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Notary Bulletin

Quiz: High-Pressure Situations

Anyone who’s been out to a shopping mall during the holidays knows that the end of the year is a high-pressure time. But Notaries run into pressure all the time when notarizing — and a lot of time the pressure comes from a boss or even signers themselves. When under pressure, it’s important to keep your cool and make sure to follow state law and proper ethical practices. Take our quiz and see how you do in the following high-pressure situations.




1. Your boss calls you in to notarize a client’s signature on an urgent work document that needs to be filed by the end of the day. You and your boss have never met the client face-to-face before. When you ask the client for proof of identity, your boss takes you aside and says you don’t need the client’s ID. “He’s an important client, and we’re in a hurry,” your boss says. “I’ll take responsibility if anyone asks why you didn’t ask him for ID.” The best course of action is to:

A. Agree but ask your boss to note he is taking responsibility in your journal entry
B. Ask another Notary to perform the notarization
C. Insist on proof of identity and explain failing to do so could lead to serious legal problems
D. Perform the notarization but ask the client to bring you ID at a later time.

Answer: C. In this situation it’s essential the Notary insist on satisfactory proof of the client’s identity. Even if your jurisdiction allows identification through personal knowledge, in this situation it wouldn’t work because neither you nor your boss has seen the client before. Explain to your boss that failing to identify the client properly is illegal and could leave the boss, yourself and the company open to both possible criminal charges and civil liability if any fraud or other problems result from the improper notarization.

2. A young woman visits your office and requests an acknowledgment. When you bring out your journal and begin to fill out an entry, she raises her hand. “I don’t have time to do all that,” she says. “I’m leaving tomorrow for a vacation. Why don’t you just perform the notarization, I’ll come back in a couple of weeks and give you the journal information, and we’ll just put today’s date on the entry? No one will know or care.” In this situation, you should:

A. Refuse, because performing the notarial act includes making the journal entry
B. Agree, as long as she provides you accurate information after her return
C. Have her leave a photocopy of her ID with you to insure you have some kind of record
D. Agree and note in your journal that she was in a hurry

Answer: A. You should never wait to complete a journal entry after the notarization is done. If a journal is required in your state, the journal entry is as essential to the notarial act as taking the signer’s oath or acknowledgment and signing and sealing the Notary certificate. Even if a journal isn’t mandatory in your state, without an accurate journal entry entered at the time of notarization you have no evidence or record to defend yourself against later accusations of improper notarization. Delaying a journal entry until later leaves you potentially liable for negligence if the document is discovered to be fraudulent. You have no guarantee the signer will return later to complete the journal entry, and it is not appropriate to ask for a photocopy of a signer’s ID as a record. In fact, in some states, such as Texas, this may be a breach of state privacy laws.

3. You are on your lunch break when an acquaintance comes up to you and asks if you can notarize his signature on several documents. When he presents the documents, you check the time and become concerned you will not be able to complete the notarizations before you have to return to work. The acquaintance suggests that you stamp and sign the notarial certificates, and tell him how to complete the remaining blanks so that he can fill in the blanks later in order to save time. In this case, the best choice is to:

A. Agree, because it’s not appropriate for you to refuse him just because you’re short of time
B. Refuse, but as an alternative offer to reschedule the notarizations for after work so they can be done properly
C. Agree, but offer instead to take the documents, notarize them later and give them to him after work
D. Agree but offer to sign your name, give him your seal and let him complete the certificates and return your seal after he is done

Answer: B. Notaries should never let anyone use their seal or complete notarial certificates outside of the presence of the signer. Nor is it permitted to take documents, notarize them outside the signer’s presence and then return them to the signer. If there is not a reasonable amount of time to complete a notarization, it is appropriate to ask the signer to reschedule for another time to ensure that the notarization can be completed properly.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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