A Notary is an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. Spouses, parents, siblings, and children often need documents notarized — but can you serve as a family member’s Notary without bias? Here are some helpful tips for handling notarization requests from family members.
Not All States Permit Notarizing For Relatives
If asked to notarize for a family member, the first thing to do is to check your state’s laws. A few states prohibit Notaries from notarizing for most family members. Others prohibit notarizing for specific family members. For example, Florida and Massachusetts do not allow notarizing the signatures of a Notary’s spouse, parents or children, and Massachusetts extends this prohibition to half- and step-relatives. North Dakota, Oregon, and West Virginia prohibit notarizing for spouses only. A Pennsylvania Notary may not notarize signatures on documents that the Notary’s spouse has a direct or pecuniary interest in.
On the other hand, many states, such as Texas, do not restrict Notaries from notarizing for relatives at all. Some states, including Alabama, California and Montana, caution Notaries against notarizing documents for relatives even though the law doesn’t specifically ban it.
If You’ll Benefit, Don’t Notarize It
Even if your state doesn’t restrict you from notarizing for a family member, you shouldn’t do it if you will benefit from the transaction in any way. If you are in a community property state, any transaction involving your spouse could potentially benefit you as well — even if your name isn’t on the document. Some states, such as California, don’t specifically ban notarizing for relatives but do prohibit it if the Notary has some kind of involvement in the notarized document. For example, California prohibits its Notaries from notarizing a document if the Notary has a direct financial or beneficial interest such as being named in the document or receiving a gift or benefit from a transaction detailed in the document apart from the Notary’s statutory fee.
If you’re not sure whether you’d stand to benefit from notarizing a document for a relative, it’s better to be safe and refer the relative to another Notary who’s not related or involved in the transaction.
The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility offers helpful guidance on this thorny subject. It urges the Notary to decline to notarize for close and step-relatives. It also calls for Notaries to avoid even the appearance of partiality, which can happen in many cases involving family members.
Always Follow The Rules
If your state allows notarizing for a relative, remember that you still have to follow all the normal rules for identifying the signer and completing the notarization. Just because the signer is your spouse, child or other family members, it doesn’t give you the right to ignore Notary laws. Your relative will still need to appear in person before you, be identified according to state law and sign your journal entry if a journal record is required in your state.
If You Have Questions, Ask
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure about notarizing for a family member. Your state Notary agency may be able to help you, and NNA members can contact the Notary Hotline for assistance.
By David Thun on December 14, 2016, in Best PracticesDavid Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.
As s professional, you’ll need to become familiar with common documents before you start your career as a signing agent. The practice is the best way to gain confidence in presenting a loan document to borrowers.
Obviously, you will need a stack of practice loan documents. As you have probably learned, finding a set of sample loan documents is not easy. I will provide some links of sample loan documents however there is no promise these samples will be available for long.
Before an appointment, many-experienced notary signing agents put the documents in the order that they prefer to present them.
The specified order of the first seven documents below is the order that many signing agents find to be best for relieving borrower anxiety. They say that borrowers usually relax and everything falls into place if you present the first few documents as suggested. Other signing agents say that the order doesn’t matter; they can preside over signings no matter what order the documents are in. It is a personal preference.
It should be noted that some lenders and title companies will include instructions in packages regarding the order in which the documents must be presented. In such cases, you must follow those instructions.
Ready to get started?
Please note that there is a descriptive statement for each document after its title. Generally, the documents that require notarization will state “Notarize.” after the description.
Become familiar with every document in every loan package that you can get your hands on; introduce them by stating the title of the document, giving its brief description, and state after making the introduction, “Please sign here when you are ready.” If there is a notary certificate attached to the document, you must ask the borrower(s) to acknowledge, swear, or affirm, as appropriate before signing. Once it is signed by the borrowers, signing agents usually notarize the document and move to the next one. Some signing agents wait until the end of the signing and perform all notarizations at once. Because strong opinions exist on this topic, we will not comment on whether they must be notarized immediately after the document is signed or at the end of the package.
1-Settlement Statement – This document shows all the settlement charges involved in your loan. It is self-explanatory. Please take time to look over the numbers.
2-Notice of Right to Cancel – This document allows borrowers to cancel the loan within three days from today. Please note the date [point to the date]. In other words, you can sign today and change your mind if you are not happy with something that you read in the documents later tonight. That way, you will not feel pressured to read every single word of the documents during this appointment. The lender requests that you both sign three of these. I will keep one; you will each keep two signed copies. [Whether it is necessary for all three copies to be signed at the table is another issue that is hotly debated by notary signing agents. Please ask your hiring entity if you are unclear.]
3-Deed of Trust or Mortgage – This document is also called a “security instrument.” It gives the lender an interest in your property; it will be recorded in the public (or real estate) records. (Notarize.)
4-Promissory Note or Real Estate Note – The note states how much you have borrowed [point to it], the length of time that you have to pay it back [point to it], and the interest rate [point to it].
5-Initial Escrow Disclosure – This discusses your escrow account.
6-Truth in Lending Disclosure Statement – This explains all costs of your loan.
7-1st Payment Letter – This explains when your first payment is due.
As noted above, the order of presentation of the remaining documents do not matter.
Uniform Residential Application – This is the application that you filled out at the beginning of your loan. You are requested to sign it again to confirm that it is accurate.
APR & Finance Charge Summary — This explains the cost of your loan.
Itemization of Amount Financed Borrower(s) – This explains the amount financed.
Borrower(s) Acknowledgement of Receipt of Disclosures – This document says that you acknowledge receiving applicable disclosures.
Attorney Representation Notice – This document explains that the attorney who drew the documents does not work for you; he or she works for the lender.
Borrower Affidavit – Please review and state if you swear (or affirm) to the truthfulness of the contents of the document. (Notarize.)
Borrower’s Closing Affidavit Borrower – Please review and advise if you swear (or affirm) to the truthfulness of the contents of the document. (Notarize.)
Certification and Authorization to Release Information – This describes when the lender may have to release information about you, the borrower.
Document Correction Agreement – This says that you will work with the lender to provide any additional information or funds required, if any, to complete the loan package. (Notarize.)
Error & Omissions/Compliance Agreement – You will work with the lender to provide any additional information requested to complete the loan package. (Notarize.)
Limited Power of Attorney/Correction Agreement – This is another document that allows correction of the documents for clerical or scrivener’s errors. (Notarize.)
Name Affidavit – This document lists names that you have been known as. Please sign as stated by names that you have been known by. Do not sign by names that do not apply to you. If it does not apply to you, you may want to complete the blank with a couple of words that explain that. (Notarize.) [Note that whether or not a signature is required on this type of affidavit varies significantly.]
Notice of Assign, Sale or Transfer of Servicing Rights – You understand that this loan may be sold or assigned to a loan servicer.
Notice of No Oral Agreements – This says that there are no oral agreements between parties that are not documented in the loan documents.
Collateral Protection Insurance Notice – You understand that you must keep the property insured.
4506-T Cover Sheet – You agree that the lender may collect a copy of your tax return from the IRS.
Form 4506 — You agree that the lender may collect a copy of your tax return from the IRS.
Patriot Act Form – This relates to the identification of the borrowers. It is required.
Signature Affidavit – This document lists names that you have been known as. Please sign as stated by names that you have been known by. Do not sign by names that do not apply to you. If it does not apply to you, you may want to complete the blank with a couple of words that explain that. (Notarize.)
Below are documents that may be called “title documents.”
Marital Status Affidavit – This document requests that you swear to information about your marital history. (Notarize.)
Refinance Affidavit – In this document, you confirm information about the property related to your loan. (Notarize.)
Survey Affidavit – This document relates to facts about your current property survey. (Notarize.)
Affidavit of Debts and Liens – This document makes statements about liens that you may have on the property that relates to your loan. (Notarize.)
Homestead Affidavit – This says that you state this is your primary home, your homestead. (Notarize.)
TIP: Many documents may be duplicated by the lender and title company. Each may have their own forms that they want to be completed even though they seem just like one that has been completed already. Do not be surprised if there are various forms of several documents to be signed and don’t skip any because they seem like duplicates. Just collect signatures and notarize as requested.
Signing agent “script”
Most signing agents become so familiar with documents that, by their tenth signing, they have a patented script of their own, which they can recite easily. Don’t be concerned if it seems extremely difficult for the first few times. Download a set of documents and start working on your script today!
Borrowers have questions. Some have several and some have one or two. Learn where to find the answers. You can only answer a question that is in black and white in one of the documents. Point to the answer and say, “Does this answer your question?”
You can answer a question about when the first payment is due or how much the interest rate will be. You cannot answer, “Why am I being charged this much for a loan origination fee?” Call your hiring entity when a question of that naturally arises.
Completing notary certificates
Neatly print on your notary certificates. Check to make sure that every notary certificate has the correct venue (state and county) on it. The venue is where you are during the notarization.
If a document has a jurat and an acknowledgment attached to it, it is not up to you to decide that you will not complete one of them. Complete both.
Do not add a certificate to a document if one is not already attached to it. If your state will not allow the wording on a certificate, you may attach a certificate and complete.
Some companies ask for an extra notary certificate to be returned with the documents. Ignore that request. You cannot return a loose notary certificate for them to use on any other document.
Never backdate a notary certificate. You MUST date your certificate with the date on which you are completing the notarization.
Do not notarize the document if the party isn’t present!