This was originally published many years ago.
A tale of four notaries and their adventures at hospitals.
Hospital notarizations are very tricky and there is a lot that can go wrong. We have several resource pages regarding hospital notarizations to steer notaries away from pitfalls. The characters in this story are NOT based on real characters, but each one of them has either a single attitude or attribute that is similar to a real person that I am acquainted with. This silly story will show how each notary fared and how their way of thinking worked in the long run. The various notaries include an Arkansas notary, an Illinois notary, a Florida notary, and a Pennsylvania notary public.
(1) Jeremy Blunt, a notary in Arkansas was called to do a hospital notarization in Little Rock on the following day. Jeremy, with his blunt, but thorough manner told them, “Make sure to tell the nurses not to drug the patient within eight hours of the signing.”. The caregiver, who was happy to have a thorough notary, overlooked Jeremy’s blunt manner and was very willing to coordinate a temporary lapse in morphine, so that the signer (an elderly relative) would be able to sign the papers. Jeremy called an hour before the signing to have the caregiver read the ID information to him, and had the caregiver verify that the signer had not been drugged recently, was awake and able to conversate, and wouldn’t be drugged until after the notarization, and that the nurses had been informed. The caregiver was standing next to the bedridden signer to MAKE SURE that no intravenus drugs were given.
Jeremy arrives at the signing with his notary bag, records the ID in his journal, gets a signature in his journal and the document(s), fills out the certificate form(s), stamps them, affixes his official Arkansas notary seal, staples the documents together, and is done. Jeremy gets his fee, thanks everyone in a very blunt way, and leaves. The signers say, “That Jeremy gets the job done — he’s a bit blunt, but polite, and he saved our rear ends big time!!! That OTHER notary let us down. Thank god for good notaries!”
(2) Linda Liberty, a notary in Illinois was called to do a hospital notarization in Chicago the following day. Since she had a strict policy of not butting into anyone’s medical business, not asking questions, and minding her own business, she omitted to ask the caregiver if the signer was on medication. After, all thats NONE OF MY BUSINESS! The next day, she gets to the hospital, the caregiver says, “Thank you for coming”. Linda politely says, “Its my pleasure to serve the public wholeheartedly”. Linda goes to the hospital room where the patient / signer is. The patient is high on morphine and in a stupor, barely able to keep his eyes open. Linda says, “Sorry, but according to Illinois notary laws, I am not authorized to notarize someone who is not capable of thinking or communicating coherently. I can not notarize this person in this condition, ID or no ID. The caregiver (the daughter of the signer) said, gee, thats too bad. Linda says, my travel fee is $60 for hospitals please. The daughter says, “BUT, YOU DIDN”T DO ANYTHING”. Linda Liberty says, “Excuse me, but I drove an hour and a half here in traffic, paid a toll for the bridge, sat here talking to you for twenty minutes, paid $15 for gas, and have an hour drive home. I did quite a bit and I want to get paid!!!” The daughter said, sorry, but we can not pay you. We are very sorry.
(3) Ralph Machiavelli, a notary in Florida (no relation to Niccolo… at least not by blood), got a call to do a signing of a power of attorney in a hospital in Tampa. The power of attorney would be for the signer’s son in law to take over all of his banking and real estate transactions. Ralph had lots of experience and thought ahead. This Florida notary public had had his fingers burned a few times and knew the techniques for keeping out of trouble and getting paid. Ralph told the client that he collects a $75 travel fee at the door BEFORE he sees the signer. He, then charges $10 per for stamp for an acknowledged signature which is the maximum allowed fee in Florida. The son in law of the signer agreed, and they set the appointment for the next day at 10am.
Ralph gets to the appointment. Collects his travel fee in CASH, and says, “Thank you very much”. Lets see the signer now. The two of them proceed to walk down the long corridor, around some bends, up an elevator, down another corridor, past a nurse station, to the left, to the right, and then into a room. They found the signer was drugged, sleeping, and in no condition to sign or even talk. The son in law tried to wake the signer up. The signer eventually woke up after twenty minutes of blinking and saying, “mmmmmmm?”. Ralph said, can you ask dad to sign this form? The son in law said, I’ll try. After twenty additional minutes of wasting time (a result of the medication), the son in law said, its no use, they drugged him this morning. Maybe I have my $75 back? Ralph says, “I’m sorry, but in addition to traveling, I spent forty minutes here waiting for your signer to sign something. This was a complete waste of time. Next time please make sure your dad is ready to sign at the appointed time. That means…. NO DRUGS”. Ralph returns home with his money. He pleasures himself with a nice baby back rib dinner, and then returns home.
(4) Sharisse Washington, Pennsylvania Notary Public at large, doesn’t stand for this type of nonsense or bluntness that happened in the above three stories. She has thirty years of experience, and carries a handheld database of how to handle each situation with all its variations and pitfalls. Sharisse minds her p’s and q’s, dots her i’s and crosses her t’s. She informs everybody in a polite way, and doesn’t put herself in a position that anything will go wrong either. This notary in Pennsylvania gets a call to go to a Philadelphia hospital to do a notarization the next day. She politely asks the client if they have an ID for the signer. She asks if they could read the ID to her, so that she can verify that they have the ID, and that its current. She asks if the patient EVER recieves medication or is likely to receive it during the day of the signing. She asks if its possible that they could provide a “WINDOW OF TIME”, where they could be sure that the signer wasn’t going to be drugged. She asks what the name and type of the document is. She asks if it is in their possession and if they can read the document to her (so, she can verify that they really have it). After she asks all of the questions on her database’s check list, the cordially thanks the client for answering her questions and assures them that she will be at the hospital lobby at 10am the following day.
This Pennsylvania Notary calls at 9am to verify that they have the identification handy and that the signer is not drugged. Sharisse shows up at the hospital at 9:55 just to be on the safe side. The client is there, thanks her for being early. They go up to the room. The signer is awake, sober, and conversational. The signer signs the document and journal. Its a bit if a struggle being old and being weak, but the signer does it… because she is sober and awake… and sober…not drugged. Sharisse does all of the remaining necessary paperwork, thanks everybody, collects her fee, and is off to her next appointment which she allowed a sufficient amount of time to get to.
Now that you have read how each of these four notaries handled a hospital job, its up to you to decide how you want to handle this type of job. Remember, that hospital and jail notary jobs and many more potential pitfalls and things that can go wrong than a regular office or home notary job. Do your homework, be polite and stay out of trouble, and that way, you will be able to make a living. Otherwise, it is you who will be sorry.
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Power of Attorney at a nursing home
Power of Attorney signing at a Nursing Home
This was a signing that was doomed from the beginning. I was a relatively new notary, and hadn’t been burned enough to have any sense. I was like the cat who hadn’t learned to be wary of crossing the road. On the other hand, during my childhood, we had a cat who regularly sat right on the yellow line in the middle of the road. Let’s just say that she had a good sense of timing. My timing unfortunately wasn’t so good this time, and neither was my judgement.
A call from a convalescent home
It was a call from a lady in her late fifties. She seemed like a very normal person. She was taking care of an elderly lady who had nobody. Of course, when I got the call, I didn’t have the sense to ask who was going to pay me or how they were going to pay me. This job was so bizarre, that even the most experienced notary has probably never seen anything like it. So, I went to the nursing home and went in the door. This place was horrible. People were screaming and moaning all the time. Plus the stench was horrible. The nurses didn’t want to open the windows because they didn’t want bacteria coming in. My news for them is that there would be more bacteria going out than in if they opened the window.
A walk down the hallway.
“Help me…. help me…. will you help me?”. An old bedridden lady wanted to be turned over. I am not skilled at pampering the elderly, and the nurses were ignoring these helpless victems. A crazy old man tried to make conversation with me walking down the hall. This hallway should be called the hall of desperation. I got to the correct room number finally. If only I had brought an oxygen tank so I wouldn’t have had to breath in there. The lady in her 50’s wanted me to have the elderly lady sign a power of attorney document. Neither one of them had a clue how these documents worked. They needed my help filling it out and I told them that I don’t offer legal advice. So, I had to wait while these crazy ladies took thirty minutes to do what they should have had prepared long before they called me. I neglected to ask them if their document was complete by the way.
The finished power of attorney
They kept asking me what to do. I kept saying, “you need to talk to an attorney”. I asked them why they had me come all the way down there when they were not ready to sign a completed document. I had to teach them what a grantor and grantee was. I told them that in this other place, they should write what the powers the grantor is assigning to the attorney in fact (grantee). That helped get them through this daunting task. Finally, the document was done. The old lady could hardly sit up, let alone write anything. She wrote some chicken scratch which was not even ledgable. I had to do a signature by X with two subscribing witnesses with her. Finally, we were done.
The attorney in fact got out a checkbook and proceeded to pay me. I said, that the check didn’t belong to her, but to the old lady. The lady in her 50’s said that she had been granted the power to do financial transactions for the older lady and would use the old lady’s check book to write me a check. I didn’t like this idea. I said that I wanted to be paid in cash please. Neither ladies had a dime on them. So, I took the check, and needless to say it bounced.
Insist on cash
If you do a jail or hospital signing, you will be dealing with very unreliable people a very high percentage of the time. Get your travel fee upon walking in the door before you even meet the signer. If for any reason you can not complete the signing, you at least have some cash in your pocket. Knowing how to do a signing by X is a valuable skill that experienced notary publics use if you work with the elderly.
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Dragging the person’s arm