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Washington Notary Duties By Kelly Rickenbach, Esq. Claims Counsel for Region C Stewart Title Guaranty Company * Thank you to Gretchen Valentine, VP & Underwriting Counsel for LandAmerica Financial Group for her contributions. What’s on the agenda? Definition of a notary definition of a "notary“ Basic procedures and requirements for becoming a notary How and who can take acknowledgments Personal liability for notaries and penalties for misconduct What is a notary? Notary Public is a public servant appointed by state government to perform certain notarial acts, which includes witnessing the signing of important documents and administering oaths. Key to Remember… When notarizing documents, always tell the truth! Requirements - Must be at least eighteen years of age - Must reside in Washington State - Must be able to read and write English - Must complete the application following application Application Access Site http://www.dol.wa.gov/forms/659007.pdf Application Details The application materials require that you have endorsements to your application from three unrelated adults who are residents of the State of Washington and are able and eligible to vote. Fees & Costs Each application for appointment as a notary shall be accompanied by a $30.00 fee (established by state rule). * This fee is the same for renewal applications. Charges Effective November 1, 2006, the maximum fee that a notary may charge has changed from $5.00 to $10.00. WAC 308-30-020 However… you don’t have to charge for your notarial services. And keep in mind that if you are planning to charge, the rules require that you have your charges displayed in your place of business. Bond requirements Each applicant must obtain a $10,000 surety bond. The purpose of the bond is to insure the applicant’s proper performance of notarial acts. The bond is effective for a four year period commencing on the date of appointment. A four year bond can be obtained from most insurance companies or a bonding company. Term of Appointment A person appointed as a notary public can serve for 4 years, and may be reappointed for an additional four year term by submitting a new application. Can a nonresident of WA be a notary here? Yes…provided that you reside in an adjoining state and are regularly employed in Washington or conduct business in Washington. What is a notarial act? A notarial act just means taking an acknowledgment. Notarial acts shall be performed in accordance with the Standards set forth in the RCW 42.44. What is an acknowledgment? Acknowledgment is basically a verbal statement by a person that the person has executed the instrument under free and voluntary act for the uses and purposes stated therein. Standards for Notary Actions In witnessing or attesting a signature, a notary public must determine, either from personal knowledge or from satisfactory evidence, that the signature is that of the person appearing before the notary public and named in the document. What constitutes Satisfactory Evidence???? Satisfactory Evidence A notary public has satisfactory evidence that a person is the person described in a document if that person: (a) Is personally known to the notary public; (b) Is identified upon the oath or affirmation of a credible witness personally known to the notary public; or (c) Is identified on the basis of identification documents. Persons unable to sign name If a person is physically unable to sign his or her name or make a mark, the notary shall determine and certify from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence that the person appearing is actually unable to sign his/her name but is otherwise competent. Standards continued… In certifying or attesting a copy of a document or other item, a notary public must determine that the proffered copy is a full, true, and accurate transcription or reproduction of that which was copied. In certifying that an event has occurred or an act has been performed, a notary public must determine the occurrence or performance either from personal knowledge or from satisfactory evidence based upon the oath or affirmation of a credible witness personally known to the notary public. More standards… The signature and seal or stamp of a notary public are prima facie evidence that the signature of the notary is genuine and that the person is a notary public. What is prima facie evidence? Evidence that is considered good and sufficient on its face, which may be contradicted. Can this be contradicted? Notary Seal or Stamp Every person appointed as a notary in Washington shall procure a seal or stamp, which must include the following: • words "Notary Public" and "State of Washington“ • the date the appointment expires • the person's surname plus first and middle initials Let’s take a closer look… Where and when do I get my stamp? Look in the yellow pages for the companies that manufacture and provide notary materials. BEWARE – it is unlawful for any person to manufacture, sell, give or otherwise possess a seal or stamp until the director has delivered a certificate evidencing the appointment. Who owns the stamp/seal? What if your employer paid for the notary appointment fees, seal or bond? Do you get to keep your stamp? What if you are fired from your job and your employer demands that you leave your materials, including your notary stamp/seal? Who can use my notary seal? - How about your secretary or assistant? - How about spouse/significant other? - Your attorney or agent in fact? Answer The notary stamp and seal are the exclusive property of the notary and shall not be used by ANY other person. Can I notarize a document in which I am named? No. Notary cannot notarize if he or she has a direct financial or beneficial interest in a transaction. Being named in a document means that the Notary has an interest and cannot act as an impartial party Does notarization make a document “legal"? No. A notarization typically just means the signer acknowledged to the Notary that he or she signed the document or vouched under oath or affirmation that the contents of the document were true. Can I notarize for a family member? Generally speaking, a notary has no beneficial interest in notarizing a document for a relative and will not be prevented by law from doing so. The likelihood of a direct beneficial interest is usually greater with immediate family members – such as a spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, sister or brother. Key to Remember… Keep in mind that when you notarize for a family member, you avail yourself to later questioning of your impartiality, as well as accusations of undue influence. What about this situation? Notary is asked to witness her husband’s signature on a loan document for the purchase of a home they will share. Conflict of Interest A notary public is disqualified from performing a notarial act when the notary is a signer of the document which is to be notarized. Can I notarize a fax or a photocopy? A photocopy or fax may be notarized, but only if it bears an original signature. That is, the copy must have been signed with pen and ink. Remember… A photocopied or faxed signature may NEVER be notarized. Recording issues In regard to faxes and photocopies, keep in mind that some public recorders will not accept notarized signatures on faxed or photocopied sheets because they will not adequately reproduce in the microfilming or scanning process. Carbon Copies When carbon copies are made, the Notary will sometimes be asked to conform rather than to notarize the copies. To conform a copy, the Notary must reaffix the official seal on the copy (carbon will not readily transfer a seal impression) and write "Conformed Copy" prominently across the copy. Notarizing documents for a foreign country The notary public program at the WA Department of Licensing has authority to verify thru apostilles and certificates of authority, which are basically forms that authenticate notaries public who notarize documents to be used outside of the U.S. True or False? Washington statutes and regulations do not require a notary to maintain a notary log. True. But is it a good idea to have one? WA does not require that you have a journal, but it may come in handy if you are doing multiple transactions on a daily basis. Key to Remember… Notary journals are generally considered public records. It is a good idea to require that particular information about any requested entry be provided before showing or copying it. Notary Liability Misconduct A notary public commits official misconduct when he or she signs a certificate evidencing a notarial act, knowing that the contents of the certificate are false. Official misconduct also includes and constitutes unprofessional conduct for which disciplinary action may be taken. Penalties A notary public who commits an act of official misconduct shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Impersonation Any person not appointed as a notary public who acts as or otherwise impersonates a notary public shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Criminal Actions A notary public commits a felony or lesser crime for: False swearing Misrepresentation, or Deceit. Resignation of a notary Voluntary resignation by a notary public shall be submitted in writing to the department of licensing. No voluntary resignation of a notary appointment shall be effective until the notary seal or stamp is mailed or delivered to the notary section. Suspension or Restriction If the notary appointment is revoked, suspended or restricted, the notary public must mail or deliver his or her notary stamp or seal to the department of licensing immediately. You Could Lose Your License! Relatively recent WA case involving an attorney who was also a notary who was eventually disbarred because he notarized the signature of a dead man and recorded the false deed. What do you do if…? A mortgage broker handles an outside signing for you during a busy time. The broker delivers copies of the couple’s ID and the signed documents, asks you to notarize them, and tells you that he’d witnessed the signatures. What do you do? Remember… When notarizing documents, always tell the truth! Good place for addition information National Notary Association is found at www.nna.org and it has links to various state regulations and updated news, etc. QUESTIONS???
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