Notary Business Tips for Successful Notarizations

Being a notary can be a great side hustle, or even a full-time business. Especially if you are open to doing different types of notary jobs. Different notary jobs are not discussed here, but you will learn some enduring notary business tips for successful notarizations.

Notaries must always practice due diligence and pay careful attention to what they are doing. Preparing ahead of time and attention to detail are two key components for a successful notarization.

Here’s some tips to having flawless and smooth notarizations.

The Meeting

This tip may seem obvious but unfortunately this situation arises more than you would think.  Before any signature may be notarized, the signer must appear in person before the Notary Public.  How else will the notary properly identify the signer and verify that he or she is signing the document willingly and understand what he or she is doing?

Furthermore, all parties must appear in the state and county indicated on the notary’s certificate. So, no, a telephone or conference call will not work.  If you do not follow this rule you’re basically being untruthful since every notary certificate states that the signer was in the notary’s presence. Otherwise you may be prosecuted for issuing a false certificate.

So, do yourself a favor and always follow this rule.  Please do not let anyone talk you into notarizing the signature of a third party who is absent.  I don’t care who they are or how well you know them! They must be in person.

Two exceptions to this:

-A person appointed as an attorney for another individual (called a principal) may sign the principal’s name and have the signature notarized without the principal being present. Even so, it’s suggested that the notary ask to see the power of attorney document that designates as the principal’s attorney.  This is to verify that the document hasn’t expired and that the document authorizes the signer to act on behalf of the principal in such a transaction.

-Proof of execution by a subscribing witness is where the subscribing witness watches another person (the principal) sign a document or take the person’s acknowledgement of an already affixed signature. Most states law require the subscribing witness to be personally known to the notary or another individual who the notary personally knows.

Please note that there are is such a thing as a remote or online notary. In some states (22 states as of June 2019) online notarizing is allowed via live, two-way video and audio technology.  This type of electronic notarizing is considered a bad ideal by some. Also, to become an online notary your platform must meet the criteria set by your state.  There are more than a few challenges involved with notarizing remotely.  Only pursue this avenue after careful research.

As you can see this notary business can get tricky if you don’t stay current on notary education.  But once you get the hang of it and learn the trade so to speak, the opportunities are endless.

Signer Identification

Be sure you are carefully identifying your signers.  You want to exercise reasonable care by identifying every individual even if it’s not required for the notarial act you are doing.  Being thorough in this area will help to screen for fraud.  You can identify a signer by personal knowledge of the signer’s identity, the oath of a credible witness, or a reliable identification document (ID cards).  If you are relying on your personal knowledge of the signer’s identity be sure be sure it is solid.  For instance perhaps you’ve done several past notary interactions with the signer.  Or maybe they are someone you’ve known since childhood.

To rely on a credible witness to identify a signer the notary must personally know the witness, who must personally know the document signer. Make sure you consider the witness to be an honest individual who has no personal interest in the transaction described in the notarized document.

The last way to identify a signer (reliable identification) is self-explanatory.  Driver’s license or military ID are good identifiers.  This is because they contain the three components of a photograph, a physical description, and a signature.  On the other hand, a social security card and a birth certificate should not be used as identifying documents as they do not have all three components and can be easily imitated.

Comparing the name on the ID to the name in the document is a good habit to form.  Surnames and suffixes such as Jr. or Sr. should match as well.

Take note of the body language in the room.  Do the parties seem tense, upset, or seem to lack an understanding of why they are signing the documents?  All signers should to be willing to sign the documents.  If a signer is hesitant or asks numerous questions this may indicate that they are not a willing signer or do not have the mental capacity to take part in a signing.

Talking to the signers, engaging them in conversation, or simply asking the signer if they are signing the documents voluntarily are all good ways to determinate willingness and competence. If there are any doubts about the signer’s mental capacity, consult an expert.

Document Reviewing

Always review the documents at hand for any potential problems or mistakes.  Reviewing means scanning the documents and giving them a once over.  Notaries are not obligated to read each documents word for word.  Pay attention to the title of the documents, the date of execution, and the name of the signers.  Also check for missing or blank sections as well as missing pages.  Titles, dates, and names are all items you will want to record in your journal entry. Which brings me to another tip-the journal entry.

Journal Entries

Keeping an accurate and detailed journal entry for all your notarial acts is the best way to cover yourself should something go wrong, or your entry is challenged.  Many journal entries have a place for the signer’s thumbprint.  Use this section!  Filling out the journal entry before filling out the notary certificate and affixing the seal will serve you well and prevent a signer from escaping before information is recorded.  This will also avoid an issue if the notary realizes that the notarization cannot be completed.

Other vital information to include in your journal includes the type of notarial act, date and time, title of document, signature, name and address of each signer and witness, thumbprints, and other information.   Not every journal entry book has these sections for completing.  Make sure when you purchase your journal entry book that you pick one that offers sections for as much information as possible to be recorded.

Notary Completion

Complete the notarial act by completing the notary certificate wording.  The wording is part of the document that is either printed on the signature page or as an attachment stapled to it.  The wording should indicate exactly what is being certified.  In most cases, the certificate wording required for a notarial act will be preprinted at the end of a document.

If there is no certificate wording with the document, the notary will have to ask the signer to find out what kind of certificate is required.  This may be an acknowledgment, jurat or other.  You want to be sure you are using the appropriate certificate, ensure all insertions are correct, attach the certificate form/forms if applicable, and affix your official seal and/or signature on the notary certificate.

I hope these tips will help cut down or even eliminate penalties and/or lawsuits.   Always take the time to educate yourself on the correct way to notarize a document.  If you can, go with a trusted notary/mentor and watch how they handle their notarizations.  And when in doubt on how to handle a specific document, it’s better to reschedule an appointment after proper training, then to go ahead with it and risk doing the notarization incorrectly.

Are you interested in becoming a notary?  Perhaps you want to become a notary signing agent? If so, then you’ll need to understand the difference between the two and how the notary process works.  It’s a great course for those who want to learn how to become a notary but don’t know where to begin.

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