Your Cookies are Disabled! sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

A Notary’s role in preventing elder financial exploitation

elderly hands

(Originally published in the December 2014 issue of The National Notary.)

In Montana, as in every other state, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases of elder financial exploitation. What is particularly concerning is that these crimes are often committed with a Notary Public as an active, though sometimes unwitting, accomplice. This is certainly not the role Notaries should play in our society.

One recent case involved an elderly lady with dementia whose son used her power of attorney to sell her home and drain her bank accounts of over $240,000. She was left destitute — dependent on Medicaid and state-funded nursing care — a far cry from the well-planned and comfortable golden years she and her recently deceased husband had worked and saved for during their 60 years of marriage.

How was the Notary involved in this crime? She admitted to the authorities that she had notarized the power of attorney even though the son was forcibly directing his mother to sign the document when she had no idea what she was doing. By the time the crime was discovered, the son had squandered most of the money and left the country. The banks, the title company, and the other institutions involved in this case all absolved themselves of accountability for the same reason: They relied upon the notarized power of attorney as sufficient authorization for the transactions carried out by her “lawful” agent. And the Notary? Her defense was that she thought all she had to do was identify the elderly woman as the signer of the documents.

Protecting the public

The National Notary Association advocates that Notaries, as public officials, play a key role in protecting the public. In the NNA’s White Paper, “Why Notarization Is More Relevant and Vital Than Ever,” published in 2011, the case was made that Notaries in the 21st century lend credibility and legitimacy to documents requiring the imprimatur of the Notary Public. The final paragraph summed up the message well:

“Properties are conveyed, contracts are honored, adoptions are finalized, estate plans are established and medical wishes are respected — all because documents bearing the authenticating signature and seal of a Notary Public are trusted. The notarial act is the foundation of trust and the Notaries who perform them are Society’s guarantors of integrity and authenticity.”

Those very elements of trust, integrity, and authenticity are called into question by some of the most egregious instances of elder financial exploitation, like the one above.

Sadly, elder financial exploitation is often committed by family members and caregivers — the people who should be most protective of the welfare of these vulnerable individuals. These crimes are particularly heinous because they are deliberate and premeditated, and frequently the damages cannot be recovered in time to help the victims.

A man who claimed to be a caregiver for an elderly gentleman in a small town in Montana is now facing over twenty years in prison for multiple counts of elder abuse and financial exploitation. A friend of the caregiver, who notarized several of the documents purportedly involved in the scheme, is also under investigation for her part in defrauding the victim of assets and property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the heart of the state’s prosecution is the contention that the victim was mentally incompetent to handle his affairs, and the caregiver and his accomplice stole his entire estate by means of documents that were forged and fraudulently notarized. The trial is scheduled for early next year.

With the proliferation of identity theft and the billions of dollars in cost to individuals and society at large, Notaries, of course, must diligently focus on demanding the signer’s physical presence and proof of the signer’s identity. That isn’t all though; the Notary should determine that the signer is intentionally signing the document and is aware of what the document is. The NNA’s Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, Guiding Principle III, states:

“The Notary shall require the presence of each signer and oath-taker in order to carefully screen each for identity and willingness, and to observe that each appears aware of the significance of the transaction requiring a notarial act.”

Unfortunately, while Notaries are diligent in assuring that grandma is physically in their presence and is indeed the person named in the documents, they often do not realize that they should apply the standard of reasonable care to assessing grandma’s ability to knowingly and willingly sign those documents as well. Most states’ Notary laws don’t specifically require Notaries to do so. However, to protect the public in general and our eldest citizens in particular, it is imperative that Notaries take the extra step to verify that signers of powers of attorney and other high-value documents have voluntarily signed their names and understood what their documents mean if the trust that is implied by the notarial seal is to be maintained.

There are a number of things that Notaries can do to become a force in preventing elder financial exploitation and abuse.

Become educated

Professor Emeritus Malcolm Morris of the Northern Illinois University College of Law, in his presentation during the NNA 2014 Conference in Phoenix, issued a challenge for Notaries to educate themselves when he noted that Notaries have the choice to become either “functionaries or professionals.” A functionary does the minimum; a professional takes the time to learn as much about the duties and responsibilities of the office as possible and prepares for handling unusual and complex situations before they arise. This is particularly necessary for preventing elder financial exploitation.

Professional Notaries should become familiar with the kinds of documents most commonly involved in elder exploitation. Learning the differences between the types of powers of attorney (general, limited, durable and medical) and knowing the types of documents that are used to transfer property (quitclaim deeds, deeds of trust/warranty deeds, titles) prepares the Notary to perform the requested notarization with confidence and a basic comprehension of the potential consequences of the document being signed. It’s not necessary to have extensive knowledge about these documents; simply having a general understanding of their purpose creates a strong foundation for the professional Notary, who can then be extra vigilant when signers present themselves
for notarization.

It’s also important for Notaries to recognize that not every situation of possible elder financial exploitation involves the elderly person directly. As shown by the two examples above, the initial fraud occurred when an enabling document — the power of attorney — was negligently or fraudulently signed and then notarized. Subsequently, the document was used by the agent to sign other documents, many requiring notarization, to perpetrate additional crimes.

In order to thwart those secondary frauds, Notaries must know and follow their state’s regulations about verifying an agent’s authority to sign in a representative capacity. Some states, like Montana, require that a Notary must verify the signer’s capacity before notarizing a document signed by an attorney in fact, trustee, or guardian. However, in most states, Notaries are not explicitly required to do this.

It must be noted that some states’ statutes are silent on this matter and other states specifically prohibit Notaries from requesting authorizing documents. Every Notary must know exactly what his or her state expects regarding the verification of an agent’s authority and capacity to sign on behalf of another person or entity, and then must act accordingly.

Assess the situation

It is often difficult to determine the potential for abuse. Like many of the situations that Notaries face, reality doesn’t always match the model circumstances. Professional Notaries must know what the warning signs are and prepare themselves in advance to deal with the complex and unusual conditions that can occur when dealing with elderly signers or those who are signing on their behalf.

Some of the red flags include:

  • Someone other than the signer requests the notarization
  • You have been told that the signer is sedated or medicated
  • The signer appears confused, lethargic, tired or sleepy
  • The signer appears reluctant to sign the document
  • A friend or family member seems to be pressuring the signer to execute the documents
  • The signer/agent seems to be in a rush or hurry to have the notarization completed

Not every one of the above situations is always a problem, of course; for instance, it’s not that unusual for a person to ask if you will notarize something for a spouse or a friend. Yet when an adult child unknown to the Notary asks the Notary to come to an elderly parent’s home to notarize end of life documents, the Notary should be more alert for signs pointing to the possibility of fraud.

Manage the notarization

Once the signers present themselves for the notarization, it’s critical for the Notary to assume control of the notarial process by directing it from start to finish. Unless witnesses are needed, the Notary should seriously consider removing everyone but the signer from the room. This offers the Notary a one-on-one opportunity to directly assess the signer’s awareness and intention to sign the document and to confirm that the signer is free from duress or pressure to sign the documents. This experience culminates in the signer either acknowledging his or her signature to the Notary or swearing to any required oath for the notarization.

Remember, performing a notarization is not an Olympic speed event. Points aren’t earned for completing a notarial certificate in record time. Don’t let the customer or other impending duties pressure you into rushing through the process. Take the time necessary to ascertain what you need to know and to explain to the signer what you are doing. Ultimately, this will ensure that you perform the notarization properly.

Create the record

The final way that Notaries can combat elder financial exploitation is to complete a detailed record of the transaction. The journal entry is the official record of the transaction, and together with the notarial certificate on the document itself, provides confirmation that the document was properly signed or acknowledged in the presence of the Notary by the signer or legally authorized representative, who willingly executed the document for its intended purpose.

A Notary who records the specific details of the event in a journal provides invaluable information should a future challenge arise about the legitimacy of the transaction. It is not necessary to limit the entries in your journal to only those elements required by law or those suggested by best practices. Think of your journal as your diary and include any data that you think might be important if there would ever be a question about the transaction or the notarization. For example, you might want to record that the notarization was requested by the signer’s caregiver; that the caregiver was excused from the room before the notarization took place; who, if anybody else was present; that you visited with the signer for several minutes and determined that he/she was aware of the document, indicated that he/she understood its purpose, and intended to sign it for that purpose. That’s great contemporaneous evidence to complement the Notary certificate!

As the “guarantors of integrity and authenticity” Notaries Public can and should play a critical role in deterring, preventing, and combatting the scourge of elder financial exploitation. A notarized document should always be a shield, not a weapon, in the fight against elder financial abuse.

Lori Hamm is the Notary Program Administrator for the Montana Secretary of State's office.

View All: Notary News


Add your comment

Marsha Carlin

03 Aug 2015

You state to “verify the signer’s capacity before notarizing a document signed by an attorney in fact, trustee, or guardian”. Can we ask for verification from the patient’s doctor? What rights do the Notaries have to protect the public (patient’s) from fraud other than not notarizing the documents. Thank you

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. If a Notary has concerns about a signer's awareness or understanding and the signer's physician is available and able to answer questions, the Notary could certainly ask the doctor if the signer was being affected by any issues that could impair awareness (for example, having taken medication or other conditions that might affect the signer's alertness). If you have reason to suspect fraud is taking place against a signer, you can contact an appropriate law enforcement agency to report your concerns.


03 Aug 2015

What should a notary do or say if the signer is medicated or confused? Who should the caretaker contact in that case? Is their something the notary can offer in this case, such as suggesting they contact a lawyer for the notarization?

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. If the signer appears confused, is unable to communicate clearly, or appears not to understand what is going on, you should stop the notarization. Nonattorney Notaries may not provide legal advice, so it would not be appropriate for you to advise the family on what steps they need to take if the document cannot be notarized. The family would need to consult a qualified legal expert such as an attorney for instructions.

Phil Hines

03 Aug 2015

I think you should be extra cautious when something just doesn't seem right . You can usually get a feeling. Ive declined about 3 or 4 in the last 10 yrs.

Stephanie Hurley

03 Aug 2015

Do you have a list of specific questions that you would suggest we ask a person who we suspect may have limited capacities?

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. You can engage the signer in casual conversation and ask questions to see if the signer appears aware and understands what is going on. For example, the Notary can ask, “What brings you here today?” or “Can you tell me what time it is now?” If the signer appears confused, unable to respond, or other persons appear to be pressuring or threatening the signer to answer in a certain way, you should halt the notarization.

Rosemary Mathews

03 Aug 2015

Several times I've been asked to notarize the signature of a person who has dementia. Their children want the POA signed. Should I refuse to notarize in this case? If I refuse and explain the reason, what shouldl the children do then? Is that my concern?

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. If the signer appears confused, is unable to communicate clearly, or appears not to understand what is going on, you should stop the notarization. Nonattorney Notaries may not provide legal advice, so it would not be appropriate for you to advise the family on what steps they need to take if the document cannot be notarized. The family would need to consult a qualified legal expert such as an attorney.


03 Aug 2015

I was once asked to come to a private home at the request of a friend of an elderly woman "Mary" in hospice care. The friend also said she would pay as Mary was from the Theatre in her younger days and very treasured by her friends. I met Mary at her caretakers home and her very anxious daughter who was waiting in Mary's room. Her daughter called an attorney and asked me to talk to him. This seemed unusual to me. All I heard was a voice at the other end of the line saying he was the Daughter's attorney and that Mary was to sign all the paperwork as noted. She was telling her mother what to sign; trying to rush her. She was taking control of the entire process with impatience and panic. I asked the daughter if she could get me a cup of water and she left the room. I looked at Mary and asked if she understood the paperwork and she surprised me with the detail of understanding it was a Power of Attorney and it left her daughter and the "attorney" in charge. I told Mary that if I believed she was being forced into signing, I would not be able to proceed. She said that she wanted to proceed with the signing now so her daughter would go home. So when her daughter came back in the room, I asked her to remain silent while I spoke to Mary about where to sign to ensure Mary understood the documents. We went through the process and completed all the paperwork and the journal entry. Mary and her daughter thanked me and I left. Later that evening, Mary's friend called again and asked me to return to notarize paperwork again. When I arrived, it was just me and Mary. Mary began telling me that her daughter was not dealing well with Mary's terminal illness. She showed me a very large lump on her abdomen. Mary couldn't have weighed more than 70 lbs. She had makeup on and looked so cute in her bedcoat. She proceeded to tell me that the man named on the previous paperwork was her nephew who is also an attorney and one she did not trust and that she really did not want listed on the paperwork she signed the day before. She said she signed so her daughter would leave and not bother her about it anymore. Mary had her own attorney re-draw up new paperwork. She said she has a lot of money in oil and stocks and that she blamed herself for pampering her daughter so much so that her daughter would not be able to take care of herself. Mary talked about her life in theatre and I was impressed by her memory and sharp mind. She was in her 90's. She took out the new paperwork and went over every item with me to let me know she was aware of the wording. It still left her daughter named, but also Mary's brother named as Power of Attorney. He shared the same attorney as Mary and Mary was confident her nephew would not be able to take the money from her daughter. I left after the paperwork was completed. When the friend called to ask how much she owed me, I told her it was my pleasure to help Mary and no fee was needed. Mary died shortly thereafter, but at least her paperwork was in tact the way Mary wanted it and not the way her nephew did. I was never called regarding the second notarization from any member of her family.

Ann Lamon

03 Aug 2015

I am wary that this article may lead to a breach of our capabilities. The NSA's Pledge of Ethics states, "...I cannot explain or interpret the contents of any document for you, instruct you on how to complete a document or direct you on the advisability of signing a particular document. By doing so I would be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law,... As stated above, " is imperative that Notaries take the extra step to verify that signers of powers of attorney and other high-value documents have voluntarily signed their names and it is imperative that Notaries take the extra step to verify that signers of powers of attorney and other high-value documents have voluntarily signed their names and understood what their documents mean...". I'm worried that making sure the signer understands what the documents mean could involve explanations or similar and put the notary in jeopardy. If anyone could clarify this for me, as a new notary, I would be most appreciative. Thank you. -Ann

National Notary Association

03 Aug 2015

Hello Ann. You are correct that a nonattorney Notary may not explain, give legal advice or interpret a document's meaning to a signer. However, the Notary is permitted to engage in basic conversation with the signer to establish if the signer appears alert, can answer question and respond clearly, and appears to understand what is transpiring. If the signer appears confused, being forced against their will by another party, or gives indications that they clearly do not understand what they are signing (For example, if the signer says to the Notary, "This transaction is to buy a car for my grandson" but the document's title indicates the signer is selling her home to a stranger), then the Notary should halt the notarization.


03 Aug 2015

Notary of Elder Law documents

Glenda Baugh

03 Aug 2015

I completed a Reverse Mortgage application for a L.O. that said she did 15 a month. She was late getting to the signing and the borrower and I had started. As I was highlighting to the bwr the intentions of the documents she was signing, the L.O. took over and became very aggressive as to "just sign here". She told the bwr to put her boy friends name as emergency contact. The bwr had a son and I had suggested she put his name and number. But the L.O. told her she shouldn't bother her son with this. when we left the L.O. screamed at me in the street and told me she would see to it I never did another Reverse Mtg application. I reported her to the title company that probably appreciated the L.O. business more than my complaint. That was several years ago and it still bothers me. Who should I have contacted I talked to the bwr and knew she did not need the money. The L.O. knew the boyfriend.


03 Aug 2015

What a waste of time

Jennifer J. Guinn

03 Aug 2015

This information is very helpul and thank you for providing it. I can't beging to tell you how many times that I have had to refuse to notarize documents because the person lacked the capacity to understand. And I always make it my practice to speak to the person alone before I notarize documents.


03 Aug 2015

I believe in the near future, Reverse Mortgages are going to be at the top of the list of Fraud committed against the elderly by caregivers or family members. Once the homeowner passes away and the family home that the children expected to inherit is no longer a part of the inheritance and the money pulled out of the home cannot be accounted for, there will be problems...especially for the Notary. As a Loan Signing Agent, I no longer accept assignments for Reverse Mortgages. Notaries please beware.

M Sampson

03 Aug 2015

Is there a watch dog agency to help elders in these types of situations? Are we really doing enough by just walking away? I'm wondering if we as notaries can/should report a refusal to notarize due to lack of capacity? Shouldn't we be raising a red flag if we experience this situation? Aren't we just kicking the can down the road and leaving the problem to the next notary they contact?

National Notary Association

04 Aug 2015

Hello. The following website has a list of elder abuse reporting agencies by state: You can contact a state agency that handles elder abuse cases if you have reason to suspect a signer is being coerced, abused or defrauded by other individuals, or a signer's lack of capacity is being taken advantage of.

audra o

04 Aug 2015

Wonderful article...lots to consider when dealing with elder signers...Thank you


04 Aug 2015

There was a great deal of very good information here for all of us to use. I think the most important thing to do is to trust your instincts. If, after speaking with the person to be notarized, the signer, you feel he/she understands and agrees with what they are doing, your own judgment as to whether they should be doing it must be secondary. Although I don't particularly care to do reverse mortgage signings, it can be one of the most important vehicles by which someone of age lacking any other resource can get the necessities of life, including medical treatment. If there is a kinsman or LO pressuring the signer, I have had to tell them that I can't do the signing if they insist on continuing with the pressure they're exerting, that this must be the free will of the signer, because if not, it increases the likelihood of a challenge to the validity of the document. This often quells the overt pressure. I have also asked that person to allow me to speak with the signer alone in order to ascertain his/her competency (understanding and willingness) to sign. Lack of compliance to leave means I must. Too much pressure means too much liability - for the signer and for myself. If it feels wrong, don't do it!


04 Aug 2015

Lorraine, you have some great points, but this is something that us as notaries have to be aware of. A close friend of mine just found out that the younger sister assisted the mother with a reverse mortgage. Her mother is 86 and has Parkinson's disease. They found out that $172,000.00 dollars was drawn out and there have been no upgrades done to the mother's home. The sister has showed up with a new SUV and has had work done on her home. The sister also refused to give up the Reverse Mortgage documents. Secondly. finding out that there will not be a home to inherit for her and the other three siblings. The first question that my friend (I failed to say that she is an Attorney) asked was "how do you find out the notary that completed the documentation and aren't they suppose to evaluate the signer by their ability to comprehend the documents.?" When the companies allow people who are 86 and 96 and 99 to apply for reverse mortgages under the supervision of a conservator who caregiver, there is a problem. (These are the ages of individuals I have met with for the Application process and there was usually someone there telling them where to sign.) Again, Notaries beware. You do not know the situation regarding the signer for the Reverse Mortgage. What you do know is that if you notarize something for someone that is questionable, you will be liable in the event a problem arises. As for me, I don't do Reverse Mortgages.

Donna Serrano

04 Aug 2015

Early in my Notary career, I had a man ask me if I was only acknowledging his mother's signature. I said basically yes. He then covered the document and set about having his mother sign the document. I told him I could not do that since I did not know if my name was somehow in that document. He got very angry and went to my supervisor who tried to tell me I could lose my job for not notarizing a members signature. As it turned out, the man was trying to take his mother's estate and we were able to stop it. As a Notary, we are always able to refuse performing a notarization if we are not comfortable with the situation.


08 Sep 2015

One of your recommendations is to keep a journal of notarial acts. For the notary in a financial institution such as a credit union or bank, I believe there exists a conflict between the desire to reduce liability by keeping such a journal and the demand for privacy of the bank's clients or the credit union's members. Keeping a list of bank clients and or credit union members that the notary notarized transactions for (and taking this list upon termination of employment) seems to violate privacy rules and regulations. It is an especially difficult practice to defend when a particular state does not require notary journals. Are there financial institutions that allow this practice? What is NNA's opinion regarding this?

National Notary Association

09 Sep 2015

Hello. Many states that do not require keeping a journal of notarial acts--for example, Arkansas, Connecticut, Indiana, Washington and West Virginia, among others--still strongly recommend their use. A well-kept journal can provide supporting evidence that you acted properly during a transaction if you are ever accused of an inadvertent or willful mistake. Information in Notary journals also has helped investigators locate and arrest dishonest signers who attempted to commit fraud or forgeries.

Joe Ewing

20 May 2016

Good article NNA I hope every notary takes the time to read this and make sure that they ask the right questions and not be intimidated.


20 Aug 2016

Very sound comments and discussion. I tend to have a casual conversation with the elder (with others in the room) and inquire: "Can you tell me who this person is/these people are?" "Can you tell me in your own words what your intentions are for signing these documents?" "Did you get a chance to read the document(s) and/or have any questions about what it means?" "Do you want me to read the document to you?" You can get a significant sense of the situation with conversational questioning along these lines. I've had to decline notarizing a few times. I'm fortunate that there is a local attorney specializing in elder care issues to whom I can refer caregivers and/or signors. And I have the toll-free number for my state's elder abuse hotline in my Journal. This was especially important one time when a nurse/administrator at a nursing home REFUSED me entry to meet with a signor because they were diagnosed with Alzeheimer's disease and "how could I possibly put myself in a position to gauge the person's capability and notarize anything for them?!!" I checked with the elder care attorney and was informed doctors/nurses, etc. can NOT deny a Notary access to a signor; patients have a Bill of Rights (so to speak). As a Certified Signing Agent, I have not had an unpleasant experience with a LO on a Reverse Mortgage situation, but would have no qualms whatsoever stopping the transaction if it was not being conducted professionally, and would stress the importance of accuracy and the signor's careful attention during the signing. Cranky, shouting loan officers who threaten me don't know who they're dealing with! Good luck and happy signings to all of you. I'm pleased we have this resource for discussion and education.

Dan Serbin

22 Aug 2016

The reason I almost never do notarizations of Powers of Attorney etc for elderly whether in an institution or at their homes is because the request is always made by a family member on initial contact/request and never by the document signer. If the document signer can call me and set it up, and tell me what they are signing and why, then I may proceed. The document signer never actually calls me back to set it up. Nipped in the bud. If they do, I have them get their ID out and read me the date of expiration on it and what name appears and that the document name matches. Then I tell them that the travel fee is paid when I arrive in full. The signature fee is paid separately if the appointment culminates with the document actually being signed. They must be able to tell me about the document and what their intention is. Most of the time the family member will disclose that they have Alzheimiers somewhat but "they are sharper in the morning hours" disqualifies me from doing that notarization because families fight after the document signer is deceased and then it is always debatable if the document signer was having a good moment or not at the time they signed. In any case, I have always noted in journal even if it takes the whole page, who was present, even if they were not in the room, and if the signer could converse about the document in detail and assure me that no one is pressuring them. I insist on being alone with the signer and will ask them if they are being pressured and to talk to me about the document and what they intend it outcome to be. We all like to be altruistic and help the elderly or needy but NOT at the expense of being accused of wrongdoing so protecting your OWN interest is most important.

Jolene P. Federico

17 Jul 2017

In cases of the elderly I talk with both the Grantor and Grantee before we start so they both understand why it is I am doing so. I will then pull the grantee aside and explain that I have an obligation as a Notary to confirm that my client is comfortable with and competent to be signing the documents before them.

Linda L Mitchell

17 Jul 2017

As a forensic document examiner, I am often called upon to authenticate the signature of a decedent that the family suspects as having been coerced into signing. This is a very difficult position to be put into. As a handwriting expert, the indications are usually that the signature is genuine; while, the extenuating circumstances are that the signatory may be coerced. I have found that as a Notary, it is up to me to determine if the signatory is being coerced. If I cannot do that, I have to accept that the signatory is agreeing to the terms set down in the document. The vase majoritity of Notaries are not handwiritng experts, so it is not their capacity to determine coersion. When I testify as to authenticity, I do so with the caveat that it is not apparent in the handwiritng that there has been any coercion, but I cannot eliminate that as a possibiltiy.

linda l mitchell

17 Jul 2017

This is just what need so be accomplished. If the signer is found incompetent there is nothing more to do. A note is made in the journal and everyone goes on their wayl Then it is up to the attorneys too haggle the details.


27 Jul 2017

I often notarize for Hospice patients, and have seen situations where family members are attempting to coerce very ill people into signing powers of attorney. Generally, asking mundane questions about the signer brings out their reluctance to sign. Since these people are already very ill, I have said that they are too tired and medicated to sign now, and I will have to come back later. I then notify the Hospice caseworker of my suspicions. In several cases the patient has passed away shortly after I left. (An aside: many times children or spouses wait until their loved one is on his or her deathbed before obtaining a power of attorney, which is then almost immediately unusable. It should be more widely known that powers of attorney expire at the death of the grantor.)


07 Jan 2019

I feel that a doctor should have to provide paperwork as to the signer's capacity. A notary only sees the person for a short time & if the unscrupulous child is manipulating the person to sign the notary will have no idea what's going on.


29 Apr 2019

In a case where I have already decided to decline the notarization (I am in CA), for those notaries who have experience in this field. What is the best way to explain to the signor and/or the family that I cannot notarize the documents? What would be the best wording to use in order to avoid a legal battle after? And am I forced to explain in detail as to why I am declining? For CA we do need to keep a journal, would in make a journal entry and explain why declined the notarization? Would this protect me if the family comes after my E&O Insurance if the signor should die after I refuse? Just a scenario!!

Renee Mascher

21 May 2019

Is it appropriate for a hospital notary to notarize wills in the hospital? I find it odd that a will would need to be notarized in an acute care setting? Same question regarding DPOA? This seems sketchy to me since the average acute care hospital stay is three days. The Pt. did not see fit to address these matters prior to hospitalization.

National Notary Association

28 May 2019

Please see this page for more information about notarizing wills:


01 Aug 2019

What do you do when the notary is a lawyer & you know the person has dementia but the lawyer/notary had them sign it anyway? This has happened in my family where a DPOA & amended trust was done for a 95 year old with dementia.

National Notary Association

01 Aug 2019

Hello. If you suspect a Notary of misconduct/elder abuse, you may wish to file a complaint with one of the following agencies: 1) Your state Notary-regulating agency; 2) local law enforcement; 3) Your local Adult Protective Services organization.

Anthony Roberts

06 Jul 2020

Are any of you licensed to practice medicine? Because that's what you are doing when you try to diagnose a mental condition. My job as notary is to witness a signature and verify that the person signing the document is the person named on the document. We have courts to determine when fraud has occurred, and it tales a finding of a court to declare someone mentally incompetent AFTER a licensed doctor or psychiatrist has made that diagnosis. Some notaries like to play lawyer and in this case, psychiatrist, and that's not your job. your job as a notary is to affirm the person signing is the named person. My question is, if you are experienced and trained as a medical professional, why are you notarizing signatures for $10 each when you could be making $100,000 per year in your medical profession???? A.Roberts, Attorney at law

Barbara Williams

05 Apr 2021

Wonderful! So very true. I have had several issues like this with clients in Elderly patients and customers...... and family. Thank God! I was versed on this. We can never learn enough. Thankful that I had taken the time to review all. Thank you for sharing!

Melissa Billups

18 Feb 2023

Whata about using an umbudsperson to protect us all? Some states like California require it for certain documents.

Allen Neuman

20 Mar 2023

As a paralegal, I recently became a notary in the state of Michigan. What notary associations if any are recommended? In terms of equipment and additional certifications (stamps, Agent, etc.), what resources do you recommend? Thank you!

National Notary Association

20 Mar 2023

Hello. The NNA can help you with both supplies and NSA certification. You can find supplies for Michigan Notaries here: For information on becoming a Notary Signing Agent in Michigan, please see here:

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.