Are you practicing law by drawing a signature line?

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with kenneth-a-edelstein.com

Are you practicing law by drawing a signature line?

 

As usual my opening ambiguous answer: it depends. Depends on what you are probably thinking. Well IMHO it depends on where that line is to be drawn. I view items to be notarized as consisting of two sections. The document and the notary section, the former is outside of my “sphere of influence. Conversely, the notary section is my domain exclusively.

 

I have a simple policy regarding the document area, I don’t touch it, nada; not at all. If a correction is to be made in the document, the affiant(s) make it, and they initial it. That rule applies to additions, changes and redactions. Often I have been requested to change something in the document section; I request that in writing. Then, the instructions are passed to the affiant(s) as “requested” modifications; with the source of the request explicitly shown.

 

Of course if the signature line where I as the notary should sign is missing I, using a credit card as a straight edge, draw it in. Not so for the document itself, that is a job for the affiant(s). Am I carrying my “keep out of the document” policy to an extreme? Probably, but it’s a slippery slope when violating a basic rule.

 

Often the notary section is split. The Venue (State of: & County of:) might appear at the very top. That is still part of the notary section and must show where the notary signed. We all know to either fill it in if blank, or redact the inappropriate entry (notary initials at one end of the redaction line) and neatly prints the correct value(s). The affiant(s) do not initial changes to the Venue. Thus, the document section and the notary section(s) are “touched” only by their owners.

 

Back to that missing affiant signature line. It’s not really required. Often there is just a box for the signature or only an indication of where the affiant is supposed to sign. Would I really ask them it draw that silly line? Probably I would give them the option to do so; and let them decide if they want to. It has happened to me a few times. They are split on the option; some do, some don’t – it matters not a bit to me.

 

Let me stress the major “take away” from this article again. Don’t write, not even a tiny bit outside of the notary section. Pass along requests, but do not make the marks yourself. The affiant(s) will be initialing those modifications and they should be in “affiant handwriting”.

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Kenneth Edelstein

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