Saturday, July 25, 2009

From Loan Work to General Notary Work: How to notarize anything!

For the last ten years many people have become notaries in order to be notary signing agents. As a result many do not have notary experience with other documents. Questions are often posed on internet notary forums regarding how to notarize adoptions papers, court documents, powers of attorney and other types of documents which the notary signing agent has not had experience or training on. This article is geared toward individuals who find themselves with similar questions.

Notaries who became notaries in order to be notary signing agents are accustom to the loan documents commonly provided in loan packages. For instance, notary signing agents become familiar with deeds of trust or mortgages and other common loan documents. As a notary signing agent a notary is expected to introduce each loan related document to the signer. For a deed of trust, the notary may be expected by their hiring entity to say something like, “This is a deed of trust. It is recorded at the county courthouse to provide proof that the lender has an interest in your property.” For other documents in a loan package a notary may have a similar remark to make as they present it to the borrowers.

A notary who is contemplating handling documents which are not in a loan document package may need to learn a slightly different approach for dealing with common notarizations for the general public.

First of all, there is no need to introduce the document or to give the signer of the document a short overview of what the client is signing. The content of the document is none of the notary’s concern as long as it is complete and the client is not executing it under duress.

In handling clients who call the notary with adoption papers, court-related documents, powers of attorney and other general notarization requests the notary does not need to be concerned with understanding or knowing what the document says. In fact, to assume that the notary needs to provide the client insight or information about the document or answer questions about it by pointing out information in the document could be considered the unlawful practice of law. While a notary signing agent is quite familiar with finding bits of information in common loan documents to point out to the borrower, a general notarization client does not need this kind of guidance, should not expect it and the notary should definitely not give it.

Years of working under expectations of title companies and lenders or learning in classes on how to be notary signing agent may require the notary to engage a new and less “hands on” approach.

When a notary is requested to notarize documents by the general public (non-loan types of documents) the notary should simply request state mandated identification from the client and note it in their journal if their state requires them to keep one. The notary should make statements according to their state’s laws regarding the completion of an acknowledgement, and of course, in the case of a jurat, the notary should administer an oath. Thereafter, once the document has been executed by the signer who has been properly identified, the notary should flip to the notary certificate and complete it according to their rules.

The process of notarizing any document is a standard procedure according to a notary’s state’s rules. The procedure does not change because of the title of the document or the contents of the document. The notary accustom to working with loan signing documents and who has not done other types of notarizations prior to becoming a loan signing agent may find it odd that they need to become far less involved with the general documents they handle. They may feel they are not doing their job as a notary when they do not have input to give the client regarding the document.

This is because the notary signing agent is accustomed to participating in two roles during a loan signing—the notary role and the signing agent role. In doing general notarizations there is no role except the role of notary public. It can be said that the notary is an impartial witness appointed by his or her state’s government to witness the signing of a document. A notary transitioning from the role of notary signing agent will need to reduce the level of service to the client which they expect of themselves. They must provide notary services fall into the scope of the duties they are commissioned for and nothing further.

If the client expects more from the notary in the way of advice or answering questions, the notary should suggest that the client visit with an attorney before signing the document. This is the only course that a notary can take for the client no matter how much they would like to do more to assist.

For notary signing agents who are modifying their business model so that they are doing more work as a general notary it is recommended that the notary review their notary rules or manual provided by their state and learn to think in terms of not necessarily notarizing a new type of document but rather notarizing a signature on a document. The notary is a witness to a signature placed on a document and the procedure will never change even when the documents do change.

If readers are concerned about the process of notarizing any document and their state’s rules are not explicit enough to give the answers required readers should contact the attorney of their choice.

(Note: In Louisiana notaries are more than what is mentioned above and they undergo strict training which provides them a larger scope of duties and knowledge.)


  1. Brenda,

    You’ve raised some excellent points. Today I received a call from a Texas Paralegal who was frustrated because her client was here in Alabama on business trying to get his signature notarized on four documents but to no avail. Two different notaries refused the job because they did not understand the nature of the documents. The forms were release forms – nothing more. The client had government issued (photo) ID, there was nothing suspicious about him. He signed. I put him under oath. I stamped the forms. The paralegal paid me to meet her client and mail the drop the signed documents at the express mail drop. For the life of me I cannot figure out why the other notaries were so concerned about the wording of the release forms. Notary 101 – we identify you, and witness your signature.

  2. Very fascinating to read. This is really very informative and well-formatted blog.

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