Before any signature can be lawfully notarized, the signer must appear in person before you at the time of the notarization. This is the only way you can properly identify the person and verify his or her willingness to sign the document and understanding of what is being signed. In its Recommended Notary Practices, released in December, the NNA urges all Notaries to:
“Always follow state law that requires the signer to be in your physical presence every time you notarize — without exception.”
This may seem like a simple principle, but ignoring it is one of the most common ways Notaries get in trouble. Requests to notarize for an absent signer can come from a supervisor, client, close friend or relative. All too often in these instances, as innumerable court cases demonstrate, the signature on the document proves to be a forgery.
Every notarial certificate requires a signer to be in the Notary’s presence at the time of the notarization. If that is not the case, you open the door to fraud that can inflict serious financial harm on unsuspecting victims. You also expose yourself to criminal prosecution, civil lawsuits and administrative penalties. So remember:
- Always require the signer to be in your physical presence every time you notarize
- Personal appearance is the only way to properly identify your signer
- Failure to require personal appearance opens the door to fraud and exposes you to civil and criminal liability
Editor’s Note: Throughout 2011, the Notary Bulletin will focus on one of the NNA’s Recommended Notary Practices each month. For the complete list of Recommended Notary Practices, click here.