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Liability Prevention Tip: Personal Appearance Is Always Required Even For Familiar Signers

On occasion an attorney or supervisor might ask you to notarize signatures of important clients without requiring personal appearance in order to avoid imposing on the client. If the client regularly has documents notarized, it would be easy to rationalize this request because you have previously identified the client and are familiar with his or her signature.

As innocent as this may seem, it greatly increases threats of fraud and exposes you, your firm, and the client to potential fraud. Notaries should never notarize a signature under these conditions, as personal appearance is a legal requirement in all U.S. jurisdictions.

By law, the signer must personally appear and be identified each time a notarization is performed. This protects the signer, the business and the Notary from potential fraud and liability that could result if the document is improperly notarized without verifying the signer’s willingness and identity, and later invalidated as a result.

While it may be awkward to ask a reluctant client to personally appear before a Notary every time, it is far better than risking the costly civil and criminal penalties that could result from failing to do so.


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Stephen Otake

27 Nov 2016

Notary Public did not show up for scheduled appointment causing me monetary losses. This was for a mortgage refinance with a deadline.

Traci Ice

11 Mar 2019

My form states "Before me, a Notary Public, on this day personally appeared____, known to me (or provided to me on the oath of ____) to be the person whose name is subscribed to the forgoing instrument and acknowledged to me that he the same for the purpose and consideration therein expressed." I am having trouble on what goes where on this form.

National Notary Association

11 Mar 2019

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

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