Working as a notary can be fraught with legal challenges, and you can be sued for various reasons.
We’re going to equip you with the key steps to help you reduce the risk of being sued.
- Signers Must Be Present
Signers not being present is one of the major reasons for which Notaries are either sued, have their commissions revoked or suspended. Your state’s personal appearance requirements are there for a reason – it’s the law. Don’t ever be tempted to skip this requirement, no matter the circumstance, or how well you think you know the signer.
- Only Completed Documents Can Be Notarized
If an incomplete document is notarized, you open yourself up to fraud and other potential risks. The blanks on a form could be filled in with incorrect information. All the blanks must be filled in at the time you notarize a document with the signer in person. This will severely reduce your risk of being sued.
- Identify Your Signers
Identify your signers in line with your state’s Notary laws each time. Many lawsuits against Notaries are filed because the Notary carelessly failed to request proper ID, opening up an opportunity for signer to commit fraud.
- Verify Your Signer’s Willingness and Awareness
If it appears the signer is being pressured, or is disorientated it is your responsibility as the Notary to not proceed with the notarization process. This will protect you and all parties from allegations of duress.Your client must be part of this process willingly and have a complete understanding of what the ramifications of signing the document include.
- Record Your Notarizations
This can be one of the best defences against lawsuits, but only if the journal is kept meticulously. A journal entry provides evidence if a notarization is disputed. It can also help prove you followed the right protocols. Each state will have different requirements for what needs to be entered and included in a journal. Make sure you understand these and follow them. Your incomplete entries won’t be looked upon favourably and can call into question your Notary practices.
- Maintain Impartiality
Your impartiality can be questioned if you notarize your own signature or a document where you are named. You should also never notarize if you receive an advantage other than the fee allowed by. Some states also won’t allow Notaries to notarize for close family members. It is also advisable to not notarize for contacts of yours like family members Some states allow this, but it can become too complicated to maintain impartiality and the risks too high. This will make sure your impartiality is never questioned. You must also abstain from giving advice around a document and its contents or details of the transaction. If a client asks you for advice about the legality of a document or how to complete it, tell the signer that you are prohibited by law from giving unauthorized legal advice.
- Complete the Notary Certificate Correctly
Notary certificates will mistakes, like writing the wrong information or leaving pieces of information out altogether are other common reason Notaries get sued. If even the smallest details like addresses, names and dates are wrong that can make your document invalid. Every certificate of acknowledgment you sign is a document that the public relies on so it must be 100% correct. You must also make sure your seal is legibly affixed.
- Never Notarize After Your Commission Expires
If your commission is out of date and you perform a task, then you could land yourself in legal hot water. Any document s that you notarize after your commission is out of date could be deemed invalid. You must not notarize before you have you new commission hand. This is the case even if there’s a delay, and you understand you will have that approval to continue to work. No commission in hand – not work.
- Only You Can Use Your Notary Seal
If you allow, your Notary seal to be used by someone else, or it is stolen then someone else can use your seal to commit fraud and do significant harm to others. Because of that you could be the one held legally responsible.Your seal must always be locked up in a secure area when not in use, and you must never let anyone else borrow it.
- Errors and Omissions Insurance
A surety bond is required of Notaries in some states. The bond is to protect clients if they are financially damaged by your negligence. The bond doesn’t work as an insurance policy or protect you from your liabilities. Error and omissions insurance will cover the financial damages in the event you are sued.