NOTARIES PROTECT THE ELDERLY
Last week I had to have some documents notarized. It was quick and easy. At the time it did not occur to me what an important role the notary can play in protecting vulnerable seniors.
In the following short video, Alabama Secretary of State Beth Chapman makes a key point that I have never considered. Many of the legal documents that hand over power from an elder to another person (a will, a power of attorney, or some real estate documents) must be notarized.
GUARDIANS OF TRUST
The notary validates the integrity of the transaction. It is not just a “rubber stamp.” Notaries are guardians of trust and must verify the identity of the signer and ensure that person is under no duress to sign.
The following guidelines for notaries are essential in every case.
- Follow state law requiring signer to be in physical presence of notary.
- Signature must be affixed and acknowledged in presence of notary.
- Always require photo ID and signature. Verify description.
- Always keep record of Notarial acts with signature of signer.
- Ask for a thumbprint of the signer for notary journal.
- Verify person is aware and signing willingly.
- Attach notary certificate if the wording is not printed on the document.
- Only notarize documents that are complete and without blank spaces.
- Always use the notary seal, keep it under lock and key, and never lend it.
- Refrain from giving legal advice to signers
NOTARIES CAN PREVENT ELDER ABUSE
Only 12 states require notary training. If all the above guidelines are not followed it is quite easy for an unscrupulous person to coerce or trick an elder into signing away her or her rights, protections, and assets. Notaries must be scrupulous in following guidelines in every transaction.
EDITORS NOTE: My notary did not follow the guidelines listed above.