A Summonses in notary’s mailbox - a moment of inattention

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Summonses in notary’s mailbox

Baby Boomers will recall the well known summons from the Draft Board. It began with “Greetings, and went on to specify an appointment to visit them……”. Not as life threatening is a civil suit summons. Somebody wants restitution for monetary damage you caused. You might also receive a similar invitation from your licensing authority. Both arriving at the same time can make for a really bad day.

You think of yourself as a “by the book” notary. You know the rules and requirements; you perform your duties scrupulously. Even so, you prudently maintain your E&O, because you’re human; even the most skilled make some mistakes. A moment of distraction can cause today’s date to become yesterday. That’s what E&O covers; up to a point, depending on your amount.

 Your first question is “what’s this all about”. “what did I do?”. That part is “written in stone”, the document that you processed, for your fee; is now Plaintiff Exhibit “A”. Gulp! Do you really want to continue reading this? You might not sleep so soundly tonight. OK, you’re brave.

The part that is not written at all is not the “what” it is the “why”. You have murky mental recollections of your reasoning at the time with the Plaintiff; if any at all. You can’t possibly recall every job you did in the past. The cause of this unwanted situation is probably an “accommodation” you did to “assist” your client. Recall that I referred to you as a “by the book” notary. But, there are “little things” that are judgment calls. It’s tempting to just proceed. To raise a big “red flag” and withhold your notarization is discombobulating to all.

Like the foul ball, inches outside of being a home run, when it’s “not right” it is just that: not right. The foul ball does not score a run; neither should the “close but no cigar” be granted your approval. I have been called “picky”, a synonym for fastidious; the term I prefer.

Time for a scary scenario. The nice couple called for a mobile notary. They have a few affidavits about various aspects of some property, and a deed to be notarized. He explains that only his signature is required for the affidavits, both are to sign the deed. He hands you his driver license with the four affidavits. With just a brief glance at the ID and docs - you feel all is OK. The 4 affs are processed quickly and carefully, perfect notarizations. Now for the deed. The name on her driver license does not match the name on the deed. You learn that they are recently married and she is still using her maiden name license. That’s certainly a show stopper unless she is able to produce a proper ID. Well, there is another option…..

She presents you with a copy of her marriage certificate supporting a legal change of name. Great, you look at the document and both names for her checkout. Feeling much relief, you watch her sign and proceed to neatly and clearly notarize the deed.

Back to the pair of summonses in your mailbox. Eventually in the courtroom you learn the deed was the problem. You were conned. The 4 affidavits were nothing, just there to “get you started”. The man could not get his wife to sign the deed. The “wife” was the imposter and forger! Why are you involved? For one brief instant you were not “fastidious”; you accepted a photocopy of the Photoshop generated marriage license as part of her ID. A “small error” causing a big problem!


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Kenneth Edelstein

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