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New laws clarify Notary's role in real estate transactions

States continue to define the role of Notaries in the real estate process with three recently enacted statutes — a Utah law that clarifies the function of Notary Signing Agents, and new laws in New Mexico and the District of Columbia that allow a homeowner to transfer property upon death to a beneficiary using a notarized document.

Utah's HB 47, effective as of May 14, 2013, clarifies that Notary Signing Agents are not required to be licensed as escrow agents, but must avoid explaining documents to borrowers at a loan signing unless they are licensed or risk the imposition of a maximum $5,000 fine per offense by the insurance commissioner under UCA 31A-2-308.

The New Mexico and D.C. laws (SB 107and B 753 respectively) permit a property owner to transfer interest in real estate upon the owner's death using a notarized Transfer on Death Deed that must be filed in local land records. The D.C. law is now in effect and the New Mexico law takes effect January 1, 2014.

Notaries who notarize a Transfer on Death Deed should treat the document with the utmost care and be especially vigilant to check that the signer is competent and is signing the deed willingly. While any notarization requires a Notary to follow state laws and best practices, a Transfer on Death Deed will rank alongside of other real property deeds, mortgages, deeds of trust, powers of attorney, living trusts and self-proving affidavits to wills as being among the most important and sensitive documents requiring a Notary's care.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

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