As a notary public, a small mistake can cost you a lot in the long run. It is very important to avoid any mistakes that will tamper with the notarization process. There are many mistakes that you can make but some are more common than others. Here are the nine that you should beware of and avoid as much as you can.
Allowing Remote Signing
In some states, remote notarization is legal and signatories can send their signatures online. In most of the states, however, this is a civil infraction while in others it is illegal. It is always good to have the person appear physically for the signing process. As a notary public, you can inspect and ascertain his or her identity, take acknowledgment and administer the oath before obtaining the signature.
Not Confirming Identity of the Signer
It is very important to check the identification document provided to you. If the law in your state allows, specify the kind of identification used. It is important to confirm that the person signing in front of you is the same one on the identification document. To do this, look at the picture on the document and compare facial features that cannot be changed. These include the eye color, chin shape, and the nose. Do not rely on hair color and length as these can be easily changed.
Inability to Differentiate an Oath and Acknowledgment
An oath and acknowledgement are different but many notaries do not know the difference. An oath is a verbal affirmation or swearing done by the signer, guided by the notary. The aim is to affirm that the contents of the document are true. Thereafter, the signer is required to sign a certificate called a ‘jurat’. This must be witnessed by the notary. On the other hand, an acknowledgment is a way in which the signer confirms that he or she signed the document voluntarily. This signing may have been done earlier or done before the notary public on the day.
Skipping the Verbal Ceremony
Notaries should lead the signers through what is known as the verbal ceremony before any signing is done. Documents with jurats require an oath to be undertaken while for others acknowledgement is all that is needed. Simply ask the signer if he/she solemnly swears that the contents of the document are true or if he/she signed voluntarily respectively. Without the verbal ceremony, the notarial certificates are considered false even if they are duly signed and stamped.
Using the Wrong Notarial Certificate
Do not just get any certificate and use it in your notarial work. Ensure that it complies with the legal requirements of the state and its contents make sense. It is your duty as a notary public to read through the certificate before you fill in the blanks.
Using Other Names and/or Signatures on Notaries
It is important to use the official names and signature on all notary certificates you sign as the notary public. This is the name and signature on the file with the office that appointed you. Using a different name or signature invalidates the notarization.
Wrong Placing of Notarial Seal/Stamp/Embossing
The seal is what gives a document its authority. As a general rule, the seal/stamp/embossing should never be placed on any text. It should contain information as specified by law. In most cases, this information includes the notary public’s commissioned name and expiry of the commissioning. If the document has an area written ‘L.S’ or ‘SEAL’, the seal should be placed near the text; not on it.
Poor or Lack of Record Keeping
A good notary should keep a record of all notarial work done. Get a diary from the American Association of Notaries and use it to keep continuous records of your notarial acts. Each record should have the date and time of the notarization and information about the signer including the document signed, name, signature, type of identification document used and any notarial fees charged.
Notarizing Documents in Which You Are Mentioned
As a notary public, you should never notarize documents that could be considered to be a conflict of interest. These are documents in which you are mentioned and those to be signed by relatives or yourself.
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