Notarizing Last Wills and Testaments

APRIL 3, 2014 by American Association of Notaries

Wills are highly sensitive probate documents that determine how a person’s assets will be distributed after his or her death. The person making the will is called a “testator” if male and a “testatrix” if female. 

Some states advise novice notaries against notarizing wills unless those notaries are knowledgeable about the practice. Many notaries who encounter wills do so within the capacity of their occupation, for instance as a legal assistant or an employee of a law firm that handles wills and other estate-planning documents. Such wills are drafted by attorneys with specific instructions and pre-printed notarial certificates for the notary to complete.  

Problems can arise when a client presents a notary with a self-prepared will and the client depends on the notary to determine the appropriate notarial certificate. In such cases, a savvy notary should decline to perform the notarial act and advise the person to contact an attorney for advice. You might also suggest that investing in a good attorney will prevent problems down the road with contested wills or wills thrown out in probate court due to sloppy execution procedures. 

Laws regarding the proper execution of wills vary greatly from state to state. In states such as New York and North Carolina, a will does not have to be notarized to be accepted for probate in the courts. However, attorneys in those states recommend drafting “self-proving wills” to speed up the probate. A “self-proving will” is one in which the testator and the disinterested witnesses swear, in an affidavit in front of  a notary, that the testator is fully aware of what is being signed and that the disinterested witnesses witnessed the testator sign the will. In these states, the court will accept “self-proving wills” without contacting the witnesses who witnessed the testator sign the will.  In the absence of a self-proving will, it will be necessary to track down the original witnesses to “prove” he or she witnessed the signing of the will, which can be difficult and time consuming for the heirs.  

In California, a will only needs the signatures of two disinterested witnesses who witness the testator sign the will and does not need to be notarized in order to be valid. In some states, such as Texas, a holographic will (written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting) is considered valid. It would be prudent, therefore, for the notary in those states to make it a practice to refuse to notarize hand-written wills and to refer clients with those requests to an attorney. 

In conclusion, notaries should exercise caution when notarizing wills. Because of a lack of understanding and diligence, an improperly drafted will that is notarized can be declared null. If you are not comfortable with notarizing a will, you should not proceed. If you have questions, politely ask the client for the name, address, and phone number of the lawyer who drafted the will.  

One last note: always follow the steps for proper notarization when performing notarial acts by requesting the physical presence of the signer, properly identifying the signer, and ensuring that the signer is competent and fully understands what is being signed. .

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. Information in this article is not intended as legal advice.  We are not attorneys.  We do not pretend to be attorneys.  Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources.  We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources.  It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state.  Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize a Last Will and Testament. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

Notarizing for Blind and Illiterate Individuals

DECEMBER 2, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

Most notarizations a notary will perform involve signers who are competent, understand the content in the document, and have the ability to sign freely and willingly. In rare situations you may receive a request to perform a notarization from a client who is blind or illiterate. How will you proceed? Will you refuse to perform the notarization simply because the signer is unable to read? Is it enough to ask those signers for proper identification and acknowledge they understand the contents of the document and proceed with the notarial act? What protections will you offer vulnerable signers to ensure a smooth and honest transaction?

When notarizing for the blind or illiterate, the steps to proper notarization should always be followed as in any normal notarization. However, due to the heightened potential for fraud, a notary must maintain caution in ensuring they are notarizing the document the signer is intended to sign and that the signer fully understands what is being signed. When presented with such a situation, follow the steps below:

  1. Ask the signer if they are aware of what they are signing and the purpose of the document.
  2. Read the entire document to the signer. This may take some time, but this is important in ensuring the signer is signing the document they are intending to sign. However, to avoid unauthorized practice of law, non-attorney notaries should avoid explaining anything in the document if asked by the signer.
  3. If the signer is unable to understand all or any of the document’s contents you are reading, then you should refuse to notarize. Detail the refusal in your record book.
  4. If family members are coercing the person into signing, ask family members to step out of the room until you complete the notarial act. Refuse to proceed if they refuse to step out.
  5. After the above steps are completed, proceed with performing the steps to a proper notarization, such as identifying the signer, and reading the notarial certificate to identify the type of notarial act you will be performing.
  6. Direct the signer’s hand to the signature block to sign. If the person is unable to sign, a signature by Mark “X” will suffice. Ensure you follow your state notary law requirements regarding Signatures by Mark.
  7. Do not allow the signer to use a signature stamp to sign the document. This may invalidate the notarization in states that do not allow signature stamps. Most states require the notary to witness the signer signing the document. (Note: Oregon allows the use of a signature stamp by the disabled or the illiterate). Check your state laws to determine if this is permitted.
  8. Follow the same steps above to have the signer sign your notary record book.

As a notary, you are required to exercise a high degree of reasonable care and due diligence when performing your notarial duties. Reasonable care is defined as the standard of care which an ordinary, reasonable and prudent notary public would exercise to ensure a flawless notarization under the same or similar circumstances.

 

The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

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Notaries, Plan Ahead for Tax Season

NOVEMBER 17, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

The end of the year will be upon us before we know it. Black Friday promotions, holiday decorations and cold weather serve to remind us that the end of the year is fast approaching. Along with making preparations for holiday and family gatherings, notaries may want to begin  planning ahead for the upcoming tax filing season by making sure that detailed records of any invoices, bank statements, receipts, and 1099s will be in place for a timely and smooth filing.

The type of notarial services you provide, whether an occasional notarization for a friend or neighbor, an active vibrant notary signing business or workplace notarial tasks will determine how much additional planning you must do to be ready at tax time. If  you perform notarizations infrequently, chances are that you may not have any major considerations at tax time. On the other hand, if you have a very active notary business, tax time can cause chaos. There are things you can do to make your life, and that of your accountant or tax preparer, much easier when tax filing season begins.

Organizing Your Notary Expenses Records

Review your notary expenditures and purchases for this year. Did you purchase new notary stamps? Did you renew your notary commission and pay the renewal fee? Did you purchase notary errors and omissions insurance? Were you required to replace a notary record book or notary  journal? These are common expenses for notaries.

However, if you provide mobile notary services, you will also need to have a log of all notary service mileage and transportation expenses, whether they are gasoline, tolls, or car rentals. If you’ve been negligent in keeping a consistent log, plan to rectify this by purchasing log books and ledgers for your accounting needs in the New Year, or keep digital records.

Notaries are allowed to deduct for the tools they use to provide services to the public, so calculate what you have spent for copy and printing services, as well as any office equipment you may have purchased for your notary business needs. Don’t forget to include landline phone and mobile phone expense, internet fees and postage. Marketing materials to promote your business such as business cards, websites and window signs should also be added to the list of expenses. While all income generated must be reported, the IRS allows you to deduct for your legitimate expenses. Get into the habit of keeping consistent records throughout the year so the information is ready and coherent at year’s end. 

Reporting Notary Income

It is all important that notaries keep active logs of all notary-related income. This may include a simple notary fee that is charged for everyday notarizations such as acknowledged documents or sworn affidavits. Or, this may be larger payments received for mobile notary services or loan closings. In these cases, a notary may have generated a large income throughout the year. This income will be reported on Form 1040 Schedule C. Now is a good time to verify that you have received any outstanding payments from notary agencies and title companies for services rendered throughout the year. If you have received, or will receive, $600.00 or more from any one person or company, you should expect to receive a Form 1099-MISC. Make a list of all expected 1099s-MISC so you can check them off as you receive them in the new year or contact any company who may be late in sending it out to you. (Forms 1099 should generally be received no later than January 31st.)

All notary fees and payments for notary services are reportable as income, but notary fees are not subject to self-employment taxes. (Self-employment taxes are the payments a self-employed person pays into their Social Security and Medicare accounts. These payments are paid from the gross income of regular employees and matched by their employers.) Your tax advisor  can advise and assist you about exempting your notary fees from self employment tax on your tax return.

For more information, view our notary tax article on notary fees

Consider Paying Estimated Taxes

If your notary income is considerably large, you may find that it is advantageous in the future to pay estimated taxes throughout the year. This is an important consideration if the additional income from notary work causes you to enter a higher tax bracket and have increased tax liability. Estimated taxes are paid four times a year: April, June, September and January.  The quarterly taxes will offset tax liability at the time the tax return is filed. Your tax consultant can advise you about this and assist you in determining how much to pay each quarter. The IRS expects taxpayers to “pay as they go.” It is preferable to lower your tax liability during the year rather than to owe large tax bills at tax filing time.

Make Note of Filing Status and Other Changes

Lastly, notaries should do what all tax filers should do in preparing for tax season. Take time to determine if your filing status has changed from the previous tax year. If you have a new notary business, you will now almost certainly have self-employment income or income as an independent contractor. Therefore, you will be adding Form 1040 Schedule C to your regular federal tax return.

Did your marital status change? Did you add any new dependents? Did you relocate and thus generate moving expenses? All of these items may affect your tax return. Making notes and preparations now will allow you to breathe easy when the New Year arrives and tax filing season begins.

Due to the 2013 government shut-down, the 2014 tax season may be delayed by one or two weeks according to IRS sources. For further information, forms and publications, visit www.irs.gov.

The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

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Do I-9 Forms Require Notarization?

NOVEMBER 10, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

Many notaries across the nation receive requests from an employer to notarize or verify Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) forms. The completion of an I-9 Form for each employee is mandated for every employer or agricultural recruiter/referrer-for-a-fee hirer. (An agricultural referrer is any farm labor contractor or agricultural employer or association.) All such employers and recruiters are subject to periodic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspections to assure that accurately completed I-9 forms are on file for every employee; violators are subject to fines and administrative sanctions. Thus the proper completion and execution of the I-9 form is of extreme importance.

What is the I-9 Form?

The I-9 Form is a multi-page document generated by the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services for the Department of Homeland Security used for the purpose of verifying the employment eligibility of every new employee who accepts a job in the United States as of November 6th, 1986. This form must be completed by the employer as of the first day of employment for new employees. This is without exception; it includes even individuals working in a temporary capacity for only a few days. It also includes non-citizen residents and foreign visitors with a temporary work visa. In Section 1 of the I-9, employees are asked to fill out the top portion of the I-9 form which contains demographical information and asks them to state their US residency status, whether citizen, non-citizen, lawful permanent resident, or alien authorized to work. In Section 2 of the I-9, employers are then asked to obtain proof of identity and proof of authorization to work from the employee.

Does the I-9 Form Require Notarization?

When perusing the I-9 form, the notary will see that the I-9 form does not contain a notarial certificate and therefore does not require notarization. So what is causing this confusion among notaries?  The wording on the I-9 Form  and the identification requirements confuses some individuals into thinking that the form must be notarized. Employees are asked to “attest under penalty of perjury…” that their statements and documentation are true. Rather than requiring the use of a third party, such as a notary, the form itself indicates to the employee that Federal law provides for fines and imprisonment for false statements. Additionally, the employer must examine identification documents and work authorization documents from the employee to determine their eligibility to work in the United States. There are various documents in three separate lists from which the employee can chose to submit to verify identity and employment eligibility.

The employer is not permitted to determine or decide which documents the employee must produce as long as the documentation is provided from the lists in the I-9 form’s Lists of Acceptable Documents. Employers may feel inadequate or uncomfortable examining these documents and often will request the services of the notary, whom the employer feels is much more qualified to scrutinize identification documents such as passports, military ID cards, and alien green cards. Section 2 of Form I-9, which is the part to be completed by the employer, may also be filled out and completed by the employer’s authorized representative. In this case, a notary may be called upon to act in such a capacity. He may be called to a movie set to ‘notarize’ all the I-9’s for a group of “actor extras”; or he may be called to a science or technology lab to handle the execution of an I-9 for a physicist hired to work on a top secret formula.

How Should a Notary Handle I-9 Forms Requests?

While the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Office permits individuals assigned by the employer  to fill out this identification/work eligibility portion of the I-9, some states, for example Texas, prohibit the notary from completing the I-9 on behalf of the employer. It is incumbent upon you as a notary to determine beforehand whether or not your state permits this type of action. If your state disallows notaries to fill out the form, you as the notary must decline to participate. Consult the Secretary of State’s office in your particular jurisdiction or the office of the individual responsible for notaries in your state. Since this type of  documentation does not call for  “notarization” in the classical sense, there can be no penalty for declining or refusing. A notary has the option to decline to serve in this capacity if he feels uncomfortable or is unable to verify if his governing body prohibits notaries from performing such an action. If your state permits you, as the notary, to fill out the I-9 form, you should follow the instructions carefully and examine the ID and employment eligibility documents just as carefully as you would for any notarization. Making copies of the ID documents is optional; you should look to the employer for direction in this area. If photocopies of the ID are made, they will be kept together with the I-9 for the duration of employment.

Most important: Since the I-9 form does not require notarization, you must never use your notary stamp and seal on the I-9 form under any circumstance. The I-9 form is not submitted to any office. It is kept on file with the employer for three years after its initial completion or for one year after employment terminates, whichever is longer. This form must be produced if inspectors or investigators from DHS visit the place of employment and ask to see it.

For further information, contact the United States Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services @ http://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central or the Department of Homeland Security @ http://www.dhs.gov/.

 

The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

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Pre-Inked Notary Stamps vs. Self-Inking Notary Stamps

NOVEMBER 4, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

The official seal of a notary on a legal document is a recognized mark that the notary is an officer of the state qualified to provide the services being rendered and that the authenticity of the signature on a legal document is being verified. It is important when making an impression of your notary stamp to ensure that all the required information will clearly print on the document that you notarize. Missing or unclear elements of the notary stamp may jeopardize acceptance of the document you notarize, making it questionable and probably invalid.

In years gone by, notaries only had a choice of wooden, rubber notary stamps with a separate ink pad. The notary commission information was engraved on a rubber strip applied with adhesive onto the wooden stamp. The notary would first press the stamp onto the ink pad and then apply the stamp to the document to be notarized. (Rubber stamps and ink pads are still available today, though rarely used.) As technology advanced in the early 70’s, the self-inking stamp was introduced and became the dominant tool used by notaries all over the United States and the world. Late in the 1990’s, the pre-inked stamp was introduced and became equally as popular as the self-inking notary stamp.

So, what is the difference between the self-inking notary stamp and the pre-inked notary stamp if both serve the same purpose? Which one is the better choice? Which one is more popular and more durable? A study conducted by the American Association of Notaries shows that both stamps are durable, are equally popular, and serve the same purpose. It is up to the notary to decide which type of stamp he prefers. Here is a brief comparison between the two:

The pre-inked notary stamp is generally the more expensive stamp. It uses a flash light system to transfer the required written information from the laser printer to foam that will be inserted on the bottom of the stamp and then inked with an oil-based ink. Since it uses an oil-based ink, it lasts longer and can make up to 50,000 impressions. Once ordered, it can be manufactured in minutes and then shipped promptly to customers who need a stamp immediately. Since the ink is kept in a reservoir, the manufacturer can make the stamps in various designs, such as pocket notary stamps, or pen-shaped notary stamps. The only drawback to using pre-inked notary stamps is that some oil-based ink is slow to dry and might smear and run over text on the back of the document. The American Association of Notaries uses fast-drying oil-based ink that will not smear or pool behind the stamp. When the stamp is applied to a surface, the ink flows through the stamp from behind and creates a clear impression on the notarized documents. A second or two must pass before ink can flow through the pre-inked stamp surface, and the stamp may require a slight “break” after several documents have been stamped in succession.

The construction of the self-inking stamp is different: it uses a built-in ink pad to re-ink itself after each application. The ink pad is up in the casing of the stamp so that when pressure is applied the die plate hits the ink pad and flips to make the engraved impression on the document. Self-inking stamps have the advantage of being easily re-filled, and they use environmentally friendly water-based ink that does not smear. The built-in ink pad can be re-inked and is easily replaced. It is always wise to keep a bottle of ink handy in case you need to re-ink your stamp. The time required to manufacture a self-inking stamp varies depending on what type of equipment the manufacturer is using. Stamp manufacturers who use a laser engraver can manufacture a stamp within minutes. Many manufacturers are still using the old system (which still produces a stamp as good as one produced by laser engraving): a negative is created from a laser printout, then liquid rubber is poured on top of the negative and developed under ultraviolet light until it hardens. Oil-based ink cannot be used on a self-inking stamp because it will cause damage to the rubber piece.

Each type of stamp will serve any notary well. It behooves each notary to experiment by purchasing each type of stamp to see which one will best suit his needs for ease of use and durability based on his own notarizing and work patterns. We always recommend that you purchase your notary stamps from a reputable notary stamp manufacturer that will stand behind its products and be there in the future if you ever need to replace your stamp.

The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

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Notarizing for Family Members

OCTOBER 27, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

Notaries must be impartial witnesses to transactions. They may not have an interest in the documents that they notarize.  By the same token, notaries are prohibited from notarizing their own signatures, or documents in which they are named.

Just as an employer feels it is convenient to have an employee who is a commissioned notary, your family members may be delighted to learn that you have become a notary public because they may feel it will be a convenience for them. You may find that family members will call upon you to notarize documents. If you agree to go forward with their requests, problems may arise for both you and them.

While most States do not have a specific ban against notaries notarizing  documents for  spouses or family members, the practice is generally frowned upon in most jurisdictions. In most States, notaries are cautioned against notarizing for family members related by blood or marriage because notaries are forbidden to notarize any document, or participate in any notarial procedure, from which they may profit or gain a financial benefit.

The likelihood of benefitting from the legal transaction of a family member is high and increases with the closeness of the relationship. For instance, a wife may wish to notarize the signature of her husband who is refinancing a home mortgage. Since the wife will ultimately benefit from the transaction, she should decline to notarize the document and engage an impartial Notary to do so.

Even in transactions where a financial benefit to the notary appears remote, it is best for the notary to abstain. A notary may be asked to notarize a document for a second cousin who designates a pension beneficiary. The beneficiary may be the notary’s son or daughter. If the cousin passes away, the notary could benefit from the transaction if the child receives the funds. The notarization may be challenged in court at a later date and the notary’s impartiality could be called into question. 

Therefore, notaries should refuse to perform notarizations for all family members. If a family member makes such a request of you, direct him to another notary. It is better to risk annoying a family member by refusing to notarize a document for him than to risk incurring penalties for violating the universal rule of notarial impartiality.

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com

Can a Notary Offer Non-Notarial Services to their Notary Clients?

OCTOBER 9, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

Most notaries acquire a notary commission as an additional credential. Very often, offering notarial services is not the notary’s only, or primary, occupation. Many individuals become notaries at the request of their employers, while others wish to offer services to their local communities and neighborhoods. In many cases, a notary may be an expert in another field such as banking, real estate, retail, education, or medicine. However, notaries are strictly prohibited from offering advice to their notarial clients or instructing them about the nature and content of the documents to be notarized, because that is considered to be the unauthorized practice of law. What should a notary do, then, if a client seeks advice in other areas in which the notary is an expert? This is a question that most notaries will face at one time or another, and handling this concern properly is important. In most jurisdictions, the unauthorized practice of law carries criminal and administrative penalties.

It is possible for a notary to wear several hats and still maintain his notarial impartiality. This requires careful consideration, and the notary must operate with honesty and integrity when faced with these issues. When a client comes to the notary with a document to be notarized or to request any other notarial service, the notary must restrict his involvement with that client solely to offering notarial services. The notary should not offer any advice or observations prompted by his other areas of knowledge, even if asked.

When a client comes to your office, she may see that you are well equipped with office materials. She may see that you have accountant credentials or other professional certificates posted on your walls or hear you speak and realize that you are bilingual. She may simply dialogue with you and determine that you are intelligent and competent. Perhaps a client is having the beneficiary form for her pension benefit election notarized and wants to know if you can explain the tax implications of a lump sum benefit. Even if you understand the question and know the answer, as a notary you must always remain as a disinterested party and refrain from answering the question or offering any advice. Clients will probably not understand this, and they may be taken aback by your refusal, but to give in would be to break the law. Your only recourse is to explain your restrictions to the client and refer her to another practitioner.

This does not mean that a notary must abandon his other career or skills just because he has obtained a notary commission. The client mentioned above may come back to your office to avail herself of your other services at another time. The notary is certainly free to work in any field, offer any service, or provide consultation and skills to any client – as long as the client is not seeking notarial services. The most important requirement of any notary, in any jurisdiction, is to be a person of proven integrity. It is incumbent upon the notary to separate his notarial services from all other services that he may offer. If a client needs additional services or advice, the notary should direct the client to seek advice from another professional, or if the questions pertain to the document being notarized, the client should inquire further from the document recipient. This is in the best interest of the client and the notary.

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

Notarizing Previously Signed Documents

OCTOBER 9, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

There are times, as a notary, when you will be presented with a document for notarization that has been previously signed. This may occur simply because the signer thinks he is being thorough by filling in all the blanks and signing before he meets with you. At other times, a document may have been signed and submitted to the recipient before the signer was aware that notarization was required and now the document has been returned and the signer requires the services of a notary.

The first step is to check the notary certificate to determine what type of notarization is required. If the document contains an acknowledgment certificate, you, the notary, will follow the same basic procedure as with any other document that requires acknowledging. In every case where an acknowledgment is to be executed, you must determine that the name on the document, the face of the individual standing before you, and the signature of the signer match the name, face, and signature on the identifying document, i.e. the driver’s license or passport. In the case where the signer has previously signed the document, you will still check to make sure the signature on the document and the signature on the photo ID is the same. You need not compel the signer to re-sign the document. Ask the signer, “Did you sign this document of your own free will and accord?” If the signer gives an affirmative answer, you will proceed with the notarization as usual, being careful to record all the information in your notary record book or journal.

If the document contains a jurat – the notary certificate at the bottom of an affidavit – then it will be necessary to ask the signer to re-sign the document. The execution of the affidavit requires the giving of an oath or affirmation. The signer must sign the document after he has given a confirmatory response to the question, “Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) under penalty of perjury that the documents’ contents are true and correct to the best of your knowledge?” If the signer has previously signed the document, you should give him a brief explanation as to why he is being asked to re-sign the document. In both the case of the acknowledgment and the jurat, the notary must use the current date – the date of notarization – in the notary certificate, regardless of the date of the document or when it was previously signed.

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas on for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to be serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

Is a University ID Acceptable When Notarizing Documents?

SEPTEMBER 24, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document. The validity of the notarization hangs on whether or not the person who signed is actually the person who is named in a document. Hence, proper identification is key, and the notary must verify identities in accordance with strict rules and guidelines. If you are a notary who practices on a regular basis, you will observe that everyone does not necessarily have the most commonly accepted forms of ID, such as a state-issued driver’s license or a U.S. passport. As time goes on, and our country continues to be a melting pot, you will increasingly be approached by clients who do not have the most common ID documents. As a responsible notary, it is up to you to become knowledgeable about the proper and acceptable identification documents.

An acceptable identification document must contain the following elements: a photo, a signature, and a traceable identification number issued by a federal, state or local governing body.  The most common identification documents that provide these elements are state-issued driver’s licenses or non-driver’s IDs, U.S. or foreign passports, permanent resident cards, armed services military ID cards, and DHS (Department of Homeland Security) documents, which include such items as US Travel Document I-327 and American Indian Card I-872. Please note that not all of the above documents have expiration dates. For those that do, some states will stipulate how old the document may be before it becomes invalid (for example, a driver’s license within two years of its expiration date and a passport on its expiration date). Notaries should become familiar with the specific statutes regarding identification documents in their own states.

What happens when a signer doesn’t have one of the above-listed cards? For instance, what if an employee from a state university only possesses the employee ID badge issued by the university? While many of these badges contain a photo and identification number, often they do not contain a signature. Even if the notarization is taking place on the college campus and being performed by a university employee for another university employee, the employee badge would not be considered a valid form of identification for the purposes of notarization. Most states require a local, state or federal government-issued identification document for properly verifying identity. Notarization statutes prevail regardless of when or where the notarization is taking place; the rules can never be modified or bent no matter what the circumstance. Many transit systems issue passes to their employees which contain a photo and number; the number actually identifies the worker and is placed on their paychecks each pay period. While this pass has validity in the transit system, it will not be accepted for purposes of notarization. Notaries, whenever possible, should let their clients know beforehand that they will need to produce a form of identification from the above list. This will prevent disappointment and inconvenience to the client who finds that the item they want to use for identification is not acceptable. If a signer does not have acceptable ID, the notary should refuse to notarize.

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.

Notarizing Foreign Language Documents

SEPTEMBER 17, 2013 by American Association of Notaries

One of the keys to acceptable and accurate notarizations is clear communication between the signer and the notary. Even though various jurisdictions may differ on such issues as the permissibility of notarizing for a family member or mandatory notary record keeping, all jurisdictions require the physical presence of the signer. The notary and the signer must meet face to face at the time of notarization. Otherwise, not only is the notarization fraudulent – belying the notary certificate assertion that the signer personally appeared before me on a certain date – but there is also no occasion for honest and clear communication between the notary and the signer.

The notary must always be able to communicate – converse, dialogue – with the signer in a mutually understood language. There can never be the use of an interpreter when the notary is performing the verbal ceremony. Otherwise, how will the notary know for certain that the interpreter is properly representing the signer or that the signer has responded in an acceptable manner to allow the notary to proceed with the notarization?

If the document itself is written in a language other than the primary language of the notary, it is best to direct the signer to a notary who can both speak in the language of the signer and fluently read the language of the document. Though a notary is not required to read the full contents of any document, he or she should be able to make a cursory inspection to ascertain that the document conforms to the representation offered by the document signer. Where feasible, a document may be translated into a mutually understood language as long as the notary does not act as the translator; this would violate the notary’s impartiality. If the notary wishes to proceed with the notarization despite the fact that the document is in another language, he or she should still perform the pre-notarization steps such as scanning the document for blanks and making sure the person named in the text is the same as the one named on any identification documents. In any case, the wording in the notary certificate must be in the primary language of the notary and the signer must be able to respond to the verbal ceremony in a language understood by the notary. To be in compliance with notary laws, the notary must record a “brief” description of the notarized document in a notary record book, which the signer must provide the notary.

A notary should never proceed with any notarization if there is not the opportunity for clear communication.  If you do not feel comfortable with the notarization, you may refuse to perform it.  The notary should document the circumstances of the declined notarization in the notary record book or journal.

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The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations and securing their notary supplies. However, the information in our articles is never meant to serve as legal or tax preparation advice. Please consult the tax professional or attorney of your choice for such important issues. As always, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please feel free to email us at info@usnotaries.com.