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.  

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