It's important to say "no" for greater good.
Protect the community, and yourself.
As a notary, you will receive many requests that are not ideal. Signers are in important and crucial stages of life that may involve financial shifts, significant plans, terminal illness, or other major changes. Well-intentioned and desperate individuals may want you to rush and save them “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, but my wife’s ID only provides her maiden name, not her married name indicated on the documents.”
- “My employer is overseas, and we need to have a document notarized today for a large contract.”
The answers to these requests are a straightforward and polite “No.” While we can empathize with the anxiety people are facing, helping them out without following proper legal channels would put the entire community at risk. By responding any other way, the notary service rendered would be illegitimate. Ultimately, by saying “no,” you are guiding them to seek the proper and appropriate legal channels to protect themselves, their transactions, and the community. As a notary, you can establish boundaries and parameters in advance to assist you in these situations.
Notary Boundaries and Strategies
We’ve all been in situations where someone needs something stamped urgently, and we realize that the notary parameters are not being met. What should you do? Well, you do the right thing, and then you inform them that it’s in their best interest to follow the correct procedures. Here are some scenarios and strategies to help you navigate these situations.
Instead of bluntly saying “no,” we can rephrase it as a reasonable and justified response, suggesting “let’s try a better approach.”
Please note that at SD Signings, the tone of these responses is polite, offering an alternative solution. Ultimately, most signers want their transaction to be processed successfully without facing legal disputes or becoming victims of fraud in the future. If someone is deliberately attempting to commit fraud, it should be addressed and reported. In most cases, we find that people simply lack an understanding of the reasons behind notary methods.
Scenarios that may require a “NO” by law:
- Backdating documents.
- Signer is not of sound mind.
- Identification is past expiration or not available.
- Signer is not present for the notarial act.
- The document isn’t complete; there are blanks.
- There is a request to send a loose acknowledgement/jurat certificate.
- Rushed appointments (increase risks/mistakes).
- Signer is under medication or mind-altering substance.
- Signer is 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 main purpose of contacting a notary is to fulfill a requirement in another aspect of the transaction. Someone wants to buy a home, plan their estate, or make a financial move. Nobody wants to jeopardize the goal they are trying to achieve. Inform your signers that by not adhering to notary parameters, their transaction could be invalidated. Consequently, they may become more cautious and seek out the best course of action.
3. Unsafe 'favor' – “We want to protect you and the entire transaction”
Everyone wants to be safe, especially from a legal perspective. Notary laws have been implemented to safeguard everyone. People may request to leave blanks in a document, provide an additional loose certificate, or bypass notary rules in order to expedite the process. However, ultimately, they can leave the signers vulnerable to fraud, raise doubts about the validity of their documents, and potentially lead to future legal disputes. Once everyone comprehends this, they would prefer to choose the safer route.
2. Illegal Request – “We want to see that all things are handled legally”
Signers often try to fulfill an important need and simply want to get a task done regardless of the cost. You have informed a signer that you must follow specific steps as a notary, yet they are begging you to notarize the document anyway. Clearly state that it is illegal. They may not have comprehended the significance of your role as a notary, so emphasize a higher authority. By mentioning that California law mandates a specific manner of operation, signers will typically be more willing to cooperate correctly.
4. Rushed Meeting – “We’d be glad to meet with you at another time”
People approach the need for notary services during significant moments in their lives. They often feel rushed and may even be trying to meet a deadline. However, the fundamental fact remains that if a notarial act isn’t performed correctly, its credibility is invalidated. This can expose both the signer and the notary to potential complications in the future. Rushed processes also heighten the chances of mistakes and improper handling. Signers may not have had sufficient time to contemplate an important decision, raising the question of their willingness. The straightforward solution to all of this is to plan for a time when we are fully prepared.
Notary prerequisites to address over the phone/email in advance
The strategies mentioned above are valuable tools to help you clarify your services as a notary. Dealing with these situations can be challenging. Moving forward, you can ensure that these matters are addressed prior to the appointment.
The following answers should be a definite “Yes”:
- “Will all signers have an ID that matches their name on the documents exactly?” (Having more names on the ID than the document is acceptable)
- “Do all the signers possess valid government-issued IDs?”
- “Are all the signers of sound mind and ready to sign willingly on their own accord?”
- “Do you have the documents in your possession, and are they fully completed?”
- “Do you understand my role as a notary?”
These questions can be rephrased. It is also helpful to provide clarity regarding appointment times and punctuality, pricing and payment terms, and other service options. The more informed your customers are, the better. People generally want to do the right thing; they may simply be unfamiliar with the rules, and that’s where you can guide them through notary standards or direct them to an attorney for legal advice if needed.
Consequences are large. Communication is easy.
In the end, if something is done wrong, the consequences can be significant. They may include legal disputes, victims of fraud, harm to families, legal fines, and potentially even jail time for the notary. Being a notary is a serious responsibility as you act as a guardian against fraud on behalf of the state and for the public. Your role is to protect individuals who may be vulnerable to harm.
Ensure effective communication with appointment coordinators beforehand. Inform them about the terms of your services. This will lead to mutual satisfaction for both parties and contribute to a happier society.