Notary 101: Boundaries and Strategy
Protecting the community and self.
As a notary you will fall upon many scenarios that are not ideal. People are meeting you at important and crucial stages in life that may involve life financial shifts, big planning, illness, or other big changes. Well-intentioned individuals may rush to you to save them from a situation “as soon as possible”.
- “My mother has dementia and she needs to sign a power of attorney so that I can handle her affairs”
- “We are trying to close on our home tomorrow, my wife’s ID only provides her maiden name, not her married name indicated on the docs”
- “My employer is overseas and we need to have a document notarized today for a large contract”
As much as we can empathize with the anxiety that these people are facing, we are putting the entire community at risk if we “just help them out”. The answers to these request are plainly and politely a “No”. If we respond any other way, the notary service rendered would be illegitimate. In the end, by saying “no” you are directing them to ultimately seek out the proper and appropriate legal channels to protect them, their transactions, and the community. As a notary you can set up boundaries and parameters in advance to help you in these situations.
Notary Boundaries and Strategies
We’ve all been there, someone needs something stamped in a hurry, and you realize the notary parameters are not being met. What do you do? Well, you do the right thing, and then you let them know it’s in their best interest to do things the correct way. Here are some scenarios and strategy possibilities to help you through! We can rephrase a ill-sounding “no” into a reasonable and justified “let’s try something better“. Please note, at SD Signings, the tone of these responses is a polite response with an alternative solution. Ultimately, most signers want to see their transaction process successfully without ending up in legal disputes or being victims to fraud later on. If someone is willfully trying to commit fraud, it should be addressed and reported. Most of the time, we find people simply don’t understand the reasons for notary methods.
Scenarios that may require a “NO” by law:
- Back-dating documents
- Signer is not of sound mind
- Identifications is past expiration or not available
- Signer is not present for notarial act
- A document isn’t complete, there are blanks
- There is a request to send a loose acknowledgement / jurat certificate
- Rushed appointments (increase risks/mistakes)
- Signer under medication, mind-altering substance
- Signer under duress or coercion (please report)
- Signing on behalf of someone else
1. Invalid Transaction – “We want to see you through the transaction correctly”
Usually the whole point for contacting a notary is to meet a need in another form of the transaction. Someone wants to buy a home, estate plan, or make a financial move. Nobody want to jeopardize the aim they’re trying to accomplish. Let your signers know that by not adhering to notary parameters their transaction could be invalidated. In turn, they may want be more mindful in seeking out the best paths of action.
2. Illegal Request – “We want to see that all things are handled legally”
Signers often are trying to meet an important need and just get a task done at all costs. You’ve let a signer know that you have to take certain steps as a notary and they are begging to notarize it anyway. Let them know it’s simply illegal. They many not have understood the significance of your role as notary, so shift your reasons to a hire power. By indicating that California says “It’s the law” to operate in a certain fashion, signers will usually want to cooperate correctly.
3. Unsafe Favor – “We want to protect you and the entire transaction”
Everyone wants to be safe, especially legally. Notary law has been put in place to protect everyone. People may ask to leave blanks in a document, provide an extra loose certificate, or not meet the notary rules to expedite the process. These requests are usually asked as favors of the notary. Ultimately, these can leave the signers entirely open to being victim to fraud, their documents to questioning, or possible legal disputes in the future. When everyone understands this, they’d prefer to go the safe route.
4. Rushed Meeting – “We’d be glad to meet with you at another time”
People are approaching the need for a notary services in big life moments. They feel rushed and they may even be trying to meet a deadline. The simple fact remains that if a notarial act isn’t being done right, then it’s credibility is invalidated. This may open up the signer and the notary to a new world of grief later on. Rushes also increase the chances for mistakes and bad processing. Signers may have not had the time to sleep on an important decision, in which case, how willing are they? The simple answer to all of this, is “let’s plan for a time we’re ready”.
Consequences are large. Communication is easy.
In the end if somethings was done wrong, the consequences may be huge. They could entail legal disputes, victims to fraud, harm to families, legal fines, and possibly jail time for the notary. Being a notary is a big deal, you act as a sentinel for fraud on behalf of the state for the public. You protect people that may be vulnerable to harm.
Communicate with appointment coordinators in advance. Let them know the terms of your services. They’ll be happy, you’ll be happy, and the society is happy.
Notary prerequisites to address over the phone/email in advance
The strategies above are great tools to help you make clear your services as a notary. Those are difficult things to have to deal with. From here on out, you can make sure these things are addressed before you get to an appointment.
All of the following answers should be a resounding “Yes”
- “Will all signers have an ID that matches their name on the documents exactly?” (More name on ID then doc is ok)
- “Do all the signers have not-expired government issued IDs?”
- “Are all of the signers of sound mind, and ready to willing sign on their own accord?”
- “Do you have the documents in your possession and are they completed in full?”
- “Do you understand my role as a notary?”
These questions can be rephrased. it also is helpful to be clear on appointment times and punctuality, pricing and payment terms, and other service options. The more informed your customer is, the better! People generally want to do the right thing, they may just not be familiar with the rules, and that’s where you can guide them through the notary standards or an attorney for legal advice, if need be,.