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WWYD: Answers To The Case Of The Anonymous Egg Donor

Notarizing an egg donor contract containing only the donor’s first name for anonymity purposes

In the What Would You Do scenario we ran two weeks ago, you were asked to consider whether you would notarize a document in which the signer wished to make an anonymous egg donation, and presented documents to be notarized that contained only her first name.  

We’re going to assume that the Notary does not personally know the egg donor. The issue is how to properly identify the signer with other forms of identification, given only the first name appearing on her documents.

Generally, it is your responsibility to ensure that the signer is who she says she is by verifying her ID, comparing the name on the ID with the name on the document being notarized, and checking to ensure the other elements on the ID (such as the photograph, physical description and date of birth) reasonably match the signer.

The egg donor likely insisted these other ID elements established her identity even though only her first name is included on the documents.

Unhelpful State Laws

States typically do not specify which data points from an ID a Notary must corroborate in order to verify identity, which means that you’re going to have to use some personal discretion to decide. How will you decide?

In this case common sense, if not best practice, is the deciding factor. The absence of a last name on the document poses an insurmountable roadblock in concluding that the signer presenting the identification is the same person described in the document.

Could a Notary in a state that allows credible witnesses rely on a witness or witnesses to swear to the anonymous egg donor’s identity instead? We can’t rule it out in every state, but in some credible witnesses would be prohibited.

California and Florida Notaries, for example, could not use a credible witness because one witness is required to swear that a signer does not possess any written identification (Cal. Civil Code 1185[b][1][A][iv] and F.S. 117.05[5][b][1][d]). In this case the egg donor does have ID. It’s just not adequate to identify her as the signer.

The donor may point out that the couple receiving the egg had their first-name-only signatures notarized. But you cannot let another Notary’s actions dictate yours.

Your Answers To The Case Of The Anonymous Egg Donor

Many Notaries, including Randolph Watkins, raised critical issues over the fact that the document contains only the signer’s first name.

“Even though proper identification documents might match the first name on the agreement, that doesn't mean the customer is the real donor,” said Watkins. “There are too many women with the same name in the world.”

I would not notarize it,” said Notary Barbara E. Frye. “Even if she had a photo ID, it wouldn't necessarily mean it’s the person referred to in the document. I would probably refer them back to the attorney who drew up the document or another attorney's office to have it validated.”

Jean Ladd, Nancy Larkin, and several others agreed with Frye, saying they would refer the signers to an attorney.

“I would suggest she return to the office of the attorney who drew up the contract and have them notarize it, if it is appropriate,” said Larkin. “I can't give her legal advice, and I think the potential for misuse of the documents is simply too high under these circumstances.”

“There must be legal protocol for these types of documents,” agreed Susan Victoria. “More than likely, the lawyer involved signs some type of affidavit attesting that their client does not have to include her last name. I would think that is the only type of document I can notarize.”

Several Notaries thought they would perform the notarization, if certain circumstances were met.

“I would call both the NNA Hotline and the California Secretary of State and ask if two credible witnesses could be used in this situation, or if there is an alternative solution,” said California Notary V.E. Smith. “If a legal solution does not exist, I would inform the signer that the notarization is not legal under California Notary law, and she should reconnect with her lawyer.”

Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.

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1 Comment

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Rosalind D Moore

09 May 2016

I don't understand why this should be an issue. There are egg donor facilities just like there are sperm donor facilities. Both of which cannot release personal information about donors. The only time anything like this becomes an issue is if someone wants to donate to one specific recipient. In that event, a lawyer would be responsible for everything which also means the information (including the notarization) could not be released to anyone. Privacy is completely protected. No outside notary would ever be involved.

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