Be on the Lookout – What to Watch Out for Before Notarizing

As a Notary, you need to be observant when it comes to the document you are going to notarize, as well as the people who’s signature you will be notarizing. Following are some of the things you should be looking out for before you agree to notarize anything.

What kind of document is it? Does the person know what they will be signing? Remember – you are not a lawyer and you cannot give any legal advice. If the person who is to sign the document has any question regarding the content, you should advise them to speak with the preparer of the document, or an attorney. If the document is in a language the signer does not understand, you should not
perform any notary services.

Is the person competent to sign? If there is any question about the signer’s competency, whether they are mentally incapacitated, or appear mentally unaware, disoriented, intoxicated or drugged, you should not proceed.

Is the document complete? You do not have to read every word, just look it over to make sure that there are no missing pages or blanks that were not filled-in. The document needs to be complete before notarization. Also check that it is dated correctly – it is improper to notarize pre- or post-dated documents.

Is the notary acknowledgement on the document? Most documents contain the Notary paragraph at or near the end, while a few still use what is called a loose certificate. If it is missing, it is your choice on how to proceed. You can refuse, if you are not comfortable, or if there is room you can try to write the wording underneath the signature, or on the back of the document. If you choose to use a loose certificate (be very careful), make sure you are using one that pertains to your notarial act. It would also be wise to reference the document and add an additional seal imprint in this manner: After you notarize and affix your seal, line up both pages side by side and stamp in the middle so that both pages would be required to show the full seal.

Is the signer present? Anyone/everyone who is to sign the document should appear before you and provide a valid ID (if they are not personally known, of course). Nothing should be signed prior to this point.

Remember, you can refuse to sign anytime you suspect that something is wrong, deceptive, or illegal. Some people think that Notaries cannot refuse their services, but that is absolutely wrong. In fact, Florida law requires notaries to refuse services in certain situations.

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