Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org 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.

What Would You Do: The Case of the Hard-Drinking Signer

Intoxicated signer during a notarization

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’ve arrived at the home of a signer to notarize a number of documents. At first, everything goes smoothly — the signer has proper identification and engages you in normal conversation.

But there is one odd note: There’s a glass and bottle of liquor on the table, and the signer keeps taking drinks. While he appears lucid as you start with the signings, his attention starts to wander, he begins slurring his speech and his conversation with you becomes less and less coherent.

What Would You Do?
 

Though the signer has shown you his ID and you’ve completed your journal entries, the signer’s drinking and erratic behavior worry you. Do you stop the notarizations, or should you go ahead and complete them?

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.

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

Additional Resources:

Tips & Tutorials

NNA Hotline

 

76 Comments

Add your comment

Patricia Warmack

04 Nov 2016

I know a notary who had this same situation happen to her. Stop the signing and notify the title company

info@ohionotarial.com

06 Nov 2016

I would tell the signer, immediately, signing, he/she must abstain for the entire duration of the signing. This is not negotiable.

Joanne Stevens

07 Nov 2016

Unfortunately, I've had this situation happen several times. If alcohol is present at the signing I ask that it be put away until we are done. If the signer is notably intoxicated I postpone the signing for another time or day.

Virginia Wells

07 Nov 2016

I would ask the signer if we can reschedule to notarization for another day when he is not indulging in a mind altering drink. I'd let him/her know that I'm uncomfortable continuing with the notarization because I don't believe he is clear on what he's about to do.

David Gordon

07 Nov 2016

Well, it depends on how far along the process was. If the signer had already sworn to/acknowledged AND signed the documents while still lucid and coherent, then it seems the process should be completed. If the problematic behavior started before some documents had been sworn to/acknowledged and signed, then those documents should not be completed. In both cases, the signer's behavior should be noted in the journal and the stage in the process at which it began.

David Gordon

07 Nov 2016

Well, it depends on how far along the process was. If the signer had already sworn to/acknowledged AND signed the documents while still lucid and coherent, then it seems the process should be completed. If the problematic behavior started before some documents had been sworn to/acknowledged and signed, then those documents should not be completed. In both cases, the signer's behavior should be noted in the journal and the stage in the process at which it began.

Luetta A Robbins

07 Nov 2016

Signer insisted in meeting at a bar, wife was very unhappy about it, spilled her Coke on her will. Their attorney was there shook of the Coke and handed ti back to her. Attorney asked the signer about sons he was disinheriting and the signed said "I am under the influence of alcohol I am not under the influence of any person" I was grateful the attorney was there and we proceeded.

Theo. A. Cavacos

07 Nov 2016

One of 3 basic duties for a notary to determine- Besides Identification and Willingness is Capacity. If You deem the party "intoxicated " I believe the party does not have the capacity to proceed.The Notary is charged to act in good faith and if it appears the party is inebriated the notarization should not occur

Liz

07 Nov 2016

I would not notarize. Alcohol and drugs impair your judgement. The person would not be of clear mind to make the decision to sign.

Gene Othic

07 Nov 2016

I was assigned to a Notary task and when I arrived it was obvious that the signer was incapacitated due to alcohol. I asked several questions before beginning the assignment and determined he would not be able to recall his actions the next morning and terminated the meeting and left the signing table. The signer was upset when I announced that I was leaving and wanted to speak with the firm that gave me the assignment. I called the firm and after he spoke with them for a moment they confirmed they would reschedule the meeting.

Lillian Eagan

07 Nov 2016

First of all, when I saw the drink sitting on the table I world determine if the signer was lucid at that time and if he was, I would continue with the signing. Now, that being said, when I saw the signer going for a sip of liquor, I would advise him that he cannot continue his drinking until this process is over otherwise i will have to leave and he will have to reschedule for another time. I believe in setting the tone and basically the rules for signing.

Robert

07 Nov 2016

I would stop notarization due to signer's erratic behavior. I would ask signer to read all pages of documents,cognitive of all facts before I would complete notarization. As a notary you are attesting as to competence of signer

Ralph Z

07 Nov 2016

Initially I would ask him to cease drinking until all of the documents were signed and notarized and explain that I need to be certain that he is fully aware of what he is signing. If he refuses I would explain if it gets to the point where I believe he is not fully cognizant of what he is signing that I would cease the process. That's what I would do when it got to that point.

Brian Booth

07 Nov 2016

I would state my concerns to the signer and offer to return at a later time to finish the signing. I would fully document my decision and course of action, including events leading up to the decision.

Karen Thomas

07 Nov 2016

By the time his speech and handwriting start to diminish in clarity, you have already determined he was of sound mind and knew what he was signing, and that he is who he says he is. These are the requirements of a notarization in my state, so I would continue with the notarization until the point where the signer was no longer able to write his name. I would then make a not in the journal as to why the notarization was not complete and at some later time, call the signer to schedule the remaining notarizations.

Summer Martinez

07 Nov 2016

I would stop the notarizations and make notes to accompany the journal entries as to why the process was not completed. I cannot in good faith complete the process if the person my not have a clear memory of what they are signing and the events that transpired.

Jonathan Nowak

07 Nov 2016

I would end the notarizations at that point, and void the journal entries for any items that were not yet executed. In this situation, I would have been fine with the state of mind of the signer, but once I believe that he is incapacitated, confused, or otherwise "lacking the mental capacity" to sign the documents, it is my responsibility to end the singing, and offer to reschedule.

Mark Stathem

07 Nov 2016

I would discontinue the signing. The client is supposed to 'be aware'. Postponing the assignment shows care for the customer as well as anyone else involved, and yourself.

Diane Ross

07 Nov 2016

Even though ID and entry has been completed, I would explain to the signer that we will have to postpone the actual signing and notarizing for another day and time as I need to be certain that my signers are 100% present and not in any kind of altered state. I would then make an appointment to return and remind the signer that for me to be able to notarize their signature at this next appointment, I would request that they abstain from any alcoholic beverages until after our notarization is complete.

Annie

07 Nov 2016

I do not believe the process should continue. The signer is not in their right mind.

RMG

07 Nov 2016

If I believed the signer was acting disoriented or incoherent from drinking while in the process of notarization, I would recommend to the signer that we continue the procedure at another time when I believe his/her attention to be of sound judgement.

C. Cecelia Ariaz

07 Nov 2016

When I see the bottle, I would ask the signer if they have been drinking. If they have not or have only had one drink, I would ask them not to drink any more until the signing is done. I would tell them that, under the law in the state of California, they cannot be under the infulence of any alcohal before and while signing and if they are it is invalid.

ERMALINDA OWENS

07 Nov 2016

I would definitely stop the notarization, line through & initial anything completed so far, And note in my journal why the notarization was stopped. This is not only for the legality of the notarization, but for my own physical safety.

Maggie Gutierrez

07 Nov 2016

I address the issue the moment I sit down at the table, as soon as I see any form of alcohol being consumed. With a smile on my face, and a VERY approving tone in my voice, I make the following statement, "Absolutely enjoy that cold beer/glass of wine after your hard day at work, you have certainly earned it and I myself like to do the same thing. The one thing I need to ask is that you do not consume more than one beverage while I am here. That is only because I have to be able to say you were not under the influence and every one has different tolerances and I cannot determine who has what tolerance. But I can say that I feel confident that every one is still sober after one drink, so please enjoy that one." I have never had any one get upset or refuse the request.

George Furtsch

07 Nov 2016

If I was concerned about the signers lack of judgment because of intoxication, I would suggest to the signer that limiting the amount of alcohol would help me in my endeavor in doing my job to protect them in this signing. If that didn't work and the signers continue to drink heavily and reach a point where I feel that their judgment is impaired I would, excuse myself and call whoever assigned me to the job and explain the situation

Linda

07 Nov 2016

If the signer was slurring his words and showing erratic behavior, it clearly proves he is intoxicated and therefore not capable of making the right decisions. I would not perform the notarization. I would have to explain that it would need to be done when he is sober.

LaVena Cadwallader

07 Nov 2016

If the person is drinking and acting erratic, I would gather my things, call the agent to let them know what is going on and they can reschedule when the client is coherent.

Penny costigan

07 Nov 2016

I would explain that a notaries duty is to only complete a notarization when the customers is completely aware of what they are signing. Explain you would be glad to notarized them at a later date as they did provide proper and acceptable identification

Mary F

07 Nov 2016

I would stop the notarization and make a note on the line or lines regarding the reason that I stopped. Someone who is accustomed to drinking can appear lucid but have no memory of their actions when they become sober. Also, as a notary, I am now aware that the person may not be truly rational or aware of what is occurring, so no notarization.

Lorraine Reilly

07 Nov 2016

I would politely stop the signing and explain that I would need to reschedule. Even though ID is correct, Alcohol and signing important documents do not mix and could call the validity in question.

Nancy

07 Nov 2016

I would stop the notarization and ask to reschedule the appointment. It is my understanding that the signer should be lucid during the entire notarization process. If there is a possibility that the signer could later claim they were intoxicated during the notarization process and were not aware of what was being signed, then the notary could be put in a questionable position.

Laura Porter

07 Nov 2016

It seems to me that the signing would need to be resumed at a late time or date when the signor is lucid.

Jen Lieder

07 Nov 2016

Depending on the documents we are notarizing I would end the notarization. If it is a will, deed, trust or any financial document I would not continue. If it is a simple acknowledgment of sort then I would point out that he/she continual is making me uncomfortable and if it continues we would need to stop and reschedule.

Denise Gould

07 Nov 2016

It is clear that the client does not understand the importance of the situation if they are drinking enough to show signs of inebriation during the notarization process. I would say, "Let's reschedule this appointment for another time at your convenience to do the notarization. You seem to be a bit distracted and I want you to be sure about what is transpiring today." If the client became belligerent at this point, and I felt in danger, I would complete the notarization and then notify the authorities of the situation. I would make note of the visit in my notary journal or somewhere if your state does not mandate a journal.

sswetz@tampabay.rr.com

07 Nov 2016

A Notary's job is to ascertain the fact that the individual is who they say they are. I would ask the signer to refrain from another drink until we have completed the signing. The signer does after all have to sign his or her name legibly after all.

Carla Henderson

07 Nov 2016

Upon starting the session and seeing the bottle there, I would kindly ask that he refrains from drinking while he is signing so that we can expedite the session.

Delilah Torres

07 Nov 2016

I would have politely asked client right upfront to refrain from drinking during notarization and explained that he/she needs to be completely oriented during notarization otherwise notary will not be able to complete notarization.

Roosevelt Jones

07 Nov 2016

explain the package

James Martin

07 Nov 2016

I had this scenario play out a few years ago. He started out very lucid and then drank himself stupid. Because of the potential volatility of the situation as he became drunker, I proceeded to let him think we were signing everything and all was good. Not offending a drunk is typically the best response. We signed most everything and I left him feeling like all was good. Once I left and got to my car and applied a boatload of sanitizer (he had touched me with bloody, licked on fingers and hands) I called the Title company and left a message to call so I could explain. Of course my notarization was no good because he was unable to comprehend what he was signing. A few days later I was back on his doorstep signing a new set of docs. He was very appologetic and had no clue or recollection of the previous signing...his family had told him about his actions, so he was quite humble.

Grace K

07 Nov 2016

Yes, I was at the signing where the borrower was drunk. Middle of the signing he started commenting how beautiful I am. I ignored the comment and redirected his attention to the signing. Then he said he wants to die. At that point I still continue the signing but I have asked tactfully why does he want to die? He said he has seen everything in life and there is no reason anymore to live. So,my response to him was you have not seen everything, and continued asking if his children, he said yes. Then I asked if his children are married, he said not yet I said you see you have not seen everything. I said your see you still have a long way to dance in this life, to see your grand kids and teach them all you have seen in this life. Now, that is a joy and contentment when you are part of that process. He said Grace thank you, I never have thought about that. This was a person who was making over $10K a month. He end up talking about the resent divorce after a long time being married to his now ex-wife. So he was a little depressed. I know that as notaries we shouldn't be playing doctors, but sometimes, desperate matters need desperate yet creative measures to get the job done and give the other person HOPE.

Nina

07 Nov 2016

As the signer was lucid at first, I wouldn't immediately call of the notarization. First I would question the signer to confirm whether he understood the nature of actions and verify that he was a willing signer. If he could adequately convey these things, I would perform the notarization but note in my journal his drinking and my verification procedure. If the signer was unable to answer my questions, appeared not to understand what he was signing, or indicated he was no longer able or willing to go through with the notarization, I would offer to reschedule the notarization for another time, note the event in my journal, and leave.

K Schmidt

07 Nov 2016

Finish the notarization. Without a breathalizer, you don't know the level of intoxication and just because a person is intoxicated doesn't mean they don't know what they are doing.

Jayanti M. Patel

07 Nov 2016

I will stop Notarization because its a Jurat. Signer is a drunkard. He may not be knowing, what he is doing.

Ant

07 Nov 2016

thank you

ants.cell@gmail.com

07 Nov 2016

thank you

Linda Hoffman

07 Nov 2016

I would tell him that I was sorry that I would not be able to complete the process at that time, but would be happy to come back at another time to finish the process. I might mention that I would come back when he was sober and more coherent, depending on his disposition at the time. (That might not be a good idea if the person was already belligerent or argumentative!)

dreber@fmam.com

07 Nov 2016

If I observed that situation, I would kindly tell the individual that I could not notarize the document because I felt he/she was incapacitated and in good conscience, I would feel very uncomfortable in notarizing the document.

Karrie Kiel

07 Nov 2016

Wow that would be a difficult signing. Luckly, I have never in all of my signing had this happen. Of course you would have to do a judgement call, if you feel very uneasy about being there. Let the customer know you need to step out to contact the lender. I would take my notary bag with me. If I felt he was that drunk I would leave the closing and the lender can reset the closing at a later date at a banking office or a public place. My safety is number one.

Frances Savage

07 Nov 2016

I would ask them to allow me to schedule another appointment to come back at a different time when I felt confident that he was coherent and understood exactly what he was signing. I would tell them it was for their best interest that I should do so.

William L. Fitchpatrick

07 Nov 2016

In Florida it is the responsibility to assure that the signer is fully competent . I would tell the signer that I was going to reschedudle this signing at a future time when the signer was not drinking.

Angela

07 Nov 2016

You stop the signing and explain the reason for it. Just be careful, because you don't know if you're dealing with a belligerent drunk or someone just under stress or something else.

SandyTalavera

07 Nov 2016

If a person is drinking alcholol and he shows physical signs of intoxication. I would have to reschedule the notary. He needs to be of sound mind and have a clear understanding of the document.

Gloris

07 Nov 2016

In the situation where the signer is drinking in the Notary's presence, I would decline to perform the notarial act because I would be negligent in finding cognizance because I would not know how intoxicated the signer is. I would suggest he or she re-schedule when they are sober. The fines and penalties are too severe for me to take a chance with my commission for performing when the person may not be fully aware of what they are doing.

Diana Douglas

07 Nov 2016

I would definitely request him to curtail his drinking until the notarization is completed and if he refuses, I would politely advise that the transaction will be halted, while at the same time positioning my cell phone where I am able to quickly dial 911. Note: another reason to only perform notarizations in a safe environment.

Jena Harris

07 Nov 2016

Since he began the session coherent and I'd completed the journal notations, I'd complete the notarization, thank the signer for his time, collect any fee due, and leave.

CHERI

07 Nov 2016

1st, if on my arrival, the signer had mentioned and was clear about the papers to be signed, I might feel comfortable with them signing. However, will their signature be recognizable with all the drinking that has been done & be accepted. If not, I would probably ask to make another appointment. #2 If the signer, is so intoxicated that they cannot keep up a lucid conversation/sign their name in their normal fashion, then I need to make another appt.

Marie Golloway

07 Nov 2016

I would not allow him/her to sign.

Pete Hess

07 Nov 2016

I explain to them as in the state of Texas if you are licensed to carry and you are carrying, you are not permitted to touch any form of alcohol and as a notary, I am held to the same standards, if you touch any alcohol before a notarization that I am not permitted to notarize any document you sign.

pwpeterson@yahoo.com

07 Nov 2016

I would walk away. Not comfortable with a drunk person, notarization pending or not.

Frank Gonzales

07 Nov 2016

This has to be a judgment call. If at least 3/4 of the needed notarization's have taken place before the person is intoxicated, I would finish and note in my journal approx where in the process the person appeared to become intoxicated (e.g., from what point/document the intoxication was noticeable). If less than 3/4, I would stop, excuse myself, and ask to make another appointment to complete the job.

Merlene L. Lane

07 Nov 2016

I have had only one signature where the client was intoxicated. He was slurred speech when I arrived. I took his and his spouse's ID and commenced with the signing. I explained to him that he was to sign as the typed name appeared and that he should initial on the initial lines. When his signature and initial became erratic and being signed anywhere on the documents, I simply told him that I could not guarantee that the title company would accept the signatures and may delay the closing by having to re-do the paper work. He suddenly was willing to conform.

lstoeckleincp@gmail.com

07 Nov 2016

I would kindly tell the person that for my safety and theirs we can not proceed with the signing if they will be drinking and remind them that we can move faster if they like so they can continue their evening. I would set the tone prior to them getting out of hand from the onset.

Linda Spain

07 Nov 2016

I experienced this at a signing. It is a very delicate balance to ask a person to set aside their drink when you are a guest in their home. It is very important to handle this immediately and not allow drinking during the signing since you will not know how it can affect them and the legal consequences that can happen. Remind them of your responsibility to ensure the closer and lender the legal documents are being signed by a person of sound mind. If they cannot honor your request for an hour, call your closing agent. In my case the borrower asked me if I thought he was drunk and I said no sir if I thought you were drunk I would have to gather the documents and leave. He respected that statement poured himself a glass of juice and we had a great signing. In my opinion, it is our responsibility to maintain control of the signing and the documents and be a neutral person protecting all parties involved.

Lorraine Pereverziev

07 Nov 2016

This would definitely be a sticky wicket. I would definitely assess the situation to determine whether my signer was competent at the point at which I was notarizing his signature. I think I might be tempted to complete the signing and report back to the title company and/or lender about my concerns regarding the signer's competence, or lack thereof, at the time I was done. However, I'm certain of one thing. If I felt fairly close to the beginning of the appointment that the signer was losing his ability to track the process, I would inform him that I would have to perform the signing at a later date when his competency to understand and approve the terms of the transaction could not be called into question, letting him know this was both for his, and the other party's protection. I have been doing notaries and signing people up on their loan documents since 1984 and this is not a situation I've ever encountered. I hope it's not one I run into anytime soon, either.

Joan burns

08 Nov 2016

I would stop the notarization. I would explain to the customer that if we proceed, the notarization could be contested and/or invalid and all of this would be wasting his time. (Not to mention my time). In any sitation, it is best to point out what is to the customer's benefit; especially if he's drunk. I would explain that I could return at a better time to finish the documentation if he liked. Depending how drunk, I might even mention that I wouldn't want to jeopardize my license by completing the transaction. I don't think anyone wants to be resposible for getting someone else into trouble. I would stop the transaction and make a note in my journal the reason for the imcomplete notarization.

Barbara

08 Nov 2016

I would stop the notarization. I don't believe he would be fully aware of what he was signing while clearly under the influence of alcohol.

Joyce Caldwell

08 Nov 2016

In a situation where official documents are being notarized I would make sure the individual is coherent during the process. If the individual is drinking I believe my first reaction would be to ask them to refrain from drinking until all documents are properly signed and notarized. If the individual insist on drinking during the process and it appears they have lost focus, I would stop the process and inform the individual that I would prefer to continue the process at another time so that they are aware of what they are signing. I would not want to take the risk of continuing the process if the individual is incoherent. It's a possibility they could come back later state they were not of aware of what they were signing.

Virginia M. Greene

08 Nov 2016

I would immediately stop the notarization and explain to the signer that alcohol impairs the mental and physical functions even though it may not seem to..and try to schedule a time to return to complete the documents. As a Nurse,, I am very aware how alcohol can effect the mental capacity. Being a guest in his/her home is not the issue... I am not a guest I am there in a professional capacity and have a duty to the client, and to my profession to perform at My full capacity.

Cindy Bahn

08 Nov 2016

First of all, when I made the appointment in the first telephone call I would advise them at that time to abstain from all alcohol use prior to and during the signing. Upon arrival, I would ensure customer was not under the influence. If he/she is, I would reschedule and call the company that hired me. The customer was warned.

Gwen Helms

08 Nov 2016

Hands down if the person signing is intoxicated tell them they will need to reschedule, that if he/she signs under the influence it can later be argued that the signatures are not binding.

Marie Golloway

09 Nov 2016

I would not allow him/her to sign.

Joannieh

09 Nov 2016

I've had that happen a few times. As soon as I see liquor being served I inform the signer that the alcohol will have to be removed before we can start the closing. If they refuse I start to pack up to leave. When they see I'm really leaving they always put the bottle away. Notaries have to remember to take charge of the situation. The easiest way is to make it clear that your leaving without completion is a viable alternative. After all, why stay if your work will be for nothing. I do the same for people who want to smoke or refuse to sign as their name is printed. No arguments, I just start to pack up to leave.

steven

09 Nov 2016

I absolutely would not do the notary. If they are under the impaired, they may not know what they are signing. The question should be asked. If I were impaired would I want a notary to notarize I document that I may not understand at that moment. Respectfully deny the notarization, state the reason why, and offer to come back when the person is not under the influence. Better to be safe than sorry. We are in a postition of trust as a notary. I hope this helps.

Timothy J Cooney

09 Nov 2016

Personal knowledge or verification that the person is who they say they are, and witnessing the signing should be sufficient.

Donna Gettemy

10 Nov 2016

Since this is a legal document, legalities must take precedence. If I observed that a person was that squeamish about the deal that he had to rely on "liquid courage" to sign his name, I would feel reluctant to notarize until such time that his judgement was not impaired.

Sylvia Madero

12 Nov 2016

I would advise the customer that I was concerned about the alcohol and my liability for continuing the signing, and that it was my obligation and responsibility to immediately inform the signor contractor of the circumstances for further instructions.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.