Blog

What is a Notary Public and/or a Notary Signing Agent?

posted May 29, 2016, 5:17 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.   [ updated May 29, 2016, 5:44 PM ]

As an Employment Specialist, volunteer & unremunerated work I also provide, I have been talking to some people, who are either unemployed or seeking for credible ways to earn an extra income, about becoming a notary public. Many of them expressed concerned since they don’t know what it entails and some even think they needed to have a law degree. So I hope to clarify what a Notary Public is and not and possibly help someone who might be interested in become one but is a bit intimidated or afraid it is too involved or need to attend school for that, like a friend from CO thought. I’ll write about the duties and responsibilities on another post.

So, What is a Notary Public?

A Notary Public is a public official of integrity screened and appointed by the state government to serve the public as an impartial, trusted witness related to the signing of documents to deter fraud by performing official acts called notarial acts or notarizations. A Notary Public examines signers of sensitive documents for their true identity, willingness to sign voluntarily (of their free will), and their awareness of the content of the document they are signing. Some notarizations will require the Notary to place the signer under oath. A Notary Public is not a lawyer neither needs to have a law degree to be appointed so you will not need to provide legal advice at all, in fact, you cannot! It would be illegal to do such. A lawyer who is also a Notary Public may do so, but a Notary Public who is not a lawyer may not!

A sample of a notarized document from Pakistan.

Image via Wikipedia

Hence, as impartial official representatives of the state, Notaries simply certify that crucial documents such as wills, real state/property deeds, power of attorney, prenuptial agreements, etc. are properly executed, the signers are who they portray, are aware, know what the document is about, and are willing to sign without pressure or intimidation. Therefore, the people involved can trust that the document is authentic and that the official, notary, has no personal interest in the transaction. In addition, another element of being impartial means that a notary cannot refuse to serve anyone based on race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.

So as you see, a Notary Public is simply an official who plays a vital role in society, who needs to have high integrity and be impartial to certify that the signatures of the people signing a document belong to them (putting them under oath when required), to certify their willingness to do so, and that they know, understand what they are signing. It’s not rocket science and you can do it; you can also become a notary public for your state to serve your community as an impartial, trusted witness!

Now, a Notary Signing Agent is a notary who not only does regular notary services but also has been trained particularly to assist in mortgage closing by couriering various documents such as loan documents, collecting and notarizing signatures, and delivering settlement checks from mortgage lenders, title firms, escrow companies to their clients, borrowers, and vice versa. You  need training and become or be familiar with several loan documents; it’s a bit more involved. I obtained my training and certification through American Society of Notaries (ASN), but this is a very basic training similar to the one to become a notary, a bunch of theories that doesn't really gives you hands on training. IF you want a really good training, take it with Carol Ray at Notary2Pro

I heard of her on LinkedIn; she's highly recommended by others. The course offers a variety of options and the training includes actual documents that you need to familiarize yourself, if not yet, and aside from all that, she's an incredible human being! I owe it to her my training, literally! I'm not recommending her because I will get something in return, it's simply because she's not only a great person but also because she has put together a great course! IF you want to be a signing agent from scratch (without any experience) or need more training, then you should seriously consider her course because it will prepare you to really handle loan documents!

So, a Signing Agent simply make it convenient for lenders, title companies, etc. and borrowers to close their transactions, but does not work for any of them; he or she is an independent contractor who can be hired by multiple companies.  Also, a Signing Agent goes to great lengths to keep those documents safe and private, and does not need to answer any questions to the borrower about the particular terms of the transaction; he or she simply remind the person or people involved to contact their loan officer to discuss that further (similarly to notaries who are also not attorneys and cannot provide any legal explanation or give legal advice). You can be a Notary Public without being a Signing Agent, but to be a Signing Agent, you need to be a Notary Public!

Another point is that the E&O insurance for Notaries do not cover Signing Agents! You need to find another insurance company for that; yes, it is added expense.

To be a Notary Public or a Notary Signing Agent can be a great thing for many reasons, enhance your résumé and attract those employers who are interested in hiring someone with those credentials and skills, expand your skills and abilities to offer service and be paid for it, can be a valid self-employment opportunity or a way to make extra money, but I remind you that it is not a way to become rich quickly!

Please leave any comments or questions; I’d love to hear from you!



Why I Decided to Become a Notary Public and Signing Agent, Too - 2012

posted Jul 10, 2012, 11:39 AM by A. Jackson   [ updated Jul 10, 2012, 8:00 PM ]


At the notary

"A Notary Public?" I said that when my boyfriend suggested last year that I could become one to supplement my income. He said, "Yes, you can do it on your own hours and make an extra income; it's not hard." I was listening. He gave me a brief summary on what it was needed and the requirements, and that's all it took for me to be interested. I started searching articles and current notaries to find out what's entailed, and really liked what I found out! It's something I can do on on my schedule. Aside from the fact that I long to be self-employed and have more control over my time and to work with things I'm passionate about, I truly enjoy helping and serving people!

Even though I'm currently employed full-time, we don't know what tomorrow may bring in the economy we are currently  experiencing. We can no longer acquire one or two skills, or even a degree, and think we are set for the rest of our lives. Our time is more dynamic and changing as fast as we think. We need to be learning new things constantly and adapting faster than ever to new ways of doing things especially when it comes to communication and technology; we need to be literate and skilled in multiple things and see what we can use for our own benefit so that we can help ourselves and others in the process. It's better to know how to do something and not need than to need to know how and not know. Opportunities don't keep on knocking on our doors so it's better to be ready to open the door when they do!

So along with working, I also attend school full-time as I pursue a degree in International Relations, and in the future, a degree in the medical field that is yet to be determined; the latter will enable me to serve people better when I go in humanitarian missions. I'm also a freelance translator in the languages: Brazilian Portuguese & American English. Learning languages and translating are some of my passions. Therefore, adding a notary and signing agent title and skills on my résumé and  learning how to do those things will not only enable me to earn an income aside from my current job but also be prepared for many opportunities ahead which may even be the possibility to open my business.

I already took the Notary Education Program, registered with Florida Notary Service, and there are only two more step to go before I become one, and I'm on top of them! As soon as I am officially one, I'll be posting the great news! In the mean time, I'll be posting information on what notaries and signing agents are and do, tips, FAQ,  translation, etc.

All I know is that aside from dying, there are no guarantees in life, but one thing I'm sure of is that I won't regret being prepared!


p.s.: Knowing what I know now about becoming a Signing Agent, I would have waited until I'd be more comfortable with different types of things to notarize to then become a S.A.! ;-) 


by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve

Notary Public Fees: How Much to Charge?

posted May 29, 2016, 5:13 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

Great! Now that you know what a Notary Public is and a Notary Signing Agent, too, and what they are and not, let’s talk about money!

How much can a Notary Public make?

Well… that depends! As I said on a previous post, this is not a get rich quick idea or scheme; besides from being able to earn extra money, becoming a notary can add value and make you interesting for companies that want to hire people who are because of the benefits that you can provide them, and also it gives you some credibility since you have been appointed by the State to perform those duties. Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not naïve enough to believe that all notaries have integrity and are completely trustworthy. Unfortunately, we find those who aren’t in all areas. What I’m referring to is, that at least, you & your documents have been checked and you, as a notary, were placed under oath. So if you lied, it’s perjury and the state will prosecute you for that starting by revoking your commission. No, they cannot check for integrity of character; a reputation based on principles of trust & integrity is something you will need to build in your dealings with your customers.

Now let’s discuss the fees!

Notary Public fees are set by the state to the maximum that you can charge per notarial acts;they may not exceed those provided by law to the clerks of the circuit court for like services. A notarial act is the act performed by the Notary Public in his or her official capacity, such as in authenticating the signature of a signer on a document by witnessing it and placing the notarial stamp or seal on it.

Notary Public

Notary Public

Florida Notaries may charge for the following NOTARIAL ACTS (Maximum fees per notarial act) in 2012:

  • Oaths /Affirmations – $10.00 (each seal)
  • Vehicle Identification Number – $10.00
  • Protests – $10.00
  • Certifying Contents of a Safe-Deposit Box – $10.00
  • Acknowledgment – $10.00 (each seal)
  • Attesting to a Photocopy – $10.00 (per copy)
  • To Solemnize a Marriage (Perform a Marriage Ceremony) – $30.00 (According to the American Society of Notaries‘ website & FL Laws Related to Solemnizing Marriage; the fee shown on the FL Gov.’s Reference Manual is outdated since it’s printed.)
* Reminder: some acts vary by state; those refer particularly to Florida.


NOTES:

  • Each signature notarized is a notarial act; each page that you need to notarize is also a notarial act. Example, if two people appear before you, the Notary, and sign a document with one page and you take their acknowledgments, you can charge a maximum of $20.00. If the document has two pages and there are two people signing it, you can charge $40.00 ($10. per signature in each page)
  • Charging more than the maximum legally prescribed fees for notarial acts  is reason for the Governor to suspend a Notary’s commission. (F.S. 117.01[4][i])
  • If you charge fees for other services that are not notarial acts, provide your customer an itemized list of charges beforehand. (Example: Travel fees, wedding Services – not the actual notarial act, etc.) You should provide a list of charges to your clients in advance and explain they are apart from the notarial act they need. Take a look at this Notary who performs weddings in Florida for the fees she charges apart from the notarial act of solemnizing the rites of matrimony §117.045 of Florida Statuses.
  • NOTE: Financial or Beneficial Interest: A Notary should not perform any notarization related to a transaction in which that notary has a direct financial or beneficial interest. (F.S. 117.107[12]
  • Notary fees are considered income and should be reported when filing annual income tax.
  • Also, keep a detailed journal of those transactions, the acts performed and charges.
So as you see, notaries can charge other fees apart from notarial acts they perform as a State Public Official; there is room to earn some money. Just be straightforward, honest about your charges and price them reasonably. For Notary Signing Agents, you can charge more per notarial act. Read more on Notary Quest.

It is very important for your client to know in advance and understand the difference between  a notarial act and other fees you may charge them to perform the notarial act. It is perfectly admissible for a Notary Public to charge for travel, time, for after hours or for service during major holidays…, and other extra services such as preparing weddings, etc. as long as his or her clients know and agree to pay for them. What is not admissible is not to inform them in advance (remember that trust is the foundation of ALL relationships),  and if he or she doesn't explain what those charges are and let them think those charges are part of notarial acts, his or her commission can be on the line!  They might report him or her to the state. So be fair, keep your word and commitments, be upfront about your charges apart from notarial acts, and you should build trust and a great reputation with your clients!

Good luck on your endeavors!

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

What Can a Notary Public Do or Cannot Do?

posted May 29, 2016, 5:10 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

If you are contemplating becoming a notary public, this is important stuff! Many people are confused about what a notary public can or cannot do. Those from other countries where notaries are lawyers may think that notaries in the U.S. are also lawyers or attorneys and can provide legal advice, explain documents, write up legal documents, modify terms, etc. As I wrote on a previous post, notaries in the U.S (except in LA in which they are civil notaries) do not need to be lawyers and have limited powers. This basic rule applies to Notaries who are also Signing Agents.

There is a difference between a notary public and a civil notary or notary at law; those are also lawyers and do have a broader power. In fact, here in Florida, unless you are legally a lawyer, a notary public cannot offer legal advice in any way! Doing so is a breach of duty and can get your commission suspended or revoked. You can read more from this article on Wikipedia.

Here are some of the things a notary public can do in Florida:

  • All notarial acts must be performed only within the Florida State (or within your state) and only until your commission expires. Your commission is non-transferable. You cannot transfer it to someone else or from/to another state.
  • Solemnize the rites of matrimony (perform a marriage ceremony) within the geographical boundaries of the state – FL is the only of 3 states that allow a notary to do that – couple must have a Florida marriage license from an authorized Florida official
  • Advertise services & charge per notarial act a maximum of $10. & $30. to solemnize a matrimony (Refer to my previous post)
  • Wills
  • Take acknowledgments
  • Administer oaths
  • Affidavits
  • Depositions
  • Attest to photocopies *(see below for which documents a notary cannot attest)
  • Verify a VIN on a vehicle
  • Certify the contents of a safety box
  • A notary can be one of the witnesses on a document as long as his or her signature does not need to be notarized since he or she cannot notarize his or her own signature.
  • Can translate documents, but need to find another notary to notarize the translation affidavit.
  • Read the content of the document and ask if the person understood and agrees with it
  • Notarize the signature in foreign documents
  • Etc.
Those are basic things a notary public can do. Remember that notaries notarize signatures, not documents. Now let’s see some of the things he or she cannot do in Florida:

Prohibited Acts:

  • Cannot translate the title Notary Public into any other language
  • Cannot notarize if you have any financial interest in the transaction
  • Cannot offer legal advice, explain t, write or modify terms on a document, etc.
  • Cannot notarize blank or incomplete documents (You wouldn’t sign a blank check, right? Same principle!)
  • Cannot notarize translations, but the signature of the translator. A person bringing a document in another language to be notarized must contact the translator to be present to take an oath and sign an affidavit stating he or she has translated accurately the document since his or her signature is the one that has to be notarized, not of the owner of the document.
  • Cannot notarize the signature of someone who is not present, in person
  • * Cannot certify or notarize or provide copies: the following documents are examples of public records, copies of which cannot be attested to by a notary: Birth certificate, marriage certificate, death certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, documents filed in a court proceeding, documents recorded by the Clerk of the Court, public records maintained in government offices, student records (transcripts, etc.) kept in public education offices, federal or state income tax forms, already filed, professional licenses issued by the State of Florida, any document for which photocopying is prohibited, etc. This is not a complete list of public records. If the document is issued by a government entity, the notary should contact that entity to determine whether a certified copy is available. If one is available, then the notary public must decline to make an attested photocopy. Additionally, the notary should ask the person if the document has been filed in a court proceeding or in the official records at the courthouse (http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/notary/ref_manual11-22.pdf).
  • Cannot notarize photographs or certify the authenticity of objects, memorabilia, etc.
  • Cannot notarize his or her own signature or of immediate family members: spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father.
  • Etc.

For more detailed & precise information from the FL government, please see:

  •  FL Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries
  • FAQ’s from the FL Department of State
It’s vital for a notaries to know the exact rules so they can avoid notarizing, attesting to documents when they have no authority to do so, compromising their commission and reputation, and avoiding fraud and legal issues for the people they serve, not to mention getting into deep and serious legal trouble and paying a lot of money for that!

by Alessandra Jackson
AG Pro Serve Intl.

Can a Notary Public Refuse to Notarize?

posted May 29, 2016, 5:09 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

Are you one of the people who are interested in becoming a notary but think that it is too involved, worry about legal issues, or that you cannot set your hours, or refuse to perform a notarization because you are a public official, etc.? If so, let me help you understand some things about this office that may alleviate your worries and perhaps set you on your way to becoming one.

As a Public official, notaries may not refuse clients based on their race, religion or lifestyle, gender, etc. , BUT there are some instances when a notary not only can but should refuse to notarize a document. What are those instances, you ask? Well, let me explain some of them; knowing this beforehand may save you time as a client, and as an ethical notary-to-be or a current notary, it may save your commission, reputation, legal issues, and money, perhaps, lots of money! I will address Florida particularly, but I do believe most of those are applicable in all states.

Reasons due to restrictions, legal requirements, ethics, etc. as to why notaries may, actually should, refuse to provide service set forth in sections 117.05 and 117.107, Florida Statutes (related primarily to taking acknowledgments & administering oaths – there are other times when a notary should not provide service aside from these, mostly related to attesting to photocopies & performing marriage ceremonies; please refer to my previous post “What Can a Notary do or Cannot Do?”):

  • When they cannot verify identity or the identification is not acceptable, or when they do not personally know the signer(s)
  • Signer(s) is not present (in person) even if the person with the document swears the signer did sign it
  • Signer(s) is an immediate family member: spouse, son, daughter, mother or father
  • Signer(s) appears to be coerced, under duress
  • Signer(s) does not understand the content (IF you are not a lawyer, you may not advise or interpret the content, etc. Simply refer the signer to seek one) or may be mentally impaired (drunk, under medication-sedated,…) or has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated to date
  • The notary(s) has self-interest in the transaction (Notaries must be impartial.)
  • Signer(s) does not speak English and there is no one to translate the document into a language the signer(s) understands (Ex.: if a person brings me a document written in Portuguese, I could translate it, but the person would have to take it to another notary to notarize the signature of the translator, in this case, me since I would not be able to notarize my own.)
  •  The document is blank or incomplete
  • The document does not have a prepared notary certificate, and the signer cannot tell the notary what notarial act is required (It is not part of the duty of notaries to tell a client which notarial act he or she needs; in fact, notaries cannot advise them on that. Refer them to an attorney or to seek one.)
  • The notary knows or has suspicions to believe that the transaction is unlawful, false, or deceptive. So he or she can refuse to notarize or be a witness for it
  • You are a notary for an employer and they set parameters for when you can notarize within working hours since it might not be your primary focus/duty

Some of the situations above are prohibited by law; others are precautions notaries should take, and the ones below are also situations in which notaries can refuse to perform a notarization:

  • Client(s) cannot pay the fees – unless if you feel charitable to not charge
  • It is after regular working hours, a holiday, the notary is busy with other work/activities, or has to travel to another location - Notaries are people and sometimes they have a life, too :-)
  • Notary would be inconvenienced or is sick – because sometimes we also have lives, we’re a subject to being sick and have personal issues with our children, pets,… including ourselves ;-)
  • Notary does not feel comfortable with the request – trust your instinct
  • Signer is a minor
  • The document is in a language the signer does not understand

So if you had any major concerns about the office of a notary public, you should feel a bit relieved now. Even though notaries have major responsibilities to perform duties ethically and fair, you can see that it is not out of this world and you have control over a lot of situations. However, whatever job you are in right now, don’t you also have responsibilities and a duty to perform it ethically and make good judgment calls (or in life in general)? Hopefully the answer is yes!

Now… let’s see how notaries can refuse to notarize in those situations. This is how the Department of State for FL suggests it should be done:

A refusal to notarize may be viewed as an inconvenience to the signer or may be misinterpreted as unlawful discrimination. Therefore, notaries should be careful to refuse in a tactful manner. Tactfulness should not be a problem when the refusal is based on one of the statutory prohibitions, such as when the document is incomplete. The notary should explain that the law prohibits notarizing in that situation.

However, the situations in which a notary should refuse for precautionary reasons may be more difficult to explain. For example, suppose a notary suspects that the signer is being coerced or that the transaction may be illegal. In such situations, it may be best for notaries to simply explain that they are not comfortable with notarizing that document. No further explanation is necessary. Another good approach is for the notary to state that he or she is not familiar with the type of document involved. It is best not to be drawn into a debate regarding the refusal.

(http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/education/faq/refuse.html - How to Refuse; emphasis added)

So even though some people mistakenly believe that notaries cannot refuse to perform a notary act for any legitimate request and should be available to them any time, anywhere, …. well, that is not quite the case. You can become a notary public (and Signing Agent) to earn extra money as a part-time job or when-you-can-do job since you are basically self-employed (unless you are a notary for your job). People cannot access many government departments/officials unless it is within the established hours; therefore, notaries can also establish their own hours, turn down a job because they are too busy with other jobs, are busy with personal issues, sick, away, etc., and can indeed refuse to notarize in many circumstances that are non-discriminatory.

To read official information and the full restrictions thoroughly, you may access these sites: Frequently Asked Questions for Florida Notaries or FL Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries. Check with your state for their own restrictions, rules, etc.

For people contemplating in becoming notaries, I hope to have cleared many doubts, concerns, fears that you might have so that you understand better notaries limitations and rights as well!

For clients, I hope to have cleared up some erroneous ideas about notaries that can save you time and also understand their limitations and the circumstances in which they cannot help you.

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

Preventing Fraud: Forms of Identifications that Notaries Can Accept

posted May 29, 2016, 5:07 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

As a notary-to-be, and since the basic duty of a notary public is to verify identity in order to notarize the signatures of signers on documents to prevent fraud, I wondered what types of identifications I would be able to accept to verify someone’s identity, if I don’t personally know them, especially since in Miami, there are people from all over the world! Maybe you’re wondering about that, too!

So here is a list of acceptable forms of identification:

  • Personal knowledge
  • A current, valid, unexpired U.S. Driver’s License or I.D. Card (of any U.S.  state or territory), from Canada, or Mexico
  • An ID card issued by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, i.e., Resident Alien or Permanent Resident ”green” card.
  • An ID card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States for active duty or retired personnel or their dependents
  • A U.S. passport or foreign passport validated by the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Inmates ID card issued on or after January 1, 1991, by the FL Dept. of Corrections for inmates who are in custody of the department
  • A sworn, written statement from a sworn law enforcement officer that the forms of identification for an inmate in an institution of confinement were confiscated upon confinement, and that the person named in the document is the person whose signature is to notarized
  • An I.D. card issued by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Immigration & Naturalization

Sworn statements are another way a notary can notarize a person’s signature when he or she does not have or cannot get an acceptable form of identification like an elderly person, or a minor, or someone with a disability.
Two ways a notary in Florida can notarize his or her signature are:
  1. A sworn statement of a person personally know to the notary and who personally knows the signer, and
  2. A sworn statement of two credible witnesses who know the signer personally and can provide acceptable forms of identification
Either way, the witness must know the signer personally, make a sworn statement, and sign also the document being notarized as a precaution method.
Remember that these alternative forms of identification and or sworn statements DO NOT replace the presence requirement for the signers (I will expand on that on another post.)

For more official info on identity verification and on special notarization situations such as for the blind, for those who don’t speak English, or who are mentally incapacitated, please check this link: Notaries in Special Position p.32-40

Those are the basic forms of identification a notary can accept to verify identity. There is a book called The I.D. Checking Guide that is published by the Drivers License Guide Company annually in February (ISBN 0-938964-33-X) and is a great resource for notaries to verify the most common forms of identification, especially issued by other states.  As soon as I receive my confirmation that my application has been approved and I have my commission, I will definitely purchase it!

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

Notarizing “Ghosts’” Signatures?

posted May 29, 2016, 5:05 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

You would think that’s common sense that if someone wants his or her signature on a  document to be notarized, that he or she would be in the presence of a notary, right? Moreover, you’d think that notaries, who run the risk of being found guilty of a civil infraction if there was no intention to commit fraud and losing their commission,  would be very adamant about this rule. Humm… apparently that’s not the case and that’s how many frauds are committed! I cannot understand why some notaries would take this risk; it’s beyond logic and reasoning since there is so much at stake. Notaries cannot notarize the signatures of their clients’ ghosts!

Some notaries, unfortunately, notarize signatures of people who are not physically present to verify identity and be able to assess if they understand and agree to sign the document freely despite this being a requirement by the state. In Florida, there is no exception to this requirement, but I’m almost sure that most states, if not all, would require the same.

Florida Statutes section 117.107(9) provides that:

A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person is not in the presence of the notary public at the time the signature is notarized. Any notary public who violates this paragraph is guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by penalty not exceeding $5,000, and that conduct constitutes malfeasance and misfeasance in the conduct of official duties. It is no defense to the civil infraction specified in this paragraph that the notary public acted without intent to defraud.

A notary public who violates this paragraph with the intent to defraud is guilty of violating s. 117.105.
Violation of section 117.105 constitutes a third-degree felony for fraudulently taking an acknowledgment or making a false notary certificate.
There is no exception to the presence requirement!

Here is a sample of a case study from the FL GOVERNOR’S REFERENCE MANUAL FOR NOTARIES:

Nancy is a notary and owns a small paralegal business. Jan came into the office one day with a deed signed by her husband Rick and requested Nancy to notarize his signature.
Rick was at home sick, but Jan brought Rick’s driver’s license with her. At Jan’s suggestion and just to be on the “safe side,” Nancy called Rick at home to verify his signature.
The man identifying himself as Rick confirmed that he had signed the
document voluntarily and wanted his signature notarized. Nancy proceeded with the notarization.
Should Nancy have notarized Rick’s signature?
NO !


Now, for the real story . . .
Unknown to Nancy, Jan was planning to divorce Rick and she wanted their home transferred to her name first. Jan forged Rick’s signature on the deed and took his driver’s license without his knowledge.
The man that Nancy spoke to on the phone was actually Jan’s boyfriend! The case ended up in divorce court and Rick was given his portion of the property.
The Governor’s Office required Nancy Notary’s resignation and will not appoint her again as a notary. She now has a difficult time working as a paralegal without a notary commission.

Read more about Presence Requirement & other situations on American Society of Notaries 

As you can see, a notary who takes the word of someone else and notarizes a signature on a document without the person being physically present by attempting to verify the identity and agreement over the telephone, or any other electronic means (Webcams), is risking much more than just losing his or her commission and may be assisting, inadvertently, fraud!

So there is no other way around the presence requirement! No, a notary may not swear-in, notarize a signature, or perform any notarial act via webcam, telephone,… or because someone else just brought a signed document claiming that the signer did do it voluntarily. Technology does not trample the presence requirement by law.

Notaries: beware! You may not only be putting yourselves on the line by assisting fraud even if unintentionally, and may be causing a LOT of problems for someone out there. You can’t give yourself the luxury of neglecting this vital requirement.  Do yourself and others a favor and be ethical, adhere to the law, to the office and duties you’re appointed.

Clients: beware of notaries who would do this! It’s not in your best interest UNLESS your intent is to commit fraud! Even if your intentions are legitimate, the principle is the same; don’t fall for convenience and the feeling of self-importance that someone, a notary, trusts you, your word. What happens if someone else with the intent of defrauding you finds the same willing notary? Would you still think of him or her being so accommodating a good thing?

Since I’m planning to be a mobile notary, it will be difficult for people to come up with an excuse as to why the signer cannot be present. In case they do, I will simply refuse to perform the notarial act. It’s as simple as that!

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

What is an Acknowledgment or Oath or Affirmation?

posted May 29, 2016, 4:59 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

Whether you are thinking about becoming a notary, or are like me, relatively new to the area, or are waiting for your application to be approved, either way a novice  (I received my notary commission by the end of Feb. 2012), you might be wondering about some of the terms for the documents notaries use, what they mean, look like, how to do things, etc. I’ll address one (or two) basic duty per post.

If you didn’t know, when notaries need to notarize a signature, they don’t only verify identity and witness a signature to then stamp their seal and sign the document.

To notarize signatures in FL (probably the same requirements in most or all states), notaries must perform one of the two notarial acts: either take an acknowledgment from or administer an oath (or affirmation) to the document signer. They have different purposes and notaries must understand the difference in order to notarize signatures properly.

  • Take an Acknowledgment: the signer must be physically present (I discussed the physical presence requirement on a previous post) before a notary and state that he or she has signed (in front of the notary) the document freely. Notaries must ensure that signers understand the content of the document and have not been forced into signing. If there is any doubt about the signer’s willingness to execute the document or his or her understanding of the contents of the document, the notary should refuse to notarize and perhaps refer the person to an attorney for legal advice. A question notaries might want to ask signers in order to assess their willingness and understanding of what he or she will be signing or has signed, “Do you acknowledge that this is your signature and that you are executing this document of your own free will?” If yes, the notary should then complete a certificate declaring that the execution of the document was acknowledged by the signer. Documents that typically require an acknowledgment are deeds, mortgages, contracts, and powers of attorney (except those pertaining to motor vehicle titles)

  • Oath or Affirmation (Jurat): this notarial act is required when signers need to make sworn statements about certain facts. Again, signers must be physically present before a notary to swear (or affirm) that the information on the document is true and to sign the document. A false oath or affirmation is perjury. Notaries may used it in affidavits, depositions, applications.  The oath or affirmation is administered in the beginning by a verbal exchange between the notary and the signer in which the latter indicates that he or she is taking an oath. Notaries may ask, “Do you swear (or affirm) that the information contained in this document is true?” If the answer is yes, then the notary completes the notarial certificate that shows an oath or affirmation was taken.
How to perform a Jurat? I found this information from the state of NH:

1. The signer personally appears before the Notary.
2. The Notary scans the document to make sure there are no blank spaces.
3. The Notary positively identifies the signer.
4. The Notary administers an oath or affirmation to the signer:
Oath: “Do you solemnly swear that the statements in this document are true, so help you God?”
Affirmation: “Do you affirm that the statements in this document are true?”
5. The Notary completes certificate wording for a jurat and affixes the official signature and seal.

How do notaries know which of the two notarial acts to perform?

Before notarizing, notaries should look if a document has a prepared notarial certificate with words such as “acknowledged ” or “sworn to” indicating which notarial act is to be performed. If there is none, the signer must tell the notary which act he or she wants. Notaries who are not also attorneys  are not authorized to advise signers which notarial act the document requires as well as about the contents of the the document.

Info on Notarial Certificates from the FL Gov.:

Check the Notarial Certificate.
First, look at the venue: State of Florida, County of _____. This language should reflect the location where the document is being notarized. If it is incorrect, change the language and initial the change BEFORE notarizing.
Second, check the date. If an incorrect date has been filled in, strike through that date, write in the correct date, and initial the change BEFORE notarizing. The correct date is the actual date of notarization.
Third, look for the key words, “sworn” or “acknowledged”, to determine if you are to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment. If the document does not have a notarial certificate, the signer must tell you which notarial act the document requires. At the signer’s direction, you may write or
type the appropriate certificate on the document.

For more info on FL Notarizations, Notarial Certificates, “Loose Certificates,” Corrections, etc. , see Performing Notarial Acts p.28-31

Sources:

FL Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries – Duties of a Notary Public

FL Notarizing: Step by Step p. 28

Samples of Notarial Documents

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

Certified Copies or Attested to Copies?

posted May 29, 2016, 4:57 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.

Let’s say you were asked to get a certified copy of your marriage certificate. Do you make a copy of the original and take it to a notary public to “certify” it? Or do you take the original to the notary for him or her to make one and “certify” it?

Well, the short answer is “No” for both!

This is the second post where I’m addressing the basic duties of a notary public in more detail, and on this one, I’m addressing the issue of certified copies,  photocopies of documents that many people want notaries to “certify.” Notaries can attest to, not certify, some documents; others cannot be done.

However, first let me explain the difference between certified and attested copies to clear up any confusion you might have.

Certified copy: it is a copy of a document that people can obtain from a vital record, a public record,  or from the custodian of that public record.

Which types of documents cannot be photocopied from the original and attested by a notary?

Birth, marriage, or death certificates, certificate of Naturalization/Citizenship, documents filed in a court proceeding,  documents recorded by the Clerk of the Court, public records maintained in government offices, student records (transcripts, etc.) kept in public education offices, federal or state income tax forms, already filed, professional licenses issued by the State of Florida, any document for which photocopying is prohibited (not a complete list of public records).

Ex.: If you need a copy of your birth certificate, you do not take the original to a notary to photocopy it because he or she cannot do that; you need to contact the pertinent vital record department so they can issue a copy of your birth certificate which is a certified copy.

NOTE for Notaries: If the document is issued by a government entity, the notary should contact that entity to determine whether a certified copy is available. If one is available, then the notary public must decline to make an attested photocopy. Additionally, the notary should ask the person if the document has been filed in a court proceeding or in the official records at the courthouse.

Attested copies: in FL notaries can make attested photocopies in which they attest to the trueness of photocopies of certain documents; although known and called, they are not certified copies.

According to section 117.05(12) of the Florida Statutes, notaries can make attested photocopies if the following criteria are satisfied:

  • The document must be an original document. A notary public cannot make an attested photocopy from a photocopy, or from another certified copy.
  • The document cannot be a public record, certified copies of which are available from another public official. If a certified copy can be obtained from the official source, then the notary public should decline the request.
  • The making of the photocopy must be supervised by the notary public. It is not sufficient for the notary public to compare the photocopy with the original document in FL. The notary public must actually make the photocopy or supervise another person while he or she makes the photocopy.
So don’t bring copies of the original to a FL notary; he or she will have to make the copies or supervise you making them.
Which types of documents can be photocopied from the original and attested by a notary?

The following documents can be photocopied from the original (if not officially filed or recorded) and attested to by a notary, because certified copies cannot be obtained from another public official:

Florida driver’s license, Florida vehicle title, Social Security card, diploma, medical record, U.S. passport, resident Alien card (permanent resident card)  issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service,  bill of sale, contract, lease, or personal letter.

After the photocopy is made by or supervised by the notary, the notary should complete a notarial certificate in substantially the same form as prescribed by law. This notarial certificate should be typed, stamped or written on the front or back of the photocopy or may be attached as a separate page.

State of ______________
County of ____________
On this ___ day of _________, 20___, I certify that the preceding or attached document is a true, exact, complete, and unaltered photocopy made by me from the original document (Description of Document), presented to me by the document’s custodian, (Document Custodian’s Name) and that, to the best of my knowledge, the photocopied document is neither a public record nor a publicly recorded document, certified copies of which are available from an official source other than a notary public.

                                                       (Signature of Notary Public)
[SEAL]                              (Printed Name of Notary Public)

Sources:

FL – Duties of a Notary Public p.15

Hope this clarified any  confusion, saved you time, and paper!

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

Wedding on a Budget? In FL, Try a Notary!

posted May 29, 2016, 4:54 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.



Wedding RingsCongratulations! You’ve just been asked for your hand in marriage by your sweetheart and said “Yes!” Now the wedding preparations begin. However, you’re on a budget and need to find the most affordable person who can marry the two of you.

Well… IF you live in Florida, did you know that a notary public CAN solemnize the rites of matrimony? That is, he or she is authorized to perform a civil marriage ceremony and might be cheaper than the alternative depending on the extras you might need or want. Florida is one of three states (the other two are South Carolina and Maine) where notaries are given authority to do that. Therefore, your marriage will be legal and binding.

To solemnize the rites of matrimony, the notarial act ONLY, notaries can charge up to $30.00 according to the American Society of Notaries‘ website and & FL Laws Related to Solemnizing Marriage (The fee that appears on the FL Gov.’s Reference Manual is outdated since it’s printed.)

But if he or she is preparing you whole ceremony, traveling to you or the location of your choice, providing additional services such as flowers, photographer, wedding cake, etc., he or she can and will probably charge for those (http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/education/faq/advice.html).

If you just want to pay the $30., you can show up to a notary’s location and ask him or her to marry you two in a small civil ceremony right there with nothing special. However, I'd suggest you call in advance to set up an appointment.

However, before you head to the nearest notary, make sure he or she performs the rites of matrimony. Some notaries do not perform them and they can choose not to (http://www.flgov.com/wp-content/uploads/notary/wedding_handbook.pdf p. 3)

I am one who probably will not be performing marriages; I’m not very good with decorations, etc. If I ever remarry, I will just have a very simple ceremony ;-)  I will be concentrating more on other aspects of the office and being a notary signing agent.

So here is what you need to know if you are a Florida resident or want to marry in the Sunshine State (Remember, notaries do not have authority to do anything as notaries outside the geographical boundaries of the state or that do not correspond to the authority they have been given):

Residents: the couple must go together to apply for the license and need to obtain a marriage license from a county court judge or clerk of the circuit court in FL and present it to the notary public before the marriage ceremony. Residents must wait 3 days before they can be married. Return policy???  Probably not; there is another way to skip the 3-day waiting period and you pay less for your license!

So residents have the option of waiting 3 days to obtain your license or they can take a 4-hour premarital course by a provider of premarital courses that is registered and approved in the county you are seeking the license. The course certificate is good for one year. When you take the premarital course, you are issued a certificate which you take with you when you obtain your marriage license.

Fees (Miami-Dade County):

Marriage License

$ 93.50

Marriage application with completion of premarital preparation course

$ 61.00

Non-residents: the couple must go together to apply and need to obtain a marriage license from a county court judge or clerk of the circuit court and present it to the notary public before the marriage ceremony and can be married immediately! No premarital course needed. Interesting!

Marriage licenses must be from Florida! a Florida notary may not marry a couple who has obtained a marriage license from another state.

Everything else is the same for FL residents and non-residents:

  • The notary public performs the marriage ceremony. It may be personalized, and the bride and groom may even exchange their own vows. But, the couple’s vows must reflect their intentions to make a legally binding commitment to each other. Example: Sample of Wedding Ceremony (wording can be changed, “so long as there is an agreement by words of present assent.” That is, it is clear that both are agreeing to marry –  http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/education/faq/marriage.html last paragraph)
  • Notaries are responsible for checking the expiration date of marriage licenses, requesting valid IDs if they are not personally known to them, making a certificate on the appropriate portion of the marriage license, and returning it to the office of the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court which issued the license within 10 days after solemnizing the marriage. § 741.08, Fla. Stat.
  • Completing the marriage certificate portion of the marriage record is not the same act as performing the marriage ceremony. Actually, the certificate is the notary’s way of certifying that he or she performed the ceremony. A notary should not falsely certify that a ceremony was performed when, in fact, one had not been.
  • A notary public may perform a marriage ceremony for a person who is related to him or her by blood or marriage. The prohibition against notarizing the signature of a spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father does not apply because the notary is not notarizing the signature of the bride and groom, but is only certifying that the couple have been joined in marriage by the notary according to the laws of the State of Florida. Op. Att‘y Gen. Fla. 91-70 (1991).
  • It is recommended, but not required, that two witnesses, other than the notary, sign the marriage certificate in the event that proof of the marriage ceremony is necessary in the future.
There are some restriction when notaries should not perform a marriage or need more information such as for minors,…  and you can read more here:

Marriage Ceremony Info

Solemnizing Marriage

Florida Marriage Q & A

I hope I have provided useful information for anyone who is getting married or is contemplating getting married here in FL.

Congratulations and best wishes!

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

Buying an Used Vehicle and Need to Have the V.I.N. Verified?

posted May 29, 2016, 4:49 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.


So, you are buying an used vehicle and applying for a title in Florida for the first time. Now you need to get your V.I.N. verified because it is required by law. What is V.I.N., where is it, and why do you need to have it verified?

V.I.N. stands for Vehicle Identification Number; it’s your vehicle’s ID and verifying it can can help you know its history. It can help you know if the vehicle has ever been reported stolen, wrecked, or if a flood report has been filed, if any recalls, and it can reveal also if there’s been odometer fraud. So it’s actually good to do that before buying an used car!

V.I.N.

By FL law, your used car must have its V.I.N and odometer verified and be physically inspected and Notaries Public are authorized to do that (§ 319.23(3) (a) (2) , Fla. Stat.) They use a form prepared by the Department of HSMV.

Before Notarization: Part A requires the owner’ s sworn statement regarding the correct VIN and odometer reading. A jurat, or notarial certificate, is provided in this section.

Part B requires the notary public, or other authorized person, to certify that he or she has physically inspected the vehicle and that the VIN matches the number recorded on the form. The notary must include the date, sign the form, print his or her name, and affix his or her notary seal.

The notarial act of verifying the V.I.N./odometer and physically inspecting the vehicle costs $10.

* Keep in mind that notaries may charge other fees not related to the notarial act, but they should provide you with an itemized list of charges before doing anything. The physical inspection is for the purpose of matching the VIN number the owner provided with the number that is actually on the vehicle as well as the odometer numbers.

Then you should be on your way to getting your title that will look like this:

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.

1-10 of 31