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Undermining Overbearing Relatives

What do you do if an elderly signer is being pressured to sign a document — like a power of attorney or an advance directive — by a child or other relative? These situations can be touchy, but there are key elements every healthcare Notary should assess before determining whether or not to proceed.

It starts with paying close attention to anyone who accompanies your signer. Is the companion speaking in a harsh tone or being overtly intimidating? The pressure can be as subtle as a firm reminder that the senior intended sign the document. Some other signs can include:

  • The signer appearing distressed, confused or reluctant; and
  • The companion attempting to physically guide the signer’s hand.

If any of these warning signs occur, politely ask the companion to leave the room so you can speak privately with the signer. If the companion refuses, do not proceed with the notarization. If the companion complies, a simple conversation will help you make a common sense judgment of the signer’s willingness and awareness.

Do not proceed with any notarization if a signer is physically unable to write without assistance — even if the senior understands the document and is willing to sign. Instead, suggest the signer see an attorney who can advise how to proceed. Note any unusual details in your journal in case questions arise later.

Key Points

  • Pay close attention to the behavior of anyone who accompanies the signer.
  • If the siger appears to be coerced or confused, do not proceed with the notarization unless you can establish the signer is fully willing, aware and is not being influenced inappropriately.

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


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