Problems with Witnesses
Today I processed a “Plum” of an assignment. From my prospective (looking back upon the confirmation) all went smoothly. The Seller side job was a thin package, about 20 pages and the documents had been shipped to the Seller. It was a “high profile, big bucks, important client” job so I was offered my standard Edoc fee, yippie!
Oddly, the completed package was to be left on site. The Seller wished to make a copy of the final documents prior to shipping. So far no problem. As I processed the slender set, I noticed several of the documents called for two witnesses. “Where are your witnesses”, I asked. “You did not tell me that any were required”, was the response. The witness requirement was not told to me but was very prominent on the cover letter at the top of the package. Of course the Seller did not read that and was unaware of the requirement. What to do? I asked if they could provide the necessary witnesses, “NO”, was the response.
My only option was to process the notarizations after leaving voice mail for my employer. Said Title Company never did return my call. How does a witness sign after the Seller, and without actually witnessing the signature? To be “kosher” they really should sign again before the witness. It would have been nice if Title had included witness requirements on the confirmation.
Playing “go find a witness or two” has been repeated many times, in various locations. In Very Expensive buildings, the staff (mindful of Christmas Tips) is usually accommodating. However, the staff at FedEx usually gives the party line about not being authorized to sign anything. In an office, for an executive; staff is always willing to witness. Thus, the availability of witnesses varies with the location and “status” of the person needing them.
Back to the hiring Title Company. I send them an email, after I had left the Seller, asking them to call me. Several hours later, I was explaining how the Seller did not arrange for the necessary witnesses, due to not reading the cover letter. And, of course, I had not been informed of the requirement. “Don’t worry about it – we will contact them and arrange things”, hmmmm, well I guess that has to be OK with me. When it’s a “Seller has the docs” type job, payment is always in advance via PayPal – so, with their blessing of my actions; I was “off the hook”.
There really is no simple solution to avoiding this situation. As a notary I am often not informed about the requirement. It’s not practical to ask every affiant to have witnesses “standing by” just in case they are needed. Asking about witness requirements has mixed results; generally the Signing Service does not “get the word” and will suggest you have them available if needed! Not really an option; as needlessly inconveniencing the signer’s friends/relatives, etc., is not what I am willing to do.
So, we as notaries are left to muddle along, with the best option being to report the problem “up the food chain”. I wonder if a second signature “just” for the witness would be an issue. The Seller signature was notarized Monday, and Tuesday they sign again, and “worst case” the witnesses date their signatures with Tuesday’s date. That’s sure to raise some red flags! Whatta mess!