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4 questions to ask clients before a notarization

phone-call-resized.jpgUpdated 5-23-23. Ever had a notarization where you arrived at the signer’s house, only to find out you had to cancel or reschedule the appointment due to an expired ID, a missing document, or some other crucial element being absent? It’s a situation that frustrates both Notaries and clients.

However, there’s a simple way to avoid many of these problems. Before the notarization takes place,  contact the client and ask these 4 questions recommended by the NNA’s Notary Hotline team:

1. Will everyone who needs their signature notarized be present?

If more than one person will need their signature notarized, or if a signer needs to be identified by credible witnesses, confirm that everyone required for the notarization will be present at the appointment.

2. Does the client have all necessary documents ready for the notarization?

If multiple documents require notarization, check to be sure the client will have all documents present and ready when you arrive.

Be aware that many states prohibit notarizing a document that is incomplete or contains blank spaces — including documents missing pages.

3. Do all signers have acceptable ID?

When speaking with the client before the appointment, don’t just ask “Do you have ID?” because the client might not know what kind of ID is required. Make sure you also check the following:

  • Ask the client to describe the type of ID (for example, “I have a California driver’s license.” or “I’m using a U.S. passport.”) to confirm that you can accept it as proof of identity.
  • Check if the ID is current or expired, and if expired for how long. Some states do not permit Notaries to accept expired IDs, but others allow IDs that have expired within a certain timeframe.
  • If there’s a problem with the signer’s ID, find out if they have any other type of acceptable identification. Otherwise they will need to bring one or more credible identifying witnesses to the appointment (if this option is permitted in your state).

4. Does the client agree to all your payment terms?

If you charge a separate travel fee, require payment if the notarization cannot be completed or have any other payment terms clients should be aware of, contact them before the appointment, let them know and make sure they agree to any payment terms. That way you can avoid any potential dispute if the notarization has to be stopped or rescheduled. Also, be aware that some states, such as Montana, Nevada and South Carolina, have a statutory requirement for Notaries to explain and agree upon travel fees in advance with clients.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

5 things to remember when preparing for your first notarization

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Add your comment

Cc Swenson

18 Sep 2019

Thanks for the info

Carla Swenson

18 Sep 2019

Thanks for sharing

Cheryl Kaster

13 Mar 2020

Not all "acceptable" ID (assuming they know what is acceptable in their state) will mean it is also Positive Identification. It can be a BIG DIFFERENCE. By documents being complete, how would most people know what it means for the document to be complete? Even then there can be differences in the document (once had a document that referred to a specific property differently in two different places on the document). In Hawaii, we cannot accept the military CAC card because it does not have a signature on the face of the I.D. I learned to "vet" the situation early on. If a signing, I won't even print the docs out until I have confirmed positive I.D. from the signers. That way at least I've kept the time I've spent reviewing the docs for missing exhibits, etc., to a minimum and don't travel only to find out I cannot notarize. Even doing that is not fool-proof. I now insist that customers take their ID out and look at it. Had the husband on the golf course assure me his name on his ID matched what had to be signed only to get there and discover it didn't so I couldn't notarize. Wife was really upset so I suggested she report me to the Notary Office, which she did, which didn't help because they backed me up about the Positive Identification requirement. This will, of course, mean there will be times you must cancel or reschedule and if a signing the title/escrow may not be happy. Once had a title company tell me they wouldn't use me to notarize signings because I insisted on positively identifying the signers and they wouldn't "inconvenience" their customer to require positive I.

Philana Stearne

05 Mar 2024

Do you need 2 witnesses for a medical power of attorney for California

National Notary Association

06 Mar 2024

Hello. That is a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

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