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Notary Bulletin

Handling Improper Documents When It's The Drafter's Mistake

Long before the “robo-signing” crisis thrust Notaries Public into the crosshairs of regulatory and legal liabilities, we faced challenges with notarizations because of improperly drafted documents. These “drafter” errors remain prevalent today, and they continue to challenge even the most professional Notary Public, as the drafters rarely are trained in notarial procedures and responsibilities.

Notaries have been trained to decline improper documents. However, when their business reputation is put at risk by declining to notarize a faulty document requested by a high volume referral source, their position becomes precarious. Of course, Notaries should never just “sign and stamp” to keep the client happy. In these cases, the Notary should have a conversation with the document drafter/preparer to correct the improper document. That will protect them and the Notaries who come after them.

Take for example, the “Identify Verification and Acknowledgement Certification” document included in the closing packages of a well-known title company. This document essentially asks the Notary to perform most of the tasks of a notarization without actually performing a notarization.

It requires the Notary to record the signer’s entire identification number, certify that the signer personally appeared, and affix their seal as proof of their commission. But Notaries cannot affix their seal to anything but notarial certificates. In addition, some states prohibit Notaries from recording ID card numbers altogether.

All Notaries may contact document drafters/requesters anytime they are presented with a document that is improper, illegal or contains errors. Discussing the particulars of your responsibilities to a document drafter does not carry the same prohibitions as discussing particulars with a signer. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Review every document carefully for statutory compliance of the notarial wording.
  2. If its improper, inaccurate, or illegal, tactfully inform the document preparers, and provide them the correct wording so they can streamline their processes.
  3. If they or your bosses direct you to move forward without corrections, inform them of the law and the penalties (always have your NNA primer or state handbook handy).
  4. If you still get resistance, take your concern to the next level of management and explain the them the laws and the risks.
  5. Finally, call your NNA Notary Hotline and arrange for an expert to contact the drafter, your boss or supervisor.

To protect our collective reputation, we should all take the responsibility to inform and educate document drafters in proper and legal notarial executions. We can help pave the way for the next Notary that comes behind us so they don’t face the same challenges we do today.

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