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June 8, 2016

The right to refuse notarization

I just talked to a client who said that she needed to be notarized. The guy at the mail boxes place required a thumbprint for a California notarization that was not for a Deed or POA. The law doesn’t require a thumbprint unless it is for a Deed or Power of Attorney. So, the client of mine (also a Notary, but not “the” Notary in question here) refused, and was denied Notarization.

I checked the 2016 California State Notary Handbook to verify whether or not the Notary has the right to decline if they are not comfortable with the situation regarding a notarization. For example, if the signer seems suspicious, may the Notary refuse to notarize? If the signer refuses to be thumbprinted, and the Notary refuse?

The handbook doesn’t say if the notary may refuse under special circumstances, but states that it is illegal for a Notary to deny services. Hmmm.

If the document contains blanks, or if the Notary cannot communicate with the signer, those are grounds for refusal to notarize. If the signer cannot be positively identified, that is also grounds. If there is a financial or beneficial interest for the Notary to notarize a document, yet another legitimate reason not to notarize.

But, back in the days when I was a Notary, I remember reading that a Notary could refuse to notarize if they had a funny feeling about the notarization. Is that just an antiquated guideline, or was it something published by a source that was not reputable or official? Hmmm.

What does your state say about the Notary’s right to refuse notarization?


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April 20, 2016

Artificially inflated rates at a signing

My rate shouldn’t be this high!
I had a loan signing once for a lady where I looked at the documents and the interest rates printed seemed unusually high. Before I had her sign the papers, I asked her what the loan officer had told her, and she couldn’t remember what the interest rate was that she had been told. She rummaged around in her purse and found a slip of paper where she had written it down and it was definitely different from what was printed on the documents. I tried calling the lender and couldn’t reach them. I left a message but we never heard back from them so we cancelled the appointment and decided to reschedule. I took the docs with me as I left. Magically the next day, new documents showed up with the correct interest rates despite the fact that no phone call ever came through from the loan officer. We made an appointment and signed the next day. I was so glad for her that we had caught that mistake and got it corrected!

Falsely accused of murder
I had a jail signing where a woman was in jail and her fiancee was fighting on her behalf to get her out. Someone had gotten murdered and she was incarcerated, but she was actually innocent and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The fiancee needed a power of attorney, and he was so well dressed that the guards thought he was a lawyer and he came in with me to see her to get the signing done. When they saw each other, they spoke and he just held and pressed her hand. She was so depressed and upset and sad. The jail had over medicated and sedated her for her depression which made the whole situation ever more upsetting. I felt really bad for them.

The vindaloo signing
I had a funny signing with a Caucasian woman and an East Indian man in my town. When I got there, the husband was quite grumpy because the title company had messed up the settlement statement. When I told him that my former husband was an East Indian man though, he suddenly lit up and got very excited! We went into the kitchen and he gave me a bunch of seasoning packets and told me where to buy the best lamb rack, and we talked about cooking. We ended up rescheduling the signing with the corrected documents and we ended up talking more about cooking then too and he sent me home with more food! It was a fun meeting!

An impersonator at a signing
I had a refinance once where I’m glad I listened to my intuition! There was a situation where the wife was bilingual, and the husband spoke only Spanish. She was the primary on the loan, and when I looked at the ids, hers looked definitely like her. Her husband’s id didn’t really look like the man sitting in front of me. He had a bandanna on that partially hid his head, and the picture looked similar, but I couldn’t really say that the id was really the same man in front of me. I was skeptical but I took the photograph at face value as the wife assured me that this was really him. I started to proceed with the signing. At some point though, the man in front of me suddenly said, “ There’s a problem. This doesn’t match.” referring to the documents. At that point I realized that this wasn’t her husband since he clearly understood and spoke English. It was a friend. Not her husband. So I immediately stopped the signing, told them we were done, and walked out the door. I was so thankful that I was able to stop it, and that I had it recorded in my journal. I called the agency immediately and let them know what had happened.


January 20, 2016

A crazy Power of Attorney story

Filed under: General Stories — Tags: — admin @ 12:59 pm

A Notary wrote to me and told me this crazy story. I cannot find the original story, so I hope I didn’t ruin it.

A Notary wanted to get a Power of Attorney to designate his girlfriend to be the agent. This sounds normal. But, part of the “Powers” he was handing off was to allow the girlfriend to do Notarizations with his equipment. Good God! I thought I had heard of everything. That’s the story. It’s short and sweet not to mention completely insane. Hope you liked it!


December 22, 2015

A Newbie at a Title Company

Filed under: Ken Edelstein,Popular on Facebook (A little) — Tags: , — admin @ 12:00 pm

A Newbie at Title Co.
Most of our jobs are quite routine. Once in a while, thankfully not often; something crosses our path that is extraordinary. It could be very nice, or a mess; as you might have expected – I write about a mess. The docs are the docs, we are expected to make them work. However, there are limits to what, as notaries, we can process. Title has an agenda. It’s their objective to get the papers processed as quickly as possible. It has to be a mess of galactic proportions for them to either dump it, or redraw the docs. Notaries also have an agenda, and one item usually at the top of the list is to do the assignment legally. It’s not our job to enforce the law; merely to abide by it.

After accepting the “piggyback”, for a fair, but modest fee; I learn it’s to be via POA. OK, kinda, they take longer but that is our lot in life. I am told that some “special signing instructions” will be sent to me. I assume it’s their preferred POA phraseology. Some want “Mickey Mouse by Minnie Mouse, his attorney in fact”. Others reverse it: “Minnie Mouse as attorney in fact for Mickey Mouse”. I prefer the latter because the name to be sworn comes first. Both are not at all a factor in the notary section where *only* Minnie would be named. But, this assignment tried to, IMHO, not bend, but break the rules.

The instructions directed me to name the affiant and POA issuer, as sworn. Thus, before me appeared: “Minnie Mouse & Mickey Mouse via POA”. To me that was a new twist. It would appear that Minnie would be, based on the POA; taking my oath issued to Mickey! Just as we cannot delegate our notary status to someone else; oath taking cannot be via proxy. Sayeth title: “there are two signature lines on the notarized document, thus there needs to be two persons named in the notary section”. Admirable logic, a bit of arithmetic; 2=2; that’s hard to argue.

But, that would be an improper notarization. Only the person(s) who actually “appeared before me…” can be named. This set of docs had it both ways. Some had both names filled in the notary section; some had “via Power of Attorney”; and a few were for me to write in. When I called title, informing of the need for me to redact all entries other than “Minnie Mouse”; I received more bad news.

“Her legal first name is not “Minnie”, it’s “Min”. However she took title as Minnie, and an AKA form is not allowed – you just have to notarize her as Minnie””. Strike Two – this job was going downhill faster than the Cyclone at Coney Island. I call Ms. Mouse, to my surprise and delight her driver license had “Minnie”. She told me she used that name all her life; though Min was on her birth certificate. Words, Words; to me it’s what is on the driver license that counts.

During my chat with Ms. Mouse she also mentions that the papers need to be processed quickly. It seems that Mr. Mouse is deceased! Whoa, hold on partner – in every state when the agent knows of the principal’s demise – their authority ceases to exist. Title and Ms. Mouse want to proceed with a voided Power of Attorney! What is my position? My notarizations would make no mention to a Power of Attorney. In my Jurat “before me appeared Minnie Mouse” would be the only entry, and she does have valid ID in that name. I never did find out if title knew of the demise of Mr. Mouse.

I bail out. There had been too many heated exchanges with Title; my insistence on proper format soured them. She told me her legal name was Min, so some doubt. Worst of all would be to facilitate the use of a no longer valid Power of Attorney. Best to not be a party to the eventual litigation!


September 8, 2015

Good ID is not Enough

It’s a sad notary who is writing this installment. I write this in the evening after the culmination of a series of events. My tale will be familiar to many, especially those with years of experience. It started out as a routine request to notarize a Power of Attorney, then the Agent would sign two additional forms using their Powerof Attorney authority. The assignment was from a lost funds recovery agency. The three short documents were emailed to me; and my fee was coming as a check; mailed the same day.

Delays developed into two weeks, presumably, I did not verify; the check cleared long prior to the start of the assignment. As to the assignment: An elderly lady was in a convalescent home, she was to give her son Power of Attorney to dispose of some assets. Immediately my antenna went up. Hospital environments are challenging, seeing proper ID often a major problem. He also assured me that she was rational and able to understand the document she was to sign. The son related that she did not have “Govt issued Photo ID” but a collection of documents that should suffice. We discussed this issue at length. I have wide latitude in what constitutes proper ID in NY State. The rule here is that the notary is required to view “adequate proof”. That’s it. No further guidelines.

The son could produce several original (not photocopies) documents that only a family member would have access to. The sticking point was the aspect of photo ID. Finally, a breakthrough; the facility had in the patient folder an admission picture, and were willing to give me a copy (to be returned with other photocopies of original documents. It was not the best ID situation, but the lady had been in the home for over a decade, and the assets were recently discovered.

I know, I’m letting the son’s “story” influence my “is it good enough” decision. There were other positive aspects of her identification that I will not disclose. Suffice to say, I informed the son that strict adherence to gathering her ID was essential. Looking at the notary section of her Power of Attorney, I noticed that “produced a driver license as identification” was preprinted. I could not edit the file as the PDF was from a scan. I had the attorney send me an editable file and changed that line to mention by name each of the ID components that I planned to accept. A quick scan and I proceeded to send the scan to the attorney for approval. Approval granted.

The next hurdle was witnesses. I could be one of them. The son said he would “draft” a nurse to be the second witness. Been there, suffered that. Many is the facility that I have visited that do not allow staff to sign anything. The son insisted they would. I asked for the name and contact number of the specific staff member to be sure to arrive during their shift. Son was unable to obtain any commitment and a few days delay was incurred as he found a witness.

Finally, after two weeks, we set a date and time. I prepared two of each of the three documents in case there was a mistake. Upon entering her room my heart sank. It was obvious that she would be unable to understand what she was to sign. Additionally, she was physically unable to sign. The floor nurse was called, and confirmed my opinion. She could hear, but not respond to “blink three times if your son is standing in front of you”. The floor nurse called the Social Worker who asked “what’s going on in here”. A brief explanation later yielded “I will not permit her to sign anything”. Of course that was redundant; I would not notarize with or without her permission. The son lamented that the “Court Appointed Guardian” procedure was too time-consuming and expensive. This was my cue to leave, feeling sad for her affliction. But, the law is inflexible, applies to all; and as NY notaries are sworn officers of the State Department – I could only walk away.


June 9, 2015

POA – Proceed on Alert

POA – Proceed On Alert
The Power of Attorney is perhaps the “most powerful” of all notarized documents. Some might argue the most powerful is the Will. I disagree. Wills are probated by a Court, an extended legal procedure with notifications, attorneys, and a Judge involved. On the other hand, someone with “just” a POA can gain access to a safe deposit box, sell a house; and do virtually any other function “for” the Principal who granted Agent power to them. POAs can be limited in authority when the Principal initials selected powers, or they can be, as is more common, unlimited.

There are many addicting drugs, perhaps one of the most addictive is Cocaine, a dangerous drug indeed. I think of the POA as the Cocaine of legal documents. With a properly notarized POA that is unrestricted the Agent can access funds, close accounts, sell property, enter into contracts and sign virtually any document on behalf of the Principal. It is the potential for misuse, and the subsequent litigation that has caused many bank notaries to decline processing all POAs. The bank fears its “deep pockets” will become involved in protracted court cases.

There is a slim ray of sunshine in the Power of Attorney gloom. Persons wanting notarization of POAs often have a legitimate personal gain to follow. They are eager to pay mobile notaries, having been rejected at the bank, pharmacy, etc. So the good news is they are willing to pay, but the bad news is that POAs have a somewhat greater risk to the Notary. It’s a good idea to “double down” on the ID requirements, requiring two “rock solid” IDs prior to notarization. POAs being processed at a hospital, by a patient are especially dangerous. The hospital cannot tell you what drugs the patient is taking. How are you to know if they understand what they are signing? End of Life patients often receive Morphine and other powerful medications.

There is also the general misunderstanding about how POAs are used to consider. Generally, they are surrendered upon use. The bank granting access to a safe deposit box will probably retain the Power of Attorney to protect them against potential litigation. It’s a good idea to inquire if the POA is needed for a “one shot”, such as having an attorney sign at a closing. At the other extreme, someone who will be handling the affairs for an elderly relative might need a dozen or more POAs; for banks, brokerage accounts, even to arrange “call forwarding” of cell numbers. Take the time to determine your client’s real need, and how many they will require.

Plan on spending more time at a POA signing compared to other documents. Often the Principal will “rethink” the transaction. It’s a major “letting go” of individuality; as the documents does permit someone else to sign your name. I have attended POA signings at law firms where the Principal reviewed and expressed the desire to make major changes in the POA; even though the issues and powers have been discussed with the attorney at length prior to my arrival.

Though the POA grants the right to sign the name of someone else, it is not without some limits. If I were to give my Agent an unrestricted POA, they could not use my signature to notarize a document; as that authority cannot be granted to another person. Some notaries have taken the position that the risks are too great and refuse to process POAs. In New York State, where the code requires the notary to “notarize upon demand” if the notarization is legal; it’s a crime to decline. The environment is growing more complex. There are no easy answers.


January 29, 2015

Notary by Northwest — a Notorial thriller

Filed under: Movie Themes,Posts With Many Comments — Tags: , , — admin @ 9:21 am

Notary by Northwest — a Notorial thriller

Hitchcock created North by Northwest. But, what about Notary by Northwest? The thriller about a signer who mysteriously died right before his signing with the Notary Public. What exactly happened?

Mr. Applebaum was supposed to sign his Power of Attorney in the presence of a Notary Public on that fateful June 6th. The night before, Mr. Applebaum mysteriously died without any apparant cause. He lied there slumped over in his favorite couch watching television.

The document he was going to sign would grant Power of Attorney to his greedy son Isaac who wanted control of the family business. His other son Mike didn’t want Isaac to get that control, because he wanted control himself. Upon investigation, it was found that Mike was at a live shooting of the Leno show at the time of the death. So, who could the suspect be?

The investigation migrated from Mike to Isaac. But, why would Isaac want to kill his own father, especially when power was being signed over to him? Maybe he wanted more power more quickly and couldn’t wait. But, Isaac was found to have been at home with his wife on the night of the death. Neighbors were investigated, business associates, but everyone came up clean. Who was the murderer, or was there one?

Upon further investigation, it was learned that Mr. Applebaum was watching television on the night of his death. He watched a rerun of the Grammy’s and then some content about entertainment and the stars.

The time of his death was approximately 10:15pm that evening. The investigators went through the DVD records and found that at exactly 10:15 he would have been watching an interview about Kanye West and his new family.

After a very long dialogue between all of the investigators and the family, it was deduced that Mr. Applebaum was not murdered. In fact, quite to the contrary. He apparantly died of laughter when he found out that Kanye and Kim named their kid NorthWest!


January 4, 2015

The Interview

Filed under: Movie Themes — Tags: , — admin @ 11:27 pm

Honestly, Sony should be more careful. If you make a movie about murdering an important person, that is not only offensive, but also dangerous. You don’t know what type of friends that important person has or what they will do. Well, actually, now we know what they can do. Personally, I feel that the internet is like the Wild Wild West. Anyone can get away with anything. Email spam within the US has been controlled to a point since entire servers can be shut down by higher management if there are spam infractions. But, hacking attempts are not policed by anyone. You have to protect yourself with heightened security measures. I feel that it is time that the US government wake up and start a very intelligent Cyber Crimes division. Actually, the FBI already has this, but they are not well staffed, and almost completely ineffective in my experience. Putting cyber security aside, here is my parody of The Interview.

AGENT: Cooper, I’ve brought you to this room for a reason and a good reason. Please take a seat.

COOPER: Is this about the Power of Attorney signing I have on Wednesday with that guy who keeps twitching?

AGENT: No, but you’re on the right track. It is about the signing on Thursday. I need you to do some extra preparation for that signing. I need you to verify the identification and capacity of the agent who will be granted Power of Attorney over Mr. Wilson. I don’t trust that agent one bit. I think he will rip off the entire Vandmire family, and Mr. Vandmire’s descendants will lose their inheritance forever if that crook gets named as agent.

COOPER: Can’t we talk the old man out of signing that Power of Attorney?

AGENT: Mr. Vandmire is not in his right mind, plus he owes a favor to the prospective agent who has been his business partner for years. But, based on my intelligence reports, that agent will embezzle the family’s entire holdings if not stopped. There is no way to stop him. So, I need you to arrange a separate meeting with Mr. Gostiple and verify his identity and capacities on Tuesday.

COOPER: That’s no trouble.

AGENT: And one more thing… I want you to take him out.

COOPER: You mean, take him out to dinner?

AGENT: No, I want you to — take… him out.

COOPER: You mean kill him?


NOTARY #2: Whaaaaaaaaaat????

AGENT: I represent the interests of the entire Vandmire family. They will never recover if this crazy crook gains control. There is no other way. I need you to take… him out… When you check his ID, I want you to smear this toxic substance on it. He will be forced to touch this with his fingers as he puts it back into his wallet. That should be enough to take him out. If a forensic investigation follows, the chemical will not be traceable back to you since you will not have any in your car or residence. However, it is traceable back to the facility where the prospective agent works which will be the perfect alibi.

COOPER: I’m sorry, but I’m just a notary, not an assassin. Besides on Tuesday all of the TEA agents are getting together to have a TEA party. We are having high tea like the British at 4pm. Then at 5pm we are throwing tea into the Boston Harbor. Then, we’re all going out to eat. I didn’t sign up for this. I’m just a notary.

NOTARY #2: We’re all going to be there. Wanna come?

AGENT: Fair enough. Then train me, and I’ll do it myself! And NO, I do not want to come to your dumb TEA party!


December 2, 2014

Notarized Health Care Power of Attorney

Filed under: Power of Attorney — Tags: , — admin @ 3:58 am

A health care Power of Attorney is a bit similar to a Living Will. This type of document deals with situations that might arise should the grantor be incapacitated. The agent in such a situation is typically a family member, or someone you would trust with your life!

Getting a Notarized Health Care Power of Attorney is slightly longer than regular Power of Attorney documents simply because these types of documents can be dozens of pages long, and sometimes have signatures in the middle of the document. To make the notarizations easier, it is good to have notary wording for each of the notarizations, so there is no ambiguity regarding which signatures the notary actually notarized, and which signatures were merely there.

Please do not call a notary until your document has been thoroughly prepared. Make sure the signer is in good mental health and not intoxicated due to the effects of medical drugs at the time of the notarization. Please make sure the signer has current government issued photo identification for the notary signing as well. You can find 7000 great notaries on 123notary.com!


September 24, 2014

A death at a signing

Filed under: General Stories — Tags: — admin @ 7:38 am

One time I had to go to a multi-family home to do a power of attorney and closing. While I was at the bedside of a patient, someone in the next room died! So there was a lot of commotion and hysteria as you could imagine! That was the first death I ever had happen during one of my signings! Thank god they didn’t ask me to notarize a dead person. I’ve heard that a few notaries got that request before. I wonder what would happen if the Attorney in Fact died right after a Power of Attorney signing — then what?

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