As a seasoned notary public, and owner of a national notary signing service, I've seen firsthand how notary mistakes can potentially wreak havoc. Missteps in this profession can lead to serious legal consequences and jeopardize the authenticity and legal standing of documents. This article, therefore, aims to provide you, whether you're a seasoned, new, or aspiring notary, with comprehensive insights into five common notary errors and pragmatic tips on how to avoid them.
1. Failing to require personal appearance The most common and critical mistake notaries make is failing to require the signer's personal appearance. As a notary, your primary responsibility is to serve as an impartial witness to the signing of documents. This entails confirming the identity of the person involved. Therefore, the individual must be physically present for the notarization.
Mistake Prevention Tip: Always insist on the personal appearance of the signer. This practice is crucial for verification, authentication, and fraud prevention.
2. Failing to properly identify the signer In tandem with the personal appearance requirement, correctly identifying the signer is paramount. Even if the signer is present, notaries sometimes overlook the importance of checking valid identification meticulously.
Mistake Prevention Tip: Ensure you always carefully review the identification documents to validate the signer's identity, thereby minimizing document errors and enhancing legal security.
3. Confusing Acknowledgments and Jurats An acknowledgment involves a signer declaring they understand and have willingly signed the document, while a jurat requires a signer to swear or affirm the truthfulness of the document's contents. Notaries often confuse these two notarial acts.
Mistake Prevention Tip: Always maintain a clear understanding of the difference between acknowledgments and jurats. Adequate training can help you grasp these concepts and their appropriate usage.
4. Neglecting the verbal ceremony Another widespread error is failing to perform the requisite verbal ceremony when notarizing a document. This ceremony is a cornerstone of notarial acts, encompassing reading the notarial certificate to the signer and asking them to confirm the information's accuracy.
Mistake Prevention Tip: Always remember to conduct the verbal ceremony, which affirms the signer's understanding and willful participation in the notarial act.
5. Using a non-compliant notarial certificate The notarial certificate records the notarization and must comply with the state's notary laws. However, some notaries erroneously use non-compliant or unclear notarial certificates.
Mistake Prevention Tip: Always use clear, easy-to-understand, and state law-compliant notarial certificates. These help maintain correct notarization procedures and legal authority.
According to a study by the National Notary Association, the average cost of a notary mistake, including corrections, legal fees, and lost productivity, is approximately $1,500. This underscores the importance of prevention.
Avoiding common notary mistakes requires understanding professional notary practices, adhering to state laws, and ongoing learning. Regular training from reputable notary organizations can equip you with essential notary knowledge, help you understand the legal requirements, and underscore the importance of best practices and ethical conduct.
In conclusion, as you navigate the world of notary services, these common mistakes and their avoidance strategies should guide your practice. By doing so, you safeguard yourself, the signers, and the integrity of the notary system.