Sunday, August 5, 2018

7 Steps to a Flawless Notarial Act

Follow these steps every time you notarize!

Notarizing a deed is the same as notarizing a permission slip which is the same as notarizing a million dollar loan transaction document.  I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. But, here is how I notarize documents. I perform the same steps each and every time.
(Feel free to click on the image and download it to print.)

STEP 1-Identify the Signer. 

First, I ask for ID, and I identify the signer. If there is no ID, I can’t do anything for a signer.

STEP 2-Start a journal entry. 

At the same time that I identify the signer, I start a journal entry.

STEP 3-Is the signer alert? 

I gauge the signer’s alertness and awareness about signing the document. I don’t grill the signer on the meaning or purpose of the document. I might ask if he is aware of why he is signing the document, but only if I am not sure that the signer is alert. 

It’s none of my business why he or she is signing the document, only if the signer knows why.

STEP 4-Make sure the document is complete.

I look over the document, scanning it for blanks. If there are blanks, I ask the signer to complete them. Once completed, I move forward. I don’t give the signer the answers to put in the blanks. If it doesn’t apply I will say, “Feel free to call someone if you need to.” They usually just write N/A and initial it.

STEP 5- Note the act to be performed.

I look at the certificate to determine the act that you are going to perform. I do not ask the signer to raise his or her right hand for any notarial act. It’s just a little bit dramatic for me and it is not required in my state; it may be in yours.

Step 5a-If a certificate of acknowledgement is attached to the document, the document may be signed before the signer meets with you. If it isn’t, the signer must sign the document before you complete the act. I ask the signer if she has signed the document for genuine purposes and for the reasons stated within the document. Some people ask the signer if they have signed the document of his/her own free will, etc. I don’t do that because that is covered under “genuine purposes.” If ever I think that a person is being coerced, I won't notarize the document. I have never run into a situation of coercion.

Step 5b-If a jurat is attached, you must see the person sign the document. If the document is already signed when the signer arrives, the signer will need to re-sign the document. I ask the signer if she swears or affirms the truthfulness of the statements she made within the document and if so, to please sign the document.

Step 5c-If a verification is attached, I do not have to see the person sign the document, but I must perform an oath. I ask the signer if he swears or affirms the truthfulness of the statements he makes within the document.

Step 5d-If no certificate is attached, show the signer samples of a certificate of acknowledgement, a jurat, and a verification, and ask which one the signer would like attached to the document. Once the signer chooses the certificate, perform accordingly as stated in 5a, 5b, or 5c above.

STEP 6-Complete the certificate and journal entry.

Complete the certificate, sign it, seal it, and complete the journal entry.

STEP 7-Issue a receipt.

By law, many states' notaries are required to provide an itemized receipt to anyone that pays for notary services.

Notaries: We are public servants. 
We took an oath to know our laws and to uphold them.

If we aren’t going to become familiar with our notary laws, yet we still 
charge for our services...isn't that fraud?

Thursday, August 2, 2018

How do I know if the document is legal?

Notaries aren't required to have legal knowledge.  That's what lawyers are for.  We don't judge documents to be right, legal, or effective.

Another new notary concern is: 

"How do I know if the document is okay to notarize?"  Answer:  That's not your problem.  If you want to know if there is any kind of document that you may not notarize, call your state's notary public administrator.  Asking on Facebook isn't the best way to get smart on notary skills.

New notaries are helpful people.  That's commendable, but it's also a trap for new notaries.  People want them to help find internet forms for their situations, help them fill out documents, help them decide what to say in a legal document.  Notaries should steer clear of all that.

It's not what you do.  That is not your purpose.

This article isn't for teaching a full-blown course, so I am going to boil it down into this:

  • Notaries are official witnesses--if asked at some time in the future, a notary can say "Joe Blow appeared before me and signed a 'Blah Blah Document' on May 30th 2016." (In Texas, the notary would be keeping a journal of notarial acts. Some states do not require journals.)

  • Notaries identify signers of documents.

  • Notaries watch as signers sign documents and...
  • If documents which are to be acknowledged are already signed, the notary asks the signer "Do you acknowledge that this is your signature....?"

  • If a document is to be sworn, the notary asks the signer to re-sign the document. 

  • Notaries administer oaths, asking signers or others "Do you swear or affirm your statements are truthful?"

  • In some states, notaries may make a certified (to be true and correct) copy of certain types of documents.

Notaries don't give opinions on whether something is legal.
Notaries don't suggest what goes in blanks. 
They do not help write legal documents. 
They don't help locate free forms (in my opinion, that's as bad as drafting legal documents).

Next time someone comes to you and asks you to notarize a document, remember that it is not your problem whether the document is legal, correct, or written right.

You are a witness; identify your signer and move forward.

When you don't feel you can properly identify a person, decline to notarize. If you don't know what you are doing, decline to notarize. If you don't know what your notary laws say, get  basic notary training, today.  

Don't scam the public. The public thinks you have learned how to be a notary--you signed an oath saying you are upholding the laws. How can you uphold the laws if you don't even know the laws? 

You certainly should not handle loan documents if you aren't trained.  

You will get yourself into trouble and you may really hurt the person whose loan documents you are handling.

If you are in Texas, please take the free training on the Secretary of State's website.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Significant to notaries--Texas AG Opinion Request: Must Guadalupe County Clerk Record Electronic Documents without e-Recording System?

Recently, I ran across a pending request for an opinion by the Texas Attorney General’s (AG) Office.  
The response of Ken Paxton, Texas AG, will almost certainly affect how quickly online notarization is adopted widely in Texas and so many other things.  

How so?

Because many notaries believe that as long as counties without erecording systems in place prevail in Texas, online notary activity will be slow to expand.  The response to this request for an AG opinion will affect all of Texas as to how quickly online and electronic notarization activity can be adopted statewide.

Guadalupe County Attorney Asks for Answers

The questions posed to the Texas AG in Letter No.  RQ-0235-KP comes from Guadalupe County, Texas where clerks require hard copies be presented for recording and there is no e-recording mechanism in place.

Asst. County Attorney Robert Etlinger asks the Texas AG critically important questions to help sort out this dilemma before the problem creates a landslide of rejected recordings and other misunderstandings.

Summary of the Question (Link)

Whether a county clerk whose office does not accept electronic documents for recording must accept and record a printed copy of an electronic document that does not comply with the original signature and other requirements of certain provisions of the Property Code.

Quick Review:  What are recordable documents?

Documents that are “recorded” in the official public records of a county are primarily the kind that signing agents handle:  deeds, deeds of trust, and other documents relating to the conveyance or encumbrance of real property. 

Guadalupe County’s  Letter Summarized

Without being too technical –

A-Guadalupe County does not accept e-recordings – only original paper documents may be recorded.

B-They face problems because of experienced “Filers” who are accustom to using e-recording systems and they  believe that all they need to do is print out a copy of the e-signed and e-notarized document to record it.

C-They also face problems because some county recorders will record plain copies of documents. They do not ask for originals. That perpetuates the idea that copies can be recorded.

D-The letter lays out three types of documents; none of them are originals with ink signatures.  Can they be recorded?

E- It points out that without original documents with ink signatures (but rather hard copies of printed electronic documents) to record, there are violations of several laws of The Texas Property Code by accepting them for recording.

F-It notes that the decision on these issues will affect the future when and if the county begins to e-record documents-- once any recording of copies gets started, it will be hard to stop.

Read the letter at the link above.  
Stay alert for updates.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Today's Notary News Tip - What does the Note Say? Ring-ding-ding...hah-tee HO... (WEDNESDAY 6/13/18)

Yesterday, we covered the questions that borrowers have that are answered by the closing disclosure.  (Back track, my friends, and look at that one here.)  One thing I said in the previous article is...

If a notary wants to be a great signing agent, the notary will become familiar with where in the document stack he or she can point out answers for the borrower.

Today is Note Day!  Let's go over the note.

Feel free to share my favorite background music that I play as I'm creating the marked up copies of loan documents.

Here you go: "What does the Note, er, I mean FOX say?"   Put the volume on high and plow in.

Just like all these guys, every document has something very specific to say.
Dog  goes "Woof!"Cat  goes "Meow!"Bird goes "Tweet!"andMouse goes "Squeak!"Cow goes "Moo!"Frog goes "Croak!"and the Elephant goes "Toot."Ducks say "Quack!""Fish goes "Blub."and the Seals goes "Ow, ow, ow..."But there's one sound, that no one knows...
So, what DOES the Note say?

Besides "Ring-ding-ding-ding ..." and "Hah-tee, hah-tee, hah-tee HO!"

What does that NOTE SAY?

What questions in the borrower's mind does the document with the shortest title (the note) answer?
  • How much are we borrowing?
  • What is our interest rate?
  • When is my first payment due?
  • What date are all of my payments due?
  • Where do I send my payments?
  • What amount is my payment?  
  • Is there a prepayment penalty?

When I present a note, I simply say:  "Here's your note."

I go through the first page pointing out important pieces of the note puzzle.

"Here's your loan amount. There's your interest rate,
first payment date, the amount of your payment,
and of course, the address where you send your payment." 

I flip to the back, show them the place for signature, straighten it back up, and hand it over.

"Please review the note. When you are ready, sign as your name exactly as printed. Let me know if you have questions"

I turn back to the stack, pick up the next document, scan it and get ready to introduce the next one.

But, just for a few moments,  I am part of the video.   All of the animals have morphed into loan documents...there are affidavits, agreements, and dollar signs everywhere.  One day, I'll buy the rights and do a remake...I'll breathe new life into that old video.

"That's what the note says...a ring, ding, a-ding, hah-tee, hah-tee, hah-tee, HO!"  



UPDATE 6/13/18 6:22 A.M. The SPW provides these guidelines.  And the Code of Conduct here:  

Please refer to this before you conclude that this is an "explanation" of documents.

4.5. Loan Terms
The Notary Signing Agent may identify and provide a general description of a loan or payment amount, interest rate, annual percentage rate, finance charge, payment schedule, assumption option, prepayment penalty or any other loan term to a borrower in the closindocuments, but may not explain, interpret or provide legal advice about the loan terms.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Today's Notary News Tip - 34 Questions from Borrowers that the Closing Disclosure Answers (Monday 6/11/18 - Bonus edition)

If a notary wants to be a great signing agent, the notary will become familiar with where in the document stack he or she can point out answers for the borrower.

Signing agents might be interested in the great debate going on right now about how deep notaries can go when explaining documents.

I "introduce" documents by reading the title and remarking on the document's function while showing the borrower where the function is stated in the document.

Actually, I believe that a notary cannot explain anything.  Call it mincing words, but that word "explain" sounds too much like a kissing cousin of "advise." 

My friendly suggestion is that a Texas notary never explains documents unless the notary is also an attorney. 

That doesn't give notaries a pass not to know where the answers are or the primary function of the document. A good signing agent knows how to give a wonderful introduction to each document you're asking borrowers to sign.

Don't be a  notary who shrugs and says "I'm just an impartial witness."  Be a professional -- understand the purposes of the documents you're carrying around in your briefcase. You don't need to explain every detail, but you need to know what the headings say and where to find answers.

Did you know that in just ONE document-- the Closing Disclosure-- are 34 answers that borrowers seem to look for during loan signings?
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These questions can be answered by being familiar with the Closing Disclosure.   I'm working through three stacks of documents.  More solid information to come!
  1. How much did I borrow?
  2. What is my interest rate?
  3. The APR on page 4 isn't the same as my interest, right?  
  4. Does it list the final amount I bought the property for?
  5. What is my loan amount?
  6. What type of loan is this? (Not VA or FHA; I applied for a conventional loan.)
  7. Is my loan a fixed rate or an adjustable rate mortgage?
  8. How many years long is my loan?
  9. Which property is this loan for? I am refinancing several this month.
  10. How much is my monthly payment?
  11. Do I have an escrow account?
  12. What will my escrow pay?
  13. How much are my closing costs?
  14. How much is my check supposed to be?
  15. What all did I pay for (in these closing costs)?
  16. What is the seller paying for? (When applicable!)
  17. Show me all these itemized charges.
  18. Can this loan be assumed?
  19. Can the lender make me pay this off early?
  20. What are the late charges for this loan if I pay late?
  21. How long can I wait to pay before I incur a late charge?
  22. Is there ever an increase in my loan?
  23. Can I pay extra payments?
  24. Can I pay partial extra payments?
  25. Is there a pre-payment penalty?
  26. What happens if I don't make my payments?
  27. How much will I pay in finance charges?
  28. What is APR?
  29. May I have a copy of my appraisal?
  30. What if I have decided now that I don't want this loan?  Am I obligated to sign these documents?
  31. Can I refinance this loan at any time?
  32. Can I deduct some of this on my tax return?
  33. What's my lender's contact information?
  34. What's the settlement agent's contact information?

Stay tuned!  Today, I'm working on a video on how I present documents and where to find answers in a loan package. 

---Texas Notaries---

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Saturday, June 9, 2018

Today's Notary Tip - June 9, 2018 - Take the Texas SOS FREE Notary Course ASAP!!! Do as I say--NOW! Go NOW!!!

Well, well, well!

Texans, we have training --free training -- some dang fine free training, y'all!  Check it out!

Click here and learn your Texas notary laws, rules, limitations, and more!

Don't learn in groups!  You'll learn wrong.

Most random group members are not educated on notary laws.  They never read them...if they did, they would not spout off utter nonsense!

Please, Texans...go to the SOS course...take it, learn notary laws correctly and operate lawfully as a Texas notary public.

Oh, and if you are happy with the training, send the SOS a little bit of notary love.

Drop them an email --

After you take the course, post in the Texas Notary Professionals group and tell us about it!!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Today's Notary Tip - June 8, 2018 - About your notary name and notary signature...

Notaries have rules (if not strict laws) about how they sign their names, and how they print them, as well. 

The rules' message is:  stay consistent with your notary signature and when printing your name for notary business.

In Texas, the name you use to complete your application is your "notary name." That is the name you will use to perform notarial acts.

The same is true for your signature on the application--it's your mark-- an identifying action that's all your own...YOU are the only one who makes that signature. Don't switch to another version of it. 

Use the same writing style you used on your notary application. Make the same squiggle marks over and over again when you sign notarial certificates.  That way, you can be verified as YOU, a notary public,  by your signature's appearance. 

In most states, the signature on the most recent notary application is the signature that is kept by the notary public administrator of individual states so that if a document with a notary's signature is called into question as a fraud, or if it requires an apostille, your state can confirm that the signature belongs to YOU.

No matter what state you're in, these suggestions hold true.

The reason that your notary signature and name remain the same throughout your commission is to identify validate that the signature is yours.

At some point (assuming you are a busy notary) a document that you notarized will go to your state's apostille office; the clerks in the apostille group will look up your signature. If you vary your signature from that you applied with, the document may be denied its apostille.

The apostille is a certificate that verifies to citizens in foreign countries who are the end-users of a notarized document that a genuine notary in a U.S. state notarized the document to which the apostille is attached.

Keep your signature the same throughout your notary career path.  It's like your notarial fingerprint; it belongs to you and shows YOU  are the one who notarized a document.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Today's Notary Tip - June 7, 2018 - An easy way to stay out of notary trouble!

Good morning!

The easiest way to stay out of notary trouble is to always, always keep your address updated with your state or county notary public administrator.

In Texas, within ten days after it changes, you must update your contact information on the Texas Secretary of State's website.  Other states have similar procedures.

Please make sure you stay current! 

Everyone uses email, so why is this so important? 

Most notary public administrators are required by law to send you a letter via snail mail in the case of a complaint.

Some laws require them must send it certified mail.

Many letters from state offices are not to be forwarded and state so on the outside of the envelope.  If you aren't keeping your records current at the Texas Secretary of State's office, and a complaint is file about you, there will be a terrific amount of easily avoidable trouble!

You'll never know about the complaint, and your commission will likely be revoked when you don't respond to it.

It's like failing to show up for a court case.  You lose if you don't respond.

You can defend yourself if you DO receive the letter in a timely manner.

However, if the letter about the complaint is returned undelivered, you will undoubtedly also be penalized for not updating your address with your notary public administrator.  The law is clear that you must keep that information current.

As a Texas notary, my notary public administrator's office is Notary Section of the Texas Secretary of State.  Their contact information is: phone: 512-463-5705 and email: (Note: You can always find this information on my  Notary News website - Texas Notary Resources.)
The law requiring me to change my address is Tex. Gov’t Code  406.019 CHANGE OF ADDRESS.  
"A notary public shall notify the secretary of state of a change of the notary public's address not later than the 10th day after the date on which the change is made."
Texans may change their address at this link

Not a Texan?  Find YOUR notary laws about address changes!

To find your state's website, please like this page on Facebook  Stone's List, and see the one of my lists here:  State Notary Websites.   (This list of notary websites was originally collected by Jennifer Glover of Prestige Notaries and Notary Dash.)


Brenda Stone

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Notary2Pro Elite Package Memorial Day Special

I do not receive compensation for sharing this information.  Thanks, Brenda / Notaries & Notary News

From Barbara & Carol Ray - 

Since Memorial Day is just around the corner we wanted to remember all those who are no longer with us. We also like to have an excuse to offer a special (every now and then).

Between Friday, May 25th and Monday, May 28th we are offering our Elite Package for $155.00 (which is our Military Price). If you are interested, or know of someone who is, please call us and we can get you signed up. This is for an individual. You can still get our 2 for 1 (husbands and wives) Elite package for $195.00.

Please visit our website at for all we offer or call us at 916.777.5931.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

I like Big Books and I Cannot Lie! (Books and Goodies for Notary Signing Agents)

I like big books and I cannot lie! 

(Love that song by Sir Mix-A-Lot too!)

My bookshelves (both real and virtual) are well-stocked with information on real estate and mortgage lending, both residential and commercial.

I own all of the books that I am listing below.

If I had not purchased these for myself, I would not recommend them.  I do, however, always disclose when it is truth that I earn 4% - 6% of the amount of the book cost if you purchase one of these from my list.  For instance, in the first book in the list that is $14, I will earn 84 CENTS from Amazon.

No one  book will give you all the answers. 

That’s why I have so many of them to give me a more complete picture about what we do.  In addition, because I write information for notaries, I like to make sure that my information is accurate.


Starting a Business

This is a great book if you are new to setting up your own business!

 If you are looking to add a sideline business on to your current notary business, take a look at this. Find out what you should do!  What fits with you, what motivates you! Then, set objectives for yourself.  This is such a fantastic book!  Check it out!!


Goodies - Get them NOW!  

Entrepreneur's Free Startup Resources

These may not be offered forever.  I found them and I am sharing. 

In one of my late night prowling through the net, I located an Entrepreneur publication on how to start a medical billing business.  That led me to a great collection of helpful letters and forms provided by - I love this website.  If you aren't reading articles there regularly, you should be!!

Download the three zip files from the website:  HERE


Real Estate Closings

Rent for $25 Kindle or purchase paperback used.
One of my favorites, written for paralegals, but provides a willing reader who is a notary signing agent a great deal of insight on the way deals come together. Any version is good for our purpose, so grab one at any bargain outlet you find.  Look for older versions on, eBay, and Amazon.

Author Sandra Gadow is a licensed real estate agent, as well as a writer, researcher, and analyst for the real estate industry. She covers every state in this book and what to expect at closing.


Mortgage Lending & Real Estate Closings Generally

Amazon States: A one-stop reference for in-depth explanations of mortgage topics
Author Jack Guttentag is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist, The Mortgage Encyclopedia helps is a great reference tool for notary signing agents. Features definitions and explanations of common mortgage, escrow, and closing fees and arcane mortgage terminology

Study guide that explains terms and concepts like RESPA, LTV, conventional loans, non-conventional loans. It’s basically a guide for getting through a test.  Those types of booklets can be very informative.

Starting a Signing Agent Business?



Forms and Property Law

Price Varies.
Only in Paperback, I think.  Book of forms for both residential and commercial law.  If you just want a book full of forms about real estate, this will do it.  I have purchased two of them for less than $10 each.  Currently, I have the 2015 version and I paid $9.99 for it at  Also, try eBay for deals on this book.

I love this little handbook on Texas property laws.  It is what every handbook should be.  It speaks in plain language and backs up what it says with citations.


Researching Public Records as a Business

Real Estate Title Search Abstracting  (How to abstract title.)
 Not bad for the price.  I originally ran across this on Source of Title’s website.  I figured if they promoted it as reasonably accurate, it was worth looking at. Weirdly, it has a whole chapter on personalities in the back.


Miscellaneous Guides - Public Records

How to find Records Online and in the Courthouse

Years ago, I had a very lucrative business pulling records at the courthouse.  If you are located near a courthouse, look into it. 

Note:  Anything by Michael Sankey is worth having.


Insights to the Title / Escrow Business

Interesting – How to Start a Business

How to Start a Title Insurance Company:  Your Step by Step Guide 
Wow.  Bad purchase!  Don't recommend.  Ridiculously short 18-page booklet on how to start a title insurance company.  


Commercial Real Estate / Lending / Investing

The following links to books are inexpensive Kindle books. Remember that anytime you purchase one of these, that it is speaking to the beginning investor or lender, not to a notary.  That’s why I am writing a book of my own on the topic.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Tips for Notary Creative Producers of Books, Webinars, and other Notary Info Products

I built my blog's popularity by using my own wall, then setting up a Facebook page for it. Then, I took out a few $35 ads to get the news out.

I also tweeted all of my blog posts.

I have never posted in a group that doesn't belong to me without request or permission.

Two group owners (Kisha Smith & Robert Owens) will ask me to share a blog post on occasion or share it themselves. That kind of advertising is HUGE. It is INVALUABLE.  You don't just take it like you are entitled to it.

That's why creative producers of notary info products need to think twice before using other people's hard work expended by tending and  growing a group. It's not there as a sales tool for notary info product makers.

Don't wear out the group members' attention span by splashing your ads into the group daily. You are getting hundreds of dollars worth of targeted advertisement. Appreciate it, give back BEFORE you start taking.  Else, you might be surprised at what happens when you need help.

--Set up your own group. Spend time in it each day. Set hours that you'll be there. Build YOUR following.
--Participate in other groups without promoting yourself. It gets old when an info producer makes every discussion about them and their offerings.
--Post without promoting daily, then, when you do, it's not ignored. At the very least, put the call to action to buy your product at the very bottom of the post.
--Answer questions. Help.
--Invest your time in the lives of others.
--Set up your own list of who you prefer to use for supplies, training, etc. and why. Share it to show your support to those you hope to have support from.
--For other creative folks who have blogs and groups already, refer people to their blogs and groups NOT to the person. For the love of God, don't send newbies looking for a mentor to the person who is already working a full-time job, has a signing business, and working with newbies through groups.

They are already covered up. Recommend that newbies read their blogs or sites or join groups. Don't tag that person and tell the newbie to contact him or her.

If you can't stretch to give a little bit to other creatives or tenders of groups, don't expect to be welcomed when you need them.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Know your limitations--seriously.

This is no joke. You must know your limitations as a notary public.

I am astounded by the many questions that show up in Facebook groups like: 

"My friend has a problem -- how can I help? I know I can't give legal advice, but have you ever faced this so I can tell my friend how to solve their problem?"

No!  You don't need to do that.  

Notaries notarize.
"I just got a call from a person who needs a quitclaim deed prepared. How do I do that?"

You cannot do that. 

Notaries notarize.

End of story.

Notaries notarize.

You know absolutely nothing about law if you are not a lawyer.  Lock that jaw!

Unless you are working in a law office and being trained by an attorney, do nothing except take acknowledgments and administer oaths until you have been trained fully.  

Notaries do not fill out documents for clients--ESPECIALLY clients with immigration forms.

Notaries do not tell clients what goes in the blank.

Notaries do not prepare statements for clients.

Notaries do not help clients find forms on the Internet. 

Notaries do not stamp a document without a certificate.  

Notaries do not stamp a seal by a signature just for good measure!

Notaries do not help clients, friends, strangers, relatives, bosses, coworkers, or anyone else figure out what they need to do about any kind of situation. Every situation is a legal situation.

Your notary seal is only for one purpose. 

Apply it to a certificate--always on a certificate--to show that someone appeared before you and signed a document. Of course, some states' notaries are allowed to do certified copies of non-recordable documents. That's a very specific procedure and it will be outlined in your laws if you are able to do this type of act.

You say that you want to be helpful to a caller...

About the only way that you can help anyone out is to charge them less or waive your fee for notarizing.  

Some states are allowed to type a document for a client as long as the client prepares it, but I would not advise it until you understand your notary laws perfectly.

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. 


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