on the borrower’s ID. If so, the NSA contacts the Signing Service to get the documents corrected, or the borrower finds appropriate ID matching the documents.

Finally, usually with barely enough time to print and drive; the E-document is received and two sets printed. If there is adequate time after printing, some NSA’s like to pre-notarize the documents so they are able to devote their full attention to the signing process. Map in hand, GPS programmed, hoping the traffic is light; the NSA departs for the scheduled meeting with the borrower. A good NSA always uses a GPS to find the borrower’s location and does not get lost in the process. After dark jobs usually require a powerful flashlight to see house numbers in
residential neighborhoods.

The NSA shows their ID and requests the ID of the borrower(s). Then, the page by page completion of the documents begins. A single flaw, omission, or unreadable date (usually by the borrower) will often result in a complete re-draw of everything. The experienced NSA knows to “swap a page” from the borrower’s copy to allow a redo of a page with an error. The process usually takes about an hour, depending on the size of the Loan Package, how much the borrower wishes to read, and the amount of information to be entered. Often the borrower has questions and “attempts” to contact the LO. If, as is sometimes the case; the borrower receives the package directly, days prior to the Notaries arrival; they are expected to read it and ask their LO any questions. But, some borrowers want to ask questions of the Notary Signing Agent.

Title Co.’s and Signing Services tell the NSA to “explain the documents, but do not give legal advice”. It’s a really fine line between the two. Most NSA’s choose the side of caution and only define terms and assist the borrower to find documents with desired information (the interest
rate, the APR, the pre-payment penalty). At this time, the computer generated replacement for the original hand written Loan Application is signed. This is one of the most important documents. It is on this document that the borrower has made claims about their credit
worthiness, salary, etc. Any false statement on this document would allow the Lending Institution to demand the loan be paid in full immediately! Also, many of the numbers on this document will be wrong – because time has passed since it was originally signed – some debts
shown will be higher or lower.

Having been on several thousand signings the environmental aspects of the borrower’s premises are worthy of comment. They range from a well lit kitchen table in an air-conditioned room – to, and I am not making this up – a fruit fly infested room where the borrower pursues his
hobby of “naturally” raising Iguanas! There are many other pitfalls. In New York, the Notary is mandated to only use black ink; but Pinellas County, Florida will not record a mortgage unless all signatures are in blue ink! I have been asked several times (verbally, of course),
to “backdate” my notarization date, as the papers have expired (borrower out of town, rate lock expired, etc.). In New York that is called Forgery, a class D Felony – worthy of seven years in prison!

Finally the documents are signed and notarized, the borrower given the Notary Oath – and it’s off to FedEx to ship the documents to the Title Company. Well, not exactly. First somedocuments must be faxed, (lots of them if it will fund same day); and an airbill very carefully
prepared. Phone calls must be made to report success or failure “at the table”, and an invoice prepared. At last all is ready and the papers are handed off to FedEx.

Although the borrower thinks the “closing” has been completed – it actually has not even started. If I was a true “closing agent” – I would have a checkbook and be able to write the check on the spot. It used to be done that way many years ago. Now, the papers are received by the Title
Company and they review them for errors. If their included documents, often called “junk docs” (because they tend to be 4th generation Xerox copies), are completed and notarized correctly they approve issuance of the Title Insurance and pass the paperwork to the Lending Institution. At that time the papers are again reviewed, this time the review is for the papers that originated from the bank. The bank, with the knowledge of Title Insurance approval; will at last do the real “Closing” – which allows for issuance of the check that the borrower has been seeking.

Thus, the Notary Signing Agent is an integral part of the process. Important documents are notarized to assure the validity of the signatures. No system is perfect. A notary can be fooled with a good forgery. So can a State Trooper, with a phony Driver’s License. But, the bulk of the
impersonation potential is filtered at the source by the NSA’s diligence in pursuing valid ID and using their stamp and embosser on documents. Borrowers like to sign papers in the comfort of their own home/office – at their convenience. The licensed and professional notary, though a part of the system that caused the recent mortgage “melt down” disaster; was never a causative factor. If not for the diligence of professional notaries pursuing the NSA craft, things would have been much, much worse.

http://kenneth-a-edelstein.com

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May 1, 2011

The signing from hell

The Signing from hell….

I have been a notary signing agent for many years now and for the most part I have enjoyed it tremendously. I love the freedom and independence that it affords me and I enjoy meeting wonderful new people from all walks of life. As with most jobs there are good and bad days. This is the tale of one of those bad days. Probably the worst day as a signing agent ever-for me that is.

The story begins

Get ready for a hell of a story. Here we go.  I got a call late on a Friday afternoon from one of my title company schedulers (Fidelity National Title)  for a job on the following day, a Saturday. I gladly accepted. I received the confirmation and then proceeded to call the borrower to verify time and place. Saturday came and I made my way over to the borrower’s home. When I drove up to the borrowers home the first thing I noticed was the house was VERY run down, and I couldn’t help wondering to myself if the bank knew what they were doing in granting a loan for this property but who am I to judge.

Going up the stairs…

So I parked and then proceeded up the stairs to the house  and could see and feel that the whole house was crooked, like on slant. It was obvious It had once been a single family house that somebody who obviously didn’t have a contractors license had chopped it up and made some what I call make  shift apartments out of it. And you could actually see the termites crawling on various pieces of exposed wood.  But again it is not my place to judge. So I went to what looked like the only real front door (as there were several) and knocked. I heard what I thought was an animal with paws approaching the door.

The Signer and his long clicking toe nails!

But to my surprise  it was a young man. But not just an ordinary man but a  man with the longest toe nails I have every seen (that is what I heard coming to the door the clicking of his toe nails hitting the floor as he walked). He was also the filthiest person that I have seen as well who living in a house  and not on the streets. He was wearing dirty boxers and a dirty torn tee shirt.  Then to top it off there was a smell that I cannot to this day describe. While I stood motionless in disbelief and shock, I heard a sweet woman’s voice saying ‘is that her, is that the lady…tell her to come on up…please come on up’…and I cannot tell you why but I went into the door way and accened up a dark stairway and I heard what I assumed was the young man that opened the door who now was behind me start turning about 4-5 locks one by one and as they clicked and locked behind me and I became terrified..truthfully I thought I was going to see my maker that day but I kept on climbing the stairs and the further I ascended up the stairs the stench got worse.

The air was so thick… I could have cut it with a knife…

I could hardly breath. There was absolutely no ventilation. The air was so thick I could have cut it with a knife. And I thought to myself I must have lost my mind. To this day I still cant explain why I didnt just turn around when the front door first opened and just leave. When I reached the the top of the stairs it was very dark and as my eyes started to adjust there was more horror. Dishes and trash pilled everywhere  and there were two extremely dirty mattresses one on the floor which the young man who had let me in proceeded to ly down on and cover himself up with a dirty blanket and the other which was sitting up on a mattress frame  was the lady who I presumed had called out to m. She was sitting on the edge of the mattress with two swollen legs that resembled tree trunks with clearly to me looked like flesh eating disease. There was an abundance of open sores and I’ll just leave it at that. She then says to me that they had just painted the floor and I was to sit in that area…I said excuse me….and she then pointed to a 10 foot corner that had a coach that clearly had been freshly painted…I thought to myself I must be in the twlight zone or on one of those candid camera tv shows….

The signing begins..

I sat down and asked for the documents (they had been overnighted to the borrower; it was one of those WAMU deals, and I guess it it obvious now why they went out of business…lol) and the signers ID. She looked puzzled but asked the young man to get up and look for the requested items….he reluctantly got up and looked for a few minutes but to me it didnt seem that he was really looking or knew what he was looking  for. He was wandering around aimlessly and then told the lady that he could not find them. She accepted this and all I’ll say is that I was so grateful that the ID and and loan docs couldn’t  be found…I immediately got up let them know I had to go for I had another appointment and if the missing items came up  please call so we could re-schedule another appointment (yes, I lied) and then with the young man in front leading me out I proceedded to the stairway and headed down the steps.

No ID? No problem, let’s reschedule.. time to go!!!!

Thankfully he had the  unlocked those locks and he  was opening the door when I reached the foot of the steps. I thanked him and bolted through the door gasping for air as I went. I really didnt realize how much I was  shaken up until I reached my car. I fumbled for the key, opened the drivers door, sat behind the drivers seat and began trembling. I could still smell that dreadful smell. Dear god, I had brought it with me. Before I could compose myself, in a state is horror, I once again heard those clicks of those toe nails and looked up to see the young man at my passenger side car door excitingly letting me know that he had found the loan doc’sI could hear him saying “Oh Miss, Oh miss I got what you need” and me being the quick thinker I am, I asked him had he found the ID as well. He  looking disappointed said oh no…and walked back to his house.  All I could do was just sit there and try to regain my composure. Soon after however I felt sick to my stomach and I opened the door leaned my head down towards the street concrete and everything that had been in my stomach come up….After about 15 minutes I started the car up and went home.  I opened my front door and stripped down and left it all outside. Clothes, briefcase and all. I took a long hot shower and washed the clothes I had been wearing. After this I immediately sat down and sent Fidelity a very long recap of all of these events and told them NOT to send a request that I go back…ever. When Monday came I got a an apology via email from Fidelity and that was the end of it. I never heard one thing about it ever again. Shortly after however, I did  receive my full fee of 150.00. Of this I was thankful.

I was polite through the whole ordeal!

In closing, there is one thing I want to add. Although I was very uncomfortable with the whole situation. The borrower and who I presumed was her son, never new for one minute that I had issues with any of what I  described here. I was cheerful, kind and professional throughout all of it.

Until next time…

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