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Mentally Disabled Signers


Can a notary notarize the signature of person who is in a mental institution?

If the signer does not possess a minimum degree of mental capability to understand the nature and effect of the power of attorney being signed and notarized, the notary must decline the notarization of the document. Some states prohibit notaries from notarizing the signature of a signer who is in a mental institution.

My brother is asking me to notarize his mother-in-law’s signature on a warranty deed, but I heard that a court has declared her mentally incapacitated. Should I notarize her signature if she appears normal?

No. Some states prohibit notaries public from notarizing the signature, especially on a warranty deed, of a person who has been declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law. In a matter of a few minutes, a notary public can ascertain whether the signer is willing and competent to understand the nature and effect of the document being signed and notarized by engaging in a conversation with the signer. If the signer shows any evidence of lacking mental competence, the notary must refuse the notarization.

I refused to notarize a document for a signer who was in the hospital in an extensive care unit because I could not determine whether he was mentally incompetent or heavily medicated. Was I correct in refusing to notarize the document?

Yes. Notarizing for someone in a hospital setting requires the notary public to exercise a high degree of care in the execution of proper notarial procedures. The signer is probably taking medication that may alter the signer’s ability to understand the nature and effect of the signing and notarization of the document. If the signer shows any evidence of lacking mental competence, the notary must refuse the performance of the notarial act.

How can I determine whether the signer signing the document is mentally competent?

Before the notary public starts the official act, the notary should ask the signer a variety of questions, and the signer should be answering coherently and appropriately with noticeable competence.

I work in a healthcare organization, and sometimes family members need to get a power of attorney signed while a patient is in hospital. Often times the patient is not able to make that type of decision due to his or her medical status. What is the notary's role in assuring that the signer is executing the document in his or her best judgment?

A signer must possess a minimum degree of mental capability to understand the nature and intent of the execution of the document being signed and notarized. Before the notary public starts the official act, the notary should ask the signer a variety of questions, and the signer should be answering coherently and appropriately with noticeable competence. If the signer shows any evidence of lacking mental competence, the notary must refuse the performance of the notarial act.

If I have a client who wants to get a power of attorney notarized for an incapacitated parent, can I notarize without the parent's signature?

In the performance of every notarial act, the signer must personally appear before the notary public at the time of the execution of the notarization. In this case, the incapacitated parent must personally appear before you at the time of the notarization. There are no exceptions to this very important requirement.