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What Would You Do: The Case Of The Missing Notary Certificate

The Case of the Missing Certificate

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 your boss asks you to notarize his signature on a bid for a major contract. The document also requires the notarized signature of an executive in another state. You go through the proper procedures and attach an acknowledgment certificate. Then your boss asks you to send it express to the other executive because the bid deadline is fast approaching.

When the document comes back, you notice that your certificate has been removed and, in its place, there’s an acknowledgment certificate with both signers’ names included.

What Would You Do?
 

Members of the NNA community frequently share accounts of encountering dubious or improper notarial practices, and it is not always clear how they should respond. In this case, your boss is under a tight deadline, but there is a problem with the notarization that would not be apparent to anyone just looking at the document. So how would you respond to this situation?

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.

Additional Resources:

A Notary Certificate In 4 Simple Parts

 

40 Comments

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Danite Haines

13 Mar 2017

Contact the last Notary and re-attach a new certificate.

Nancy Smith

13 Mar 2017

Because time is of the essence, I would telephone the other notary when my boss authorizes so she will know of the problem. If she says do it fast, I will telephone and tell the other notary that I cannot have my notarization certificate used any way by the way I sent it. For speed of completion, she could reattach my certificate and then redo hers as a separated certificate, then overnight to me for approval. That should do it.

Jolene

13 Mar 2017

I would attach another acknowledgment certificate for my bosses signature, replacing the first one that was missing.

Leah M.

13 Mar 2017

I don't know what I'd do! It'll be nice to see what the CA notaries have to say about this. Looking forward to responses.

David Gordon

13 Mar 2017

In the situation as described, the initial notarization had been completed with the certificate bearing the signature of the first executive as well as the signature and seal of the notary. The certificate wording also appears to have indicated that only one person (the first executive) had given the acknowledgment. The notary cannot properly/legally act upon the revised certificate as is. First, the second signature cannot be notarized and would need to be crossed out, as the that signer is not present, etc. Secondly, even if the second signature is stricken off the certificate, the entire acknowledgment notarization procedure would be need to gone through again for the first executive. All this, of course would defeat the whole purpose of the attempt to "expedite" things. The notary is in an uncomfortable position, but should explain to the boss the implication of the situation. The notary could explain that separate acknowledgement certificates should be done for each of the signers, as it appears impossible for a both signers to do their acknowledgments at the same time and place. These separate certificate would then be attached to the document.

A. Lester

13 Mar 2017

I would re-notarize the document and attach a new certificate with my boss's name only. On the certificate with both names I would line out my boss's name and initial.

Irene Byrner

13 Mar 2017

I would bring it to my bosses attention that the attached certificate is not the one that I originally notarized for him. I would most likely call the hotline and ask what else I should do.

K Schmidt

13 Mar 2017

Bring it to the attention of your boss; make notes in your ledger so if it ends up in court someday you can prove that YOU did everything right. And call the NNA hotline for advice!

Barbara

13 Mar 2017

I would keep clear, accurate notes in my journal as well as keep a copy of the document(s) that I had notarized originally. Being sure to keep a copy of the new certificate as well.

L J Pitzer

13 Mar 2017

Reprint the signing page, explain and request boss to resign and I re-notarize.

L J Pitzer

13 Mar 2017

Re-print the signing page, explain and request boss to re-sign, and I re-notarize.

Tina Dancer

13 Mar 2017

I would notify my boss of the incorrect and potentially fraudulent notary certificate attached and substituted for my own and then, make a note in my notary book that my certificate was switched out. I would notate the notaries' name that attached the bogus certificate. I would also contact the Secretary of State to find out if there is anything else I needed to do to protect myself.

James

13 Mar 2017

When I notarized a document, in addition to applying my seal I also use an embosser. If the document is getting a certificate attached to it I apply my seal on the certificate but the embossment i put on it I make sure goes through ALL the pages. I do that so for this reason that's mentioned in this question. So that no one else can attach another certificate. And since the embossment isn't sufficient for notarization itself it's useless without the attached certificate. That's the precautions I take but honestly I do not believe it's the notary's responsibility for what the client does after the document is notarized. They're the ones getting in trouble for it not me.

James

13 Mar 2017

When I notarized a document, in addition to applying my seal I also use an embosser. If the document is getting a certificate attached to it I apply my seal on the certificate but the embossment i put on it I make sure goes through ALL the pages. I do that so for this reason that's mentioned in this question. So that no one else can attach another certificate. And since the embossment isn't sufficient for notarization itself it's useless without the attached certificate. That's the precautions I take but honestly I do not believe it's the notary's responsibility for what the client does after the document is notarized. They're the ones getting in trouble for it not me.

Nina

13 Mar 2017

There is important information missing from this scenario. Was the certificate removed, and a new certificate attached and notarized in other state? If so, does the new notarization cover both signatures, or just one? Or, alternatively, does the new certificate require notarization of both signatures? If the new certificate has already been notarized, and covers both signatures, it is no longer the notary's notarization. There is little for the notary to do except notify the boss of the changes, advise him of your concerns, and note the issue in your journal. It would be the boss' responsibility to determine if he wants the risk of using the certificate. However, if the expectation was that the notary now complete a new notarization on the changed certificate, under California law, the notary must decline, with the explanation that only the boss' signature could be notarized under the circumstances. As a matter of practicality, the notary could suggest the boss contact the company requiring the notarization to see if the executive in the other state could submit his notarization separately to the bid package.

Shari Burke

13 Mar 2017

Since my name and stamp are no where to be seen, I would let my boss know that this had happened and may cause problems with his contract in the future since the people signing on the certificate both must be present with respective notaries at the time of signing and this did not occur. Let him make the call at that point.

JS Egbert

13 Mar 2017

I was recently asked to Notarized numerous documents for an international adoption. The women, who is not an attorney and does not employ me in any capacity, did not present the documents to me but instead forwarded documents to me via numerous email communications she received asking me to read the forwarded emails to decide things such as how many copies she needs of each particular document and to transfer some documents onto her letterhead. Was I correct in telling her that as a Notary I am not allowed to make these decisions for her or prepare documents for her? I further told her that she needed to decide how many copies of each document she needed Notarized, prepare her own documents and then present them in person to me to Notarize. Was this correct?

National Notary Association

14 Mar 2017

Hello. Yes, you were correct to refuse. Notaries are not authorized to advise a customer on adoption procedures or assist in preparing adoption papers. For that kind of assistance, the customer would need to contact a qualified legal professional such as an attorney familiar with adoption law.

Richard Schauer

13 Mar 2017

Do another California Notary form have your boss sign it and send in both.

Linda

13 Mar 2017

I would inform my boss their certification was no longer attached, however a new certification was attached and it had his signature. If he states he didn't sign the new cert, I would state there's a fraudulent signature, if it was his signature, I'd accept the new certification. If the signature is fraud, there could be additional concerns about doing business with the other business.

Valerie

13 Mar 2017

I would notarize my boss' signature only on one acknowledgment, then provide the document and blank acknowledgement for his partner to have notarized separately at his location.

nina.torres@tripointehomes.com

13 Mar 2017

I would leave the certificate which the other notary executed in place and then attach a separate certificate notarizing my boss' signature once more. It would not be my responsibility to make sure that the other notary executed their notarial act correctly. My role as a notary would only be to verify the identity of one of the signers (my boss). I do not know what laws govern notarization in the other notary's state. My focus would be on making sure my notarization is correct in my state for my signer.

Bryan

13 Mar 2017

Not enough info to decide how to proceed. The story says our cert was removed and "there's an acknowledgment certificate with both signers names"? Are we to assume a second notary acknowledged both signatures? Or is it just a certificate with names and no notary stamp/signature. I'm confused by the lack of clarity. So if it's just a cert with two names I could potentially use that cert (assuming the wording matches my state) and notarize by boss' signature (only), create another journal entry and get his/her signature. Then I would slash out the second unknown individual on the cert and send it back for their signature to be notarized..

Mary Carrier

13 Mar 2017

I would show the document to my boss and tell him/her that i will have to cancel my prior notarization and cross out the entry in my journal and renotarize the document with a current date

Sofia

13 Mar 2017

Bring it to the attention of your boss letting him know that something improper has been done, of course you have no control over what is done with a document after you notarize it, but in this case where the document actually comes back to you, you must say something.

Ralph Jones

13 Mar 2017

As a notary, my responsibility is first to my state's notary law, and second to the employer. I live and work in California. In this state, the new certificate violates the law because the boss did not sign the document in the notary's presence, and the notary presumably did not properly verify the boss's ID. As my certificate was removed I would not have personal liability here but, especially because the document is important to a pending business deal, I would feel obligated to tell my boss of my concern that the new notarization is legally invalid on its face under CA notary law as my notary training described it. I might offer to arrange a call to the NNA hotline under my membership if the boss requires further, more authoritative confirmation. He/she then would have the information needed to make a decision about the matter, presumably in consultation with company counsel.

Verne Gordon

13 Mar 2017

This is a great example of a notary not following best practices. The second certificate actually creates a problem for my bosses notary; since the executive's name and the boss' name are both signed now on a new certificate for which the boss could not have made a personal appearance as is required, The boss' notary should immediately take the certificate and the document to his boss and have a new certificate notarized with the bosses name only after explaining that he would have had to have been with the executive when the other certificate was signed as is required to make a personal appearance before the other notary. Then the document should go back to the executive for an additional loose leaf certificate with the other notary. This is the only way to provide a properly notarized set of certificates for this document. If this is not done, both notaries are in trouble. Bosses notary would have a journal entry for a signature that he notarized, but the certificate may still be 'out there' somewhere and could be used on another document potentially. The executives notary has already committed perjury as the boss was not there personally, yet he had a signature from the boss. In this case, haste makes waste and proper training appears to not be followed. It seems that best practice was followed by the boss' notary, but not the executive's notary. The executive's notary has two journal entries (or should); one of those entries for my boss is perjured.

A Martuscelli

13 Mar 2017

I'm thinking I may be able to cross out my boss's signature on the newest certificate and attach a separate certificate with his signature.

Carol

13 Mar 2017

The other notary at the other location could not have notarized the first signature at the first location so should have left that certificate attached and attached his/her own for the second person.

Angie Whitmarsh

13 Mar 2017

I would cross out the name of the person I notarized on the other notary form and attach another notary acknowledgment that mirrors the one I previously did.

Gloria

13 Mar 2017

I would cross out my bosses name and attach a new certificate replacing the certificate I originally sent.

Phylis

14 Mar 2017

I would inform my boss the notarization is improper, suggest it be redone, and note in my journal what happened.

Diane

14 Mar 2017

First, I would notify my boss of the discrepancy. Then, I would try to contact the other notary to find out what is going on and to request their permission to scratch off your boss' name from his/her certificate, and lastly, I would attach a new certificate for my boss' signature to replace the one that was discarded. I would attach that new certificate regardless of whether or not I was able to contact the other notary. You need to focus on following the law. If the other notary did not, you still need to protect yourself.

A C Dye

14 Mar 2017

Never having to report to a "Boss" I can understand how tricky this would be ...the situation indicates that the certificate added on the 2nd person that was not present when you notarized your Boss's signature. I would contact the NNA hotline so that you would have the up to date Notary Laws in your state to confront your boss...the certificate is fraudulent in the way it was returned to you. If you felt threatened to accept....what if there was corruption in the company and the 2nd person did not want to accept that contract....there could be major lawsuits involved which would all focus back on you...It cannot be accepted in the way it was returned to you!

Grayce Lopez

14 Mar 2017

Re-notarize the document and attach a new certificate.

JAGGWIN

14 Mar 2017

I believe that the Notary 2 acted improperly. Notary 2 should have only attached their state acknowledgment to the document for the 2nd party signer when the 2nd party signed. In CA we must re-notarize the document the day it is again presented to us by the first party and with the present days date. That would not be necessary if Notary 2 still has the original notarization and can overnight it to the boss to reattach to the document. Since I don't know Notary 2's state notary law on acknowledgments, I cannot address that one, Except to say, that they would probably have to re-notarize their portion again for signer 2 only.

NRosenthal

14 Mar 2017

There are so many things wrong with this. I would immediately bring it to my bosses attention and tell him/her my concerns. What did they do with the original notary certificate? Did they attach it to another document with a forged signature? It could be an innocent mistake or it could be fraud. If the notary was willing to notarize a signature without the signer present, how do we know the 2nd signer ever appeared?

Debra Fast

15 Mar 2017

The language I use has the persons name I am notarizing; both names if there are more. That way no one can pop in another's signature at the last moment or for any other reason.

John Elliott

25 Apr 2017

I agree with Neena, above. Have boss re-sign and attach your missing certificate with a new one. The out of state cert might dictate or allow additional signers to be listed. Disclose to boss, document log, call NNA.

John Elliott

25 Apr 2017

I agree with Neena, above. Have boss re-sign and attach your missing certificate with a new one. The out of state cert might dictate or allow additional signers to be listed. Disclose to boss, document log, call NNA.

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