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What Would You Do: When Your Signer Dies

What Would You Do-if signer dies

The Notary Hotline receives hundreds of calls daily from Notaries nationwide who find themselves in challenging situations. To boost your knowledge of Notary best practices, we’ve created a series of scenarios based on actual situations and ask a simple question: What would you do?

Imagine you’re called to the home of a seriously ill signer who needs a trust document notarized. The woman lets you know she is physically impaired and cannot sign her full signature. Instead, she asks to use a signature by mark. You let her know that she will need to have two witnesses.

You arrive at the appointed time. The signer is confined to her bed, but is lucid enough to answer your questions and satisfy you that she is aware of what she’s signing and willing to sign. She then makes her mark on the document and in your journal. The two witnesses sign the document, and you are just about to complete the notarial certificate when the signer passes away.

What Would You Do?
 

Documents related to an individual’s estate often determine how the person’s assets will be distributed after they die. As such, any issues revolving around those documents can be contentious.

In this situation, do you complete the notarization? Or do you stop?

To participate in this week’s “What Would You Do?” scenario, share your answers in the comments section below. We may mention your response in next week’s Bulletin, when we offer the best possible answer(s) to this notarial challenge.

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

 

82 Comments

Add your comment

Gerry

30 Sep 2016

Being an EMT, determining the patient had actually passed away would be about a one hour process. During this hour I would be the incident commander and would be busy treating the patient. After the patient is known to be dead, I would have time to complete the notarization. My state has no language in its laws about having to complete the notarial certificate in the presence of the signer, so I would complete the certificate and deliver it as instructed.

Dorothy Melton

01 Oct 2016

The purpose of a notary is to witness and verify first the identy of the signer and then to witness the signer as the document is signed. That actually did transpire. I would verify that I did exactly that. The seal is simply a verification that the transaction occured. Whether the person is alive or dead following the transaction makes no difference in the transaction, although it will have tremendous effect in other ways. As a notary I am not a responsible party to any other issues.

Margherita Rotondi

03 Oct 2016

It takes a while to determined the patient is officially dead. And based on the minimal information given above, I would continue to complete the notarization.

Rhea

03 Oct 2016

I believe all the requirements were met to finish the notarial act

Lina

03 Oct 2016

If all other items were satisfied as described in the scenario, I would complete the certificate and make notes in my journal. I've notarized docs in hospitals, rehab, and in hospice care and although I haven't had a client pass away in front of me, I've assisted people who knew their time was close and completing the task gave them peace of mind.

Donna H.

03 Oct 2016

As a pastor/chaplain/notary, I would watch and listen to learn the family's needs. I might offer to contact their preferred spiritual care person, and let them know I am a chaplain, if they need anything. My mother recently passed, in my presence, and there is busy work, and a variety of emotions, when someone passes. While my official reason for being there is only for notarial duties, human compassion demands I be sensitive to the whole situation. As for the notarization, the legal requirements having been met, I would be sure to complete and honor her final, legal wishes and rights.

Helen

03 Oct 2016

I would not continue the notarization. All CA requirements have been satisfied except the fee. She personally appeared, she was lucid, she signed the document and the journal. Which would tell me the document was complete. Since there were witnesses in this scenario they too would sign the journal. Even though the signer passed away, they witnessed her make her mark. The fee is the missing step in this scenario.

Christine Wissbrun

03 Oct 2016

Obviously I would call 911. Then I would complete the notarial certificate because the notary ascertained that the signer was of "sound mind", signed the document - witnessed by 2 witnesses (and the notary). I would have had my notary journal entry completed first, including the signer's mark and information. After the notarial certificate was completed, I would be making detailed notes as to the series of events (leading up to the signer passing away) - because inevitably, an heir or a relative that may not benefit from the transaction would most likely challenge the document signing.

Will

03 Oct 2016

Continue notarization. She has affixed her mark, witnesses were present and its consistent with her wishes.

Deborah

03 Oct 2016

I call the NNA hot line and verify ok to complete notary part of document. It does make sense it would since I am notarizing the signature I witnesses signed and her witnesses already witnesses and had signed as well but would have to verify with NNA hotline to be sure what FL law would say

DE

03 Oct 2016

Finish the notarization, you and two witnesses witnessed the signature and she was aware of what she was doing.

Charlotte Troiano

03 Oct 2016

I would notarize the document, but put comments in the journal.

David Gordon

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization and make a detailed note in the journal. The certificate is declaring facts concerning the actual execution of the document: the signer was physically in the presence of the notary and witnesses, was identified by the notary and signed in the presence of the notary and witnesses, and, finally, that the witnesses were also identified and signed at the signer's request and in her presence and the notary's presence. All of this occurred and that is the extent of what the notarial certificate declares. The others issues should, however, be carefully documented in the journal.

Mary

03 Oct 2016

I would complete my papers and give the papers to one of the witnesses or whoever was there with the signer. The person had adequately completed the documents and my work is to finish. I would also make sure to collect any fees due me before leaving so that there would be no question that the notary work was completed correctly.

Deborah

03 Oct 2016

I would call NNA Hot line immediately. It makes sense that since she signed it (put her mark) the witnesses had already signed before she died that I could finish up with my notarization but sometime the laws sense and ours is not the same so I would need to verify with the NNA hotline as to Florida's law on this..

Judy

03 Oct 2016

In the scenario, it says the signer, though physically impaired was able to lucidly answer questions and make the appropriate marks on the document and in the notary journal. Further, the witnesses are there. I would complete the notarization, but make notes concerning what happened in my journal.

Judy

03 Oct 2016

In the scenario, it says the signer, though physically impaired was able to lucidly answer questions and make the appropriate marks on the document and in the notary journal. Further, the witnesses are there. I would complete the notarization, but make notes concerning what happened in my journal.

Betty Collins-Carter

03 Oct 2016

I feel that you can complete the document reason the signer and the witnesses agree that she was clear and she understood what she was signing.

Allison

03 Oct 2016

All the requirements for the notarial act have been completed in the presence of the signer prior to death, but for the certificate. My state also has no requirement that the certificate be completed in the presence of the signer. I would complete the certificate and add a note to my journal of the circumstances.

Allison

03 Oct 2016

All the requirements for the notarial act have been completed in the presence of the signer prior to death, but for the certificate. My state also has no requirement that the certificate be completed in the presence of the signer. I would complete the certificate and add a note to my journal of the circumstances.

James

03 Oct 2016

I do not see any language in NJ state law about the notary having to complete the notary certificate in front of the signer. I only see that the signer must acknowledge or swear/affirm (if it's a jurat) in front of the notary. I would have one of the witnesses call 911 and then I would quickly complete the notarial certificate. The certificate is their to certify the notarization took place, but I believe the actual notarization is when the notary identifies the signer and/or any appropriate witnesses. The seal and certificate are there to just show the notarization took place.

Kathy

03 Oct 2016

Since all aspects of the notarization had been completed, and that signer had proven to my satisfaction that she wanted the document notarization completed, I would complete the certificate. I would indicate in my notary journal the circumstances of the notarization in case any questions arose from the notarization.

Patsy

03 Oct 2016

If the person signed in front of me and I confirmed in fact that she was aware of what she was signing than I would complete my section as notary and deliver it as instructed.

Dori Wollen

03 Oct 2016

Since everyone signed the doc and I am in the middle of completing my part, I would continue and finish the notarization. The signatures including that of the witnesses are the drivers of this act. Not a happy situation to witness....

Karen

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization because the signing by the patient with witnesses had been fully completed prior to death.

Spencer Sausser

03 Oct 2016

Does she need to sign the journal for it to be complete? With a jurat, a thumbprint is required but not with an acknowledgment. It doesn't mention the notary journal in the scenario. Just wondering. I do, however, see Gerry's point about completing the certificate after the fact.

Rex Hunt

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization, because I seen her make her mark.

Terri

03 Oct 2016

I believe in this case that I would complete the notarization. The primary person already signed, she was competent to sign and the two witnesses have already signed. I don't know of any provisions in my state's law that would prevent me from completing the notarization.

Celenda Vargas

03 Oct 2016

As I had been able to make a determination that the signer appeared to be lucid, she was not likely being coerced, and was aware of what she was signing and had the desire to do so; and since the signer had already completed everything that was required of her and the witnesses had done there part, simply leaving me to do my final part of the process; I'd complete the notarization. At that point, I was simply finishing a duty over which the signer held no responsibility.

Megan

03 Oct 2016

I would finish the notarization. Everything was completed prior to the death with the exception of my completion of the acknowledgement.

martindale.assistant@gmail.com

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notary, the person has already signed and made their mark on your notary journal. Have the 2 witnesses take the oath, sign your journal along with documenting their information. If the documents that are being notarized happen to be a Advance Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney-they are invalid upon the death of the signer. If it is Will or Trust it should be fine.

Theresa H Chapman

03 Oct 2016

I would continue and complete the notarization and note the date and time of signature. Since the person was lucid and satisfactorily acknowledged and signed the document with two other witnesses, I would complete it WITH THE EXACT TIME as I always do with these types of situations notarizing for elderly/sickly people. I do not see how you can legally do otherwise as the person was lucid and there were two others there to witness the entire signing.

Eileen Roe

03 Oct 2016

The notarization is done, the witnesses have signed; I would finish the certificate. The woman's dying request was to have her trust notarized, and she provided two witnesses and hung on until the notary public arrived to take her mark. It might be wise to follow through and make sure her notarized trust document was given to her designated trustee so it didn't get "lost" in transit.

Jeannie

03 Oct 2016

I would finish the notarization. They made the mark while alive. The death has nothing to do with completing the task.

Virginia M. Greene

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization, also add to my journal the time that 911 was dialed and emergency services were called, and give a brief note in my journal about how the document was complete. Witnesses should already have been documented as the journal should always be completed first.

Debra Troxell

03 Oct 2016

If the patient was lucid at the beginning of the notarization process and the witnesses had already signed, after checking the vitals of the patient, I would go ahead and complete the process.

Sandra

03 Oct 2016

After getting confirmation that the signer has indeed passed, in the presence of the two witnesses, I would complete the notarization and delivery the documents as instructed.

Nancy

03 Oct 2016

I agree with Gerry. If the person was aware and everything was signed, I would complete the notary. She had signed before her passing and all I would have to do it my part.

Mary A

03 Oct 2016

Since she signed the document and the journal before passing, I would complete the notarial certificate.

jbuxter@gmail.com

03 Oct 2016

I would fulfill the wishes of my client and complete my part of the notary process-- right after I called 911. My client had completed her portion by signing the document before she died.

Joselito

03 Oct 2016

I would continue the notarization after calling 911 and inform about the incident. If CPR is allowed the I would administered until released by paramedics.

A. C. Dye

03 Oct 2016

Once 911 were called and instructions for me to help keep the signer alive if possible....but if the person passed away.......I would complete the notarial certificate.....and notify whoever I could of the passing of the signer.

A. C. Dye

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarial certificate as all conditions required were met...the signer was aware of what they were signing...signed with their mark and provided acceptable identity information such as a current DMV ID. Since the witnesses were there also to verify identity...I would have them sign the journal also with their ID information......hopefully, 911 was called and given instructions on how to attempt steps to continue with life support if possible....

Victor Hernandez

03 Oct 2016

I had a patient that was in a coma, so after talking with all family members and witnesses we agreed to continue with notarization. All parties involved had no issues, was this the right choice.

Donna

03 Oct 2016

First thing I would do is get 911 on the line, As they were on their way, I would complete the notarization as all people required to sign did so it would be valid.

Alden Martin

03 Oct 2016

The Notarial Act is complete if she has made her mark in the presence of the two witnesses, In Florida journal not a req.(I keep a journal) BEST PRACTICES, have witnesses sign, keep good documents & I'd have witnesses give affidavits of facts.

Jennifer

03 Oct 2016

Being in the medical field for many years, my first thoughts are not of the notarization but it the patient/person who has "passed away". I would first make sure that all attempts were made to resuscitate the patient first if there is no DNR filed. After that and only then when the patient/person is confirmed deceased would i complete the notarization. She had already done her part and the witnesses as well. The only thing left would be for me to sign off on it. She had already done her part and was well aware of what was taking place

Jeanette Resnick

03 Oct 2016

If I were the notary in this scenario I would complete the job making note that the gravely ill signer was in agreement but passed away in front of the notary and witnesses as she was making her mark. I would have the witnesses sign the journal, to acknowledge my note, and take thumb prints. However this matter is unclear as to who the documents would go to after the signing. So in my opinion, later, there will be a need to have some other documents notarized.

Taline

03 Oct 2016

The answer is simply yes. As a certified notary your duty is to identify the person who is signing the document. While in the above scenario the signer passed away after placing his mark on the document your duty has been completed at that point and completing the journal merely attests that you have identified the person i.e. He has claimed he is who he is. The signer's passing away has no bearing on the notary's recording in his jjournal.

Norm

03 Oct 2016

Based on what you said, I would complete it, because I had everything I need to complete it, as I normal would, also,based on the date and time as long as the person made their mark before the time of death, I see no reason not to complete it.

Norm

03 Oct 2016

Based on what you said, I would complete it, because I had everything I need to complete it, as I normal would, also,based on the date and time as long as the person made their mark before the time of death, I see no reason not to complete it.

Kris

03 Oct 2016

If the patient/signer and the two witnesses sign the document, then the signer passes. The document was signed and witnessed prior to the death. I would complete my certificate and note in my journal what occurred in chronological order. The certificate is the last step, the identification and signatures on the documents have occurred.

Linda C Willis

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarial certificate. I saw the signer mark and X and witness it. I am obligated to complete the notarial certificate.

CJ Green

03 Oct 2016

As the deceased was aware of their surrounding and state of mind and had singed by mark in front of the witnesses. First I would stop until care arrives then complete signature of the witnesses and Notary Certificate

Kathryn Hoffmann

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarial certificate. The signer signed in my presence, was lucid and knew what she was signing. I am assuming someone else has dialed 911 to get help if necessary! Since two witnesses were required, I would leave the document with them at the home where the patient lived. I would make amazing long notes in my journal, and perhaps even take a picture of the document using my cell phone for my reference.

Ronnie A. Norman

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization and prepare a brief statement regarding the entire signing event and have both witnesses and myself sign it in front of a notary that was unconnected to this transaction and attach it to the notarized document.

Harold

03 Oct 2016

As long as the signer has done all that is legally required for the notarization the notarization must be completed. It doesn't matter if the signer passes away 2 seconds or twenty years later.

Jena

03 Oct 2016

95% of the notarization had been done prior to the client's passing. Because the notary was confident the signer knew what she was signing and her identity was corroborated by the two subscribing witnesses, her intent was clear, all that was left was filling out the piece of paper acknowledgomg you were satisfied with the client's identity. I believe I'd complete the notarization.

Brand New to this

03 Oct 2016

With my very limited knowledge, I would complete the notary. The person completed their part before they passed and met all of the criteria needed for me to do the notary.

Melissa

03 Oct 2016

In my opinion, the signatures by the signatory, the witnesses and myself were made prior to the death (even if immediately prior), so the certificate can be completed.

Dan

03 Oct 2016

Since the signing was completed by the signer my responsibility would be to complete the notarial certificate and my journal; and noting the circumstances, in an unobtrusive way as possible while allowing the family or those present to attend to the deceased. I'd probably also stay long enough to act as a witness to and until whatever authorities and medical professionals arrive. In the interim I would finish the rest of my notary obligations, offer my condolences and leave as soon as I finished my witness statements.

Ted

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the certificate. The notarization of the document has been completed when the client signed and the witnesses signed the document, the notary is complete. Filling out the certificate is my job and if i am able to complete my job I should.

kbpampered@optonline.net

03 Oct 2016

Since the person has already signed and the witnesses have signed, I the notary can finish notarizing the documents. I do no know that the person is officially dead until confirmed by medical personnel so therefore I should finish my notarization process.

Michael Gilman

03 Oct 2016

Not being a Dr... determining if the client had actually passed would not be my call...since all the requisite items were completed I suggest you need to complete the notarization. However if even one item was not complete then you could not continue (such as the journal entry)

Alden Martin

03 Oct 2016

If the signer made her mark in presence of the 2 witnesses, the notarial act is complete. FL. doesn't require Journal (SHOULD), I keep a journal. Would ask the witnesses to complete a separate affidavit because of the unusual circumstance. Her mark is valid.

Theresa Cobb

03 Oct 2016

The signature is there, the witnesses have signed so I would complete it. She was of sound mind and alert to what she wanted.

Linda Millstone

03 Oct 2016

I would continue with the notarization. The signed completed their task, signing by mark on both the document and the journal. I'd already ascertained that the signer wanted to execute the document. The only thing left would be to record the two witnesses. It would be a totally different thing if the signer had passed before signing by mark.

JoAnn Bedell

03 Oct 2016

I would call the hotline.

Denise Parr

03 Oct 2016

Being that our job is to witness the signature and the client was able to answer and sign. I would finish while they decided if the signer had passed.

Leslie Cotsamire

03 Oct 2016

Having a power of attorney ceases upon death. Little tough getting a person who has died to sign. The signing should not be done

Jerry Selby

03 Oct 2016

Finish the notarization. All requirements were met prior to death.

Adria

03 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization and notate the circumstances in my journal.

John Morgan

03 Oct 2016

The problem is not the notarization act, because it is complete. The question is what to do with the document. It belongs to the signer who is now deceased and should go with the signers personal effects. I would have whoever is taking possession of the document to sign a receipt saying they took the notarized document.

Susan

04 Oct 2016

The document has been notarized in completion. I am unsure if the question is that the notary book has not been signed by the witnesses. Nevertheless, since the signer made her (his?) mark and properly witnessed, I would have the witnesses sign the book with the appropriate notes made, and continue to complete the notarial certificate.

Verne Gordon

04 Oct 2016

As a California Notaty Public, I would immediately complete the notary certificate and make a journal entry that the signer had passed immediately following her signing the document. The deceased person was lucid at the time of the signing and was able to confirm willingness and the mark witnesses signed the journal. Notarization is complete with the exception of the CA fee. The remaining question is who would get the completed document?

vina

05 Oct 2016

The document and journal has been signed and/or the mark has been placed. I would complete the notarization.

Bahiyah Hillary

06 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization, after making sure 911 was called. I would also note my book.

Phyllis

07 Oct 2016

The notary process was proper jouranized before the ill patient die.She was aware of her consciousability when signing the journalized document along with witness. So what the noptary should do file the appropriate documents with the court and contact immediate family or will beneficarys for probate court,otherwise the jouranized is proficient

JAYANTI M. PATEL

08 Oct 2016

I WILL COMPLETE NOTARIAL CERTIFICATE.

Patricia

10 Oct 2016

I would complete the certificate and note the passing in my journal.

PAULINE AYALA FINN

11 Oct 2016

All the requirements to notarize her signature were met, prior to her death. Absioutely complete the notary. Make sure your journal reflects time of signature for all 3 parties.

williegomae@yahoo.com

12 Oct 2016

I would complete the notarization.

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