Capacity of the Signer

3 Nov

In my years working as a Notary Public, I have worked with many different clients from different backgrounds. While most customers are on the “up and up,” there a a few who act a little shady. For instance, I might get a call from a possible client asking for a Power of Attorney for their relative, friend or business partner who is in the hospital. I do not know these people calling me on the phone requesting an appointment. I, the Notary, must follow strict notary guidelines regarding identifications, capacity of the signer, signature requirements, witness requirements, etc. This is not only to protect the Notary Public, but protects the signer from someone who may try to have a signer give up all their rights to someone else trying to swindle the signer out of their money. The notarial Certificate of Acknowledgment states that signer appeared before the Notary, showed satisfactory identification, and most importantly, signed the document in their authorized capacity. This means that the signer must be lucent enough to know what transaction is taking place and is able to sign their name or make an “X” in their own authorized capacity. A Notary Public can refuse to do the notary if he or she feels that the signer is not capable of understanding what they are signing or cannot even hold the pen to sign or put an “X” on the document and journal. I’ve had a few instances where the client waited too long to prepare legal documents such as Power of Attorney, Health Care Directives, and wills. The client is anxious to complete these documents since the signer is in the hospital and may die within a few days. I’ve been told on the phone that the signer is able to sign their name only to show up and the signer is so “out of it,” they cannot even hold a pen to do their signature. This is a waste of time and money for the client, signer, and notary if this happens because the notary cannot perform the notarization if the signer cannot hold a pen to put their signature or “X” on the legal document. In addition, Notary Publics in CA are cannot give any legal advice, are not lawyers, and cannot verify the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of the documents being signed. This is to protect everyone in the transaction. So, when making a notary appointment for a person who is in the hospital, make sure your signer can actually sign the document before the notary appointment, has proper non-expired id, paperwork is filled out (except for the signatures), and any witnesses involved be present at time of notarization. Because if you wait too long, the signer may not be able to sign, and the notary may refuse to do the notarization. Since these are legal documents, the best option at this point would be to seek the advice of a licensed attorney.

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