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Notary Bulletin

5 Common Mistakes That Can Lead To Legal Problems

Legal-trouble-resized.jpgUpdated 1-11-21. Careless mistakes when notarizing can have serious legal consequences, for the Notary and the signer. Recognizing and steering clear of these common mistakes is the best way to prevent costly legal trouble. Here are 5 common mistakes Notaries should avoid:

1. Failing To Require The Signer To Appear

Experts all agreed that failing to require a signer to physically appear before you is the most common mistake that lands Notaries in legal hot water. Notarizing without a signer’s personal appearance is a violation of law in every state and territory, and can result in major financial and legal penalties. Lori Hamm, Notary Compliance and Education Officer for the Montana Secretary of State’s Office, described a case in which a man claimed his signature was forged on a notarized quitclaim deed filed during divorce proceedings. The Notary admitted that she had done notarizations in the past where she spoke with signers by telephone to ask if they signed documents. The Notary’s commission was suspended.

2. Failing To Properly Record Notarizations

Too many Notaries fail to keep a record of their notarial acts, especially in states that do not require it. But that’s a problem because a properly maintained journal is your best protection if someone makes a claim against you, said California attorney Richard Busch, who has represented many Notaries in legal actions. Failing to record information in the journal when the law requires it can be a problem, too. One Notary in a state that requires a journal thumbprint neglected to obtain the signer’s thumbprint in what turned out to be a forgery. The Notary’s insurance carrier paid out a full loss on the Notary’s E&O policy

3. Failing To Obtain Satisfactory Proof Of Identity From A Signer

Unless the signer personally appears and presents a valid ID, the Notary just cannot do the notarization. Period.” Busch said.Otherwise, they will likely end up being sued, since more than likely there is a fraud being perpetrated.

4. Making Mistakes On The Notarial Certificate

While writing incorrect information on certificate wording or forgetting to write in information is often done accidentally, it’s a situation that can cause major headaches for a signer and trouble for Notaries if a problem with a document results. For example, Hamm described how if a Notary doesn’t properly complete the wording on documents for a car purchase, the buyer may not be able to take title and must spend time tracking the Notary down in order to take ownership. Be especially careful with business transactions, Hamm warned, because if someone loses money as a result, they are likely to hold the Notary responsible for any money lost. “Not paying attention to notarial wording and the law gets you in trouble,” she said.

5. Losing Your Seal

Letting others use your Notary seal or not properly securing your seal can be damaging. Two Notaries in different states found this out the hard way. In both cases, their signatures appeared on documents they denied notarizing. The only other alternatives weren’t much prettier. Either the Notaries failed to secure their seals, allowing someone else to use them, or they intentionally allowed others to improperly use them. One Notary settled out of court and the other’s insurance carrier settled the claim by compensating the victims.

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

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline

View All: Best Practices

42 Comments

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Susan Barnes

26 Oct 2015

Thanks for the information,

Georgia B.

08 Feb 2016

I'm extremely grateful for all the reminders you send out as sometimes we do forget the simple things. Thank you for all you do to help us in becoming and remaining professional entrepreneurs.

Robert Boire

08 Feb 2016

All common sense information. Things that are needed in the way "required", but a lot of people are just in a hurry to get in and out. Hopefully this will make all of use think first before we act.

Khalid Rana

08 Feb 2016

A comprehensive guide lines for Notaries how to proceed carefully for notarizing documents and maintaining record. Very helpful information.

Juanvinetta Davis

08 Feb 2016

my commission expires on April 17, 2016, how do I renew it and how soon can I renew it?

National Notary Association

09 Feb 2016

Hello Juanvinetta. If you need assistance renewing your commission, our Customer Care team can help you at 1-800-876-6827.

Thomas

08 Feb 2016

Great reminders!!

Ann

08 Feb 2016

Great information!!

robi.kent@rocketmail.com

31 Aug 2016

Very helpful information. Pratical, common sense reminders when conducting notaries. Seems like the Notary Publics in these scenerios were extremely careless in their acts. Thanks for the information.

Delores

13 Feb 2017

I truly appreciate the updates and reminders.

Carol Wenzel

14 Feb 2017

2 patients came into the clinic that I work in as well as do the notary, in which I am a new notary of 2 1/2 months. The 1st patient wanted me to notarize his list of things that were wrong with his apartment that he was moving into. The 2nd patient wanted me to notarize his personal notes he had written down during his behavioral health session. I chose not to notarize both notes, because I was not comfortable in doing that, being a new notary & I wasn't sure if it would have been legal for me to do so. So I guided them to other notary agents elsewhere who were more knowledgeable in those matters. So my question is: can I notarize personal handwritten notes? I am commissioned in Wisconsin.

Stephanie Dye

20 Feb 2017

Thank you so much for all the awesome information that you send us. I agree, this information and they why's of it all help to keep us in the know and safe. Very appreciated.

DAVID C MINEO

24 Feb 2019

I am victim if identity fraud in which a Fidelity mortgage loan modification with my name was notarized without my knowledge. Property in Houston I live in Ft Lauderdale. I want to sue for damages...do I need an attorney? If so, does attorney need to be licensed in Texas?

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't provide legal advice on how to proceed with a lawsuit. You would need to contact a qualified attorney in your area to answer your questions.

Daphne Cox

18 Mar 2019

The information that's emailed is always helpful to myself and others as well. I think this information is great and the notary shouldn't let the consumers rush them with the notarization, that's when mistakes happen.

Laura H

18 Mar 2019

I have a question regarding what you are to put in the County spot. I actually work in a different county I live in. When I notarize, do I use my work county? This is where I am actually doing my notarizing.

National Notary Association

18 Mar 2019

Hello. If you are referring to the location in the venue portion of a Notary certificate, then you would enter the county where the notarization is taking place.

Corinne Galloway

18 Mar 2019

Great information. Please keep it coming!

Geri Wiley

18 Mar 2019

I enjoy these notifications, makes being a notary updated on all legal matters.

Amanda M Smith

18 Mar 2019

Your bulletin is always very helpful. Thank.you for keeping us up to date and putting out good articles to keep us on track.

Tabatha L

18 Mar 2019

Thank you for all the helpful notary advice!

Arnica Perez

19 Mar 2019

Thanks for this valuable information

Gwendolyn Jordan

20 Mar 2019

Im a new notary....need all this info and then some. Should I join this org to recieve educational information?

National Notary Association

21 Mar 2019

Hi Gwendolyn. If you have any questions about NNA membership, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-876-6827 and one of our Customer Care representatives will be happy to provide you with information.

CONRAD B. MILLAN

30 May 2019

Thank you so much for this reminder. We should always pay attention to what we're notarizing to avoid complications. Thank you again for this.

Ada

09 Jul 2019

Thank you for the reminder and the updates. They are very important.

Barbara Williams

18 Jan 2021

Thank you for sharing events that there is doubt. I have been a Notary for some time. I know it’s great to review refresh and to hear what other’s are running into. I am new to Association. Happy to be a part of! Have a great day! Barbara W.

allen45.erik@gmail.com

18 Jan 2021

Thanks for the information. This is very helpful.

Sylvia G Pettit

18 Jan 2021

I have belonged to NNA since 2004 my first notary job. I always remind any one is going to be a notary to always join NNA and stay with it. Your daily notices are soooo helpful. I have been a Notary Public for over 16 yrs and I always take the tests and double check information to make sure I am up to date. Yahoo for NNA Regards Sylvia Pettit Los Banos CA

Sol delorito

18 Jan 2021

How can I notarized multiple signatures (12) In one documents? Do I need to attached 1 acknowledgement in each signature? Pls advised...

National Notary Association

19 Jan 2021

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.

kathy

18 Jan 2021

Can a Notary only chose to do Loan signing and turn down other type of notaries for general public? or is it against the law?

National Notary Association

19 Jan 2021

Hello. Provided that your state permits Notary Signing Agents, there is no prohibition against specializing in loan signing assignments. Please see here for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/support/signing-agents/state-restrictions

Shirl B.

18 Jan 2021

Thank you for all the golden reminders.

Robin John Rutt

18 Jan 2021

Always make sure that they appear and always make sure the identification picture matches the person in front of you and make them pulled her mask down so you can see. Always check your work Don’t be in a hurry because you want to get paid for accuracy, not expediency Think of performing a notary like a lap around the track you’ve got to cover all ground to make a complete lap and you have to cover all of your work to make a complete and proper notarization Don’t ever be in a hurry. You can’t afford to be wrong once. If you are not sure if something called the Secretary of State better yet do it in an email so you have back up to what your question was. Remember you were responsible for it no matter what

Robin John Rutt

18 Jan 2021

Don’t ever be in a hurry because the extra time you take to confirm your work is far less time than it would be to have to go through your journal and send it to the Secretary of State or have to go through a court case Think of the extra time as an insurance policy to make sure your work is impeccable and can stand the test of being under a judge’s eyes. If you think of it in terms of having to do your notary in front of a judge you’ll make sure that you do everything correctly because everything you do can be questioned and you have to be able to explain everything you did and make sure you cover the things that you didn’t do

Yolanda Jackson

16 Feb 2021

Thank you for the reminder and updates, they are very helpful.

Brenda L JOHNSON

17 Feb 2021

Can you sign for a family member

National Notary Assocation

25 Feb 2021

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please clarify if you mean signing a document on behalf of a family member, or notarizing a family member's signature? Also, can you please tell us what state you are located in?

Melinda

19 Feb 2021

I was a notary in the past over 15 years ago. I recently applied for notary public and took the oath then sent it to office of the great seal in November of 2020. I have not received any response. What should be my next step?

National Notary Association

24 Feb 2021

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please confirm what state you are applying for a commission in?

Voncile Gissendaner-Wilson

13 Jul 2021

This was great information; easy to understand and remember. This was vital information for people starting out and/or considering this as a part-time or full-time career.

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