Sunday, March 18, 2018

Misinformation on Signing by Mark or X

Visit the Texas Notary Professionals Directory if you are seeking a mobile notary in Texas!

For Texas notaries, there is more misinformation online than accurately stated information relating to signing by mark or signing by X. 

I'm looking at two handbooks on my desk in which both have stated a complicated manner of handling the signature of a person who writes an X as his signature.  Both have copied sources (that have copied other sources) from the 1980s--that's 30 to 40 years ago!

The Texas Secretary of State's FAQs says:
Are there restrictions on the way an instrument is signed?
A notary must sign the notarial certificate using the same name that is listed on the commission issued by the secretary of state. However, as long as the name matches, the signature of the notary may be printed, written, typed, stamped, etc.

The individual signing the document may sign in whatever manner he/she chooses.

The name or manner of signing used by the signor is not the responsibility of the notary public. However, the notary public does have a responsibility to make sure that the information contained in the notarial certificate is accurate. For example if John Doe appears before a notary public and signs the instrument with an “X” the notary public should still state in the notarial certificate that John Doe personally appeared on a given date.

In 2014, while editing a handbook for a client, I found this Tex. Gov't Code §311.005(c) which clued me in that Texas law didn't require a person signing by mark  to be treated differently than a person who signed with perfect penmanship:

Tex. Gov't Code §311.005
(6) "Signed" includes any symbol executed or adopted by a person with present intention to authenticate a writing.
      (Note:  italics added by me.)

To me, that sounds like the signer who writes an X or a symbol is the same as any other signer--I'm not lawyer, but that's what I draw from these two items. 

Over the years, I have observed (and experienced) that notary website owners are writing for search engine content--banging on certain keywords to bring shoppers to their supplies section over and above providing accuracy.  There is no problem with that as long as the correct information is provided.

I have also experienced (as an editor) while working with writers that some are more interested in boasting about what the author believes, not producing a guidebook that is accurate.   In fact, the more complicated and frightening some writers can make your duties sound, the better, for some reason. Your actions do indeed have consequences, for both you and the signer.  However, you can't learn in a frenzy of fear.  And, if you are informed and careful, you won't make errors.  

Become an INFORMED Texas notary today!

My best advice to you is when in doubt, go to the Texas Secretary of State's Notary Public Unit for correct information. 

Notary Public Unit: (512) 463-5705
Notary Public Unit FAX number: (512) 463-5255

The Notary Public Unit processes notary public applications. Upon qualification, a notary public is mailed a four-year commission. This unit is also responsible for processing the notary public complaints received and distributing an educational notary public video. Questions/Comments may be submitted by contacting our Notary Public Unit.

Unit Mailing Address:
Notary Public UnitSecretary of StateP.O. Box 13375Austin, Texas 78711-3375

The Texas Secretary of State or your own attorney is the only source that can lead you in the right direction with certainty.

If you are seeking information about how to handle signing on behalf of a person who cannot sign for her- or himself, please consult 


(a) A notary may sign the name of an individual who is physically unable to sign or make a mark on a document presented for notarization if directed to do so by that individual, in the presence of a witness who has no legal or equitable interest in any real or personal property that is the subject of, or is affected by, the document being signed. The notary shall require identification of the witness in the same manner as from an acknowledging person under Section 121.005, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

(b) A notary who signs a document under this section shall write, beneath the signature, the following or a substantially similar sentence:

"Signature affixed by notary in the presence of (name of witness), a disinterested witness, under Section 406.0165, Government Code."

(c) A signature made under this section is effective as the signature of the individual on whose behalf the signature was made for any purpose. A subsequent bona fide purchaser for value may rely on the signature of the notary as evidence of the individual's consent to execution of the document.

(d) In this section, "disability" means a physical impairment that impedes the ability to sign or make a mark on a document.

Visit the Texas Notary Professionals Directory 

if you are seeking a mobile notary in Texas!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Don't Judge the Texas Notary in the Headlines.

Texas notary Erica J. received her first notary commission in 2016.   Erica J. is now making national headlines because of a notary error she made on a document relating to the most controversial U.S. president in history.

Texas notary laws do NOT require training.
They do NOT require testing. So, many notaries don't see it as a priority.

The error:  She stamped her seal on the page next to the woman's signature. NO notary certificate was used--it was all wrong.  Please see the link for details

I have a great deal of empathy for Erica.  It's tragic. She'll be pestered by the media. Her life will basically turn into a living hell.

There's not a lot I can do to help her, but I sure won't judge her.

The Secretary of State’s office has provided a handbook and excellent free online training for notaries.

Have you read the handbook?  I have--several times.

Have you taken the online video training?  I have. I'll probably take it again, now.  This is a wake up call, Texas notaries.

  • Protect your future. 
  • Self-educate.
  • Know what you can and cannot do. 

I have seen the same notary error that Erica made many times.  It is common.

Over the years, I have talked to several notaries in the Texas Notary Facebook Group  by phone and private messaging about why they cannot do what Erica did. 

Perhaps no one told Erica about the free training on the SOS's website, but you are reading about it right now.  Take advantage of it, please.

Thank you.

Brenda Stone – -  3/12/18

P.S. -- Erica, I don't know you, but if you read this blog post, I want you to know that I am empathetic to your situation.  I don't judge you.  What you did is a common thing that new notaries do--they don't realize that using their seals in that fashion is a problem.   If our Texas laws placed a high priority on notary training in this state of 420,000+ notaries public, you would have been trained.

Yes, you should have read the laws and figured this stuff out, but you aren't the exception.  You are like most other notaries who received a commission in 2016.

I've learned that new notaries don't understand how critical their laws are or why they should be studied.
Notary errors can happen to anyone. I know that doesn't help much, but I'm sorry you are going through this.  Take care of yourself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"How long until I can go full-time as a notary signing agent?"

Each day in Facebook notary groups I see questions like this:

"How long until I can go full-time as a notary signing agent?"

I won't answer that within Facebook groups because it gets people riled up and the admins and moderators don't need that!

But, in case you wondered, here's what I believe.


Today is the worst time in history to go full time into your signing agent career.

That's right--it is a terrible time; but, it's not going to get any better.

 So, that makes it the best time possible if you plan to take the plunge.

I realize that's not very helpful to hear, but bear with me.


Notaries (even those who just got started) should already know that remote online notarization will have a severe, if not fatal, impact on the ability to make money as a notary signing agent. Why not enjoy the extra income of part-time signing?  Pay off some bills and save up for a rainy day--just know that it may not be permanent.

Why would I say that?

  • If a notary can sit in the comfort of her home and do closings one after another throughout the day, doesn't it mean less notaries will be needed?
  • Companies that have online platforms for notarizing documents are in business to make money and be competitive (just like we are).   The business model for online closings will not be set up to make notaries rich. 
  • Right now, it looks like we will have to use platforms to be online notaries because the cost and technology will be out of reach for us.  If that happens, we'll probably earn no more than $5.00 per notary seal.


It is not going to get any better in the future--this is as good as it is going to get.

It's been a good ride, but the future for notary signing agents as they exist today isn't bright.

Don't give up your dreams of being self-employed.

Keep your eyes open and be ready to abandon the notary gig for greener pastures. As more states pass remote online notary laws, things will shift like crazy. 

Opportunities will present themselves.


This isn't negative thinking.  It's information you need.

Use this knowledge to plan your future wisely. Be cautious.

Don't put all your eggs in the notary signing agent basket. Bank what you can bank today and keep your eyes open for opportunity outside of notary work.


Other things are out there.  By knowing to keep your eyes wide open, you'll see more opportunities.


These books will change your way of thinking.

You'll have ideas and see opportunity that you haven't seen before. They will teach you to think like an entrepreneur.  (If you buy an item through any link provided on this website, I may earn a commission of 6% --it helps with the expenses of running this site.)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Stand Out to Title Companies by NOT Standing Out

Sources used in this article
aside from my experience are


Keep it simple! 

Standing out to a title company means that your work is neat and clean; you haven’t missed a certificate or overlooked a signature.

Standing out to a title company is getting the job done right every single time and not drawing attention to yourself.

Check your work, keep it simple, neat, and correct.

Not standing out is how you stand out!

Being More Appealing to Title Companies

This is a little scary to write.  Some won’t like it.  

I’m going to tell you how a former “insider” thinks when receiving completed mail-a-way packages.  We could always tell which notaries knew their laws and those who didn’t.

I will never forget a California notary signing agent named James.  I had been writing and working with notary laws long enough that I knew to check requirements for a California acknowledgment certificate. I looked it all up and prepared a perfectly stated notarial certificate for California with the exact verbiage as required by the state’s laws.

We went the extra mile.  Rather than it saying he/she/they on the certificate like store-bought forms do, it said “she” which was accurate. It didn’t have a colorful border.  Those were the only differences between the one that we sent out there and the one that came back to us.

The notary had slashed through the certificate I sent.  He wrote “See California Ack on next page.”  So, we had to pay extra for filing fees because he added a certificate and included the number of pages on his certificate.  I could not remove my original certificate. It had to stay and be recorded.
We had to get a $4.00 check for the extra page and write a letter about the reason for the check that we were paying on behalf of the borrower.   

Try to imagine this conversation in a title company.

“We love it when certificates come to us with fancy colorful borders.  We have to measure from the border to the page’s edge.  If the border is too close to the edge of the paper, that creates a problem, but we ADORE using rulers.

And, those little form fields, check boxes, cryptic messages, and sloppy writing—it’s just like a puzzle!  Thank you!  And, it reminds us of Christmas to get half-sheets that have colorful borders and a ¼” margin. 

Challenges are the best!"  

You are welcome to disagree with me!

Stand out by Being Invisible

Don’t be fancy, colorful, or use weird page sizes.

The notarial certificate should be the same size as the recorded document.  Half-size sheets will cost extra money or extra time and look like rooky work. 

Plain black ink on white 8 ½” x 11” (or 8 ½” x 14”) certificates ROCK!

If you write information on the certificate to make the notarial certificate “connected” to the document, please consider that title companies may be required to pay extra to have pages recorded if your writing goes into the margins.  The clerk must take a new page attached the original pages using staples to the new page and record that. ALL writing and marks in many counties must be within the one-inch margin.

If there is ink from a stamp or writing on the backs of pages, those back pages are then required to also be copied and recorded when adds more cost to recording fees.

Loose Certificates May Cause Problems

If there is a certificate attached to the document, a notary will complete it without writing in the margins 90% of the time.  

But, on the other hand, when using a loose certificate, the writing is usually right up in the top margin to “connect the certificate with the document.”  

The loose certificates are often full of check boxes and lines.  Some of them have so many boxes and lines that they look like puzzles.

Is this against the law? 

Not that I know of, but it’s not mentioned in Texas’s notary laws to introduce all those elements.

If you take a notary education course, you’ll be told that you need to use fancied-up certificates.

Guess what!  The course providers usually have a pad of those products to sell.

I just wonder if those who endorse the use of congested half-sheet certificates have ever gone to the recording clerk with a deed of trust to record, especially with one of those little slips of paper having been attached as a notarial certificate. 

It can be an ordeal.  I recommend never using half-sheets in case the document has to be recorded.

Confused?  Check with your Secretary of State.

Don’t take my word for it.

I am 99.99% sure you can make your own simple and clear notarial certificates. 

Unless your state has laws that you must create a record of details on your notarial certificate that “matches” the document, it isn’t required for you to check boxes and fill in little forms inside of more little boxes.  (The last time I checked, Arizona did have this in effect as law and some states’ notary public administrators recommend it.

I am not an authority on this; check your laws.

Once you ascertain that you can legally make your own notarial certificates try your hand at making them to have them on hand. 

Bigger Worries:  Scanners and Copiers

Anyone with a $200 color copier could, in about four minutes, duplicate any certificate you attached so that it could be fraudulently attached to another document.  If that person is going to commit fraud, he or she will have access to a good color copier.  It won’t matter what you do.

The positive value here is if the underlying document you notarized gets separated from the document, you won’t wonder what the certificate should be attached to.  That’s it. It is good information for honest people, but only if it isn’t in the margins.

Grommets, Wax, and Ribbons

The only way to secure one piece of paper to another would be to use wax, ribbons, and grommets. Tampering would be obvious!  But, still, fraud is easily done.

·         The notary’s signature block is cut and pasted onto a new certificate. 
·         Lay on copier or scanner. 
·         Color copy setting.
·         Hit the button. 
·         Done.

Don't work overtime trying to control what happens to your documents after they leave your hands. 

 If you don’t know how to make your own notarial certificates or understand why you need them, please don’t aim for title company work just yet.

Start there!

This article began as part of a bigger blog update about working for title companies.  The points above may distinguish you as someone who is catching on fast to the title and mortgage business.  

From one who has worked inside title companies closing loans of all types and law offices where residential and complicated commercial documents were drafted, I suggest that you try seeing their world and put yourself in their shoes. 


Thursday, January 11, 2018

Marketing to the Medical Community - Another Teachable Lecure!

Marketing to the Medical Community
Another lecture has posted, ladies and gentlemen.
11 Pages of Text - The report is not downloadable yet.
The form letters and affidavit are, though.
  • One file - Comes with 2 form letters - download
  • Plus Medical affidavit for review - download
1. What this Covers 2
2. Who is the Medical Community? 2
3. Overview - Medical Record Affidavits 3
4. Targeting Sources of Work in the Medical Community 3
5. Look at the Workflow. 4
6. Where's the Sign Up Page? 5
7. Downside? 5
8. Comments on Payment and Poachers 6
9. The Treasure Chest 7
10. Those are magic words. 7
11. Form Letters 9
12. Affidavit for Medical Billing Records 11

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Do you have a list of good companies to work for?" (My answer comes with a notary letter to title companies!)

For the New Notary Orientation Guide followers--

You asked:

Do you have a list of good companies to work for?  

Well, it's craft time at the nursing home--so line up here, get your crayons and scissors out-- we're gonna figure out how to make one!
By the way, get ready, Y'ALL - we are going Old Skool --this is how we do it! It's going to be like Peter and Ted are live tonight at Stone their wheel chairs...probably dribbling on themselves...but, I digress. 

Stone Training 

Look for the New Notary Orientation Guide!
I just uploaded to my Stone Training Stop --

- a 40 page slide deck on finding signing service and title company clients. This one will not be downloadable at this time. Sorry. I want to finish it with the other half of the story, and it will be published at some point on Amazon, but you can definitely read it at Stone Training as I build it.

- a cut and paste letter to use for soliciting title companies.

I had hoped to have time to put audio to the PDF to help pull you on through it. But, I ran out of time! There is so much material here! Read it all the way to the end. You'll be glad, I think that you did.

These are good for anyone to use. 

There are THREE things I think you need to accomplish before you solicit title company clients.

You'll find in the second half of the PDF.  Enjoy!

I don't know if Peter Frampton is coming up first or Ted Nugent -- whichever, it's going to be good.

How to Market your Services to Attorneys (and Sample Letter!)

I am starting something new!

I will regularly pull questions from the Notary/Signing Agent Network Facebook group and answer the ones that I think are befitting of a chapter / lecture in a free New Notary Orientation Guide - mini-lectures stuffed with answers.  They may come weekly or more often, but all will have GOOD content. I promise. 

Please note that the guide is a growing publication.  It will be added to as I notice great questions that need more than my infamously terrible typing on Facebook.   Sign up here and be notified every time there is a new question that deserves a thoughtful, credible answer.  Going forward, the answers will not be printed in full here as this one is.  They will be ONLY for those who sign up.

The next edition will include a tried and true answer on how to market your services to doctors.  READ MORE DETAILS ABOUT MY NEW LITTLE PROJECT BELOW THE ARTICLE.


How to Market your Services to Attorneys


No excuses. If you don't do it, you won't have a thriving business. It will fail.

Below are tips to help you grow your client list and get your notary business in front of the legal professionals in your town. In my next blog post, 'll cover how to write a letter to a medical professional.

You are dealing with professionals.
Spelling and grammar is important. So is presentation. Use letterhead or set up an email that looks like letterhead within the body of your email. (Of course, using an email is only for the case in which you have email addresses for doctors and lawyers you intend to solicit!) If you use email, don't make a flyer in PDF format and send it to the proposed client as an attachment. They'll delete it or it will get caught in the spam catcher.

Do you need examples of letterhead templates? Examples of letterhead templates can be located by searching Google. Be sure to include your website or Facebook page link.
TIP! - Use for making easy to remember links. For instance, I can make my notary news site easy to remember by shortening it to: rather than
Deliver Marketing Letters in Person 
Use a nice white envelope and slip in a few business cards. Address the envelope to the professional and staff. For instance,
  • Brad Thomas, Attorney at Law (and Staff)

Provide promotional items, if you have them, to the person who takes the envelope. You can also drop one in the envelope. But, you can also be sure that the person who takes the package has a lot to do with which notary is called if one is needed. Be careful to encourage the receptionist's favor. 

Please note, I am skipping the lecture on dressing appropriately before visiting the office because if you don't have that one figured out, you won't like this business. Looking awesome is part of the deal.

Pick up business cards -- As mentioned above, while you are in the office, collect business cards. If you are able to collect email addresses using that method, you have hit a home run! You are going to start an email list. Refer to my article on email marketing on my blog for more tips on marketing. Email lists are the lifeblood of any business today! If you don't read this article on email marketing -- no more answers for you! Please read it.
Take one packet per professional. Address each one. Otherwise, you should have not bothered. They don't necessarily share resources. Don't make the receptionist decide who gets the packet. Have plenty to go around.
No terms for payment in your letter! Keep negative discussions about what you do if there is a non-payment or other topics that will be irritating out of your letter. Provide your terms once you win the account.


Change the information between the brackets for the specialty that the attorney practices. For instance, you may be targeting these types of specialties.
  • Wills and probate
  • Personal injury
  • Family law
  • Criminal law
  • Real estate law
  • Homeowner associations

Go to Google and search for attorneys in your area. Personalize each letter you send out. Read the form letter below carefully. Make it fit your business style and model.

Marketing Form Letter for Attorneys

Mr. Jack Mack

Attorney at Law

456 Fifth Street

Your town, State 00000

Re: Providing Mobile Notary Services for You and Your Clients

Dear Mr. Mack:

As an attorney who handles [type of law] cases in Town, you may be interested in my mobile notary services.

If you have home-bound or hospitalized clients, clients who have suspended licenses, or don't drive, or even clients who can’t leave work during business hours to have a will or other important documents notarized. I will gladly meet with your clients at locations that are convenient to them.

I can pick up documents from you or print them out from documents that you email to me.

I'll gladly return documents to your office after they are signed, take them to be recorded or filed at the courthouse, or if you'd like. (At this time, I don't have an account for eRecording.)  But, I can make it easier on you!  If requested, I can scan them from the client's location and provide digital copies to you for your files. Dropping them off at FedEx or UPS is also a professional service that I provide. I'm here to make your workflow easier!


My fees are based on mileage and time involved. I will quote ahead. As an example, my base fee for traveling directly to a client in zip codes 99999, 88888, and 77777 is usually $XX, plus notarial fees based strictly on our state fees.

I will provide a quote and an itemized receipt to you or your client as you require.

I am available to go to outlying areas such as zip codes 00000, 00001, 00002, Middling County, Durbookie County, and the towns of Enots and Anerb for an additional fee of $XX which is based on tolls and mileage to those locations.
Coverage area:
Our county of Zero, plus these five counties

  • One County (Additional $30-$50 depending on location, mileage, tolls.)
  • Two County (Additional $15-$25 depending on location, mileage, tolls.)
  • Three County (Additional $10 - $25 depending on location, mileage, tolls.)
  • Four County (Additional $50 - $75 depending on location, mileage, tolls.)
  • Five County (Additional $75-$125 depending on location, mileage, tolls.)

By appointment only - XX:XX a.m. and XX:XX p.m.

Payment methods/receipts: Cash, PayPal, Google Pay, and credit cards. Accounts / monthly billing available.
Telephonic hearings/remote depositions: This service is available.
Group rates: Service offered at discounted rate to all types of groups--probate estate heirs, traveling groups, homeowner associations, etc. Call for a quote.
Other details: Normally, I do not provide witnesses. Your clients should provide current ID with a photo, signature, and serial number issued by a government agency.

Let me know if I can provide more information!


Your Name

Your business

Your phone number

Every day notaries ask questions that I have never thought to answer! I have tried a million times to do this, but hopefully, this is the answer! Stone Training Stop on Teachable should be able to help me stay on top of it all. As a registered member of my Stone Training Stop, you can just hop on when there's a new answer. You'll receive an email that a new lecture has been posted.

Currently, there's no audio or video on the lectures I have added. However, in the future, some will have audio, some will have video, and some will be plain ol' reading!

I hope this is eventually THE BEST notary orientation guide available.

May your eyes be opened!

Got a question? Ask it on Notary/Signing Agent Network -- this group belongs to my long-time friend Robert Owens. I watch it closely. if your questions gets a lot of excitement, it will become a part of this guide. Maybe you won't be able to stump me with your questions! (No, I won't add your name unless you ask me to!)
Brenda Stone
So far, here's what's been added:
  1. What's this course about? (Added 1/7/18)
  2. Is this holding you back? (Added 1/7/18)
  3. How to Build Your Own List of Loan Signing Clients (Added 1/7/18)
  4. Do you have a sample letter for soliciting work from attorneys? (Added 1/5/18)

  5. Do you have a sample letter for soliciting work from doctors? (Coming soon -  1/10/18)

You're gonna love this.  I promise!

Don't miss a post! Follow along by email!