All posts by hwardale

Reverse Mortgage and Potential Elder Financial Abuse

A reverse mortgage is a loan against the equity an elder has built up in their home.   The loan is “reversed” because instead of making payments to the lender as in a traditional mortgage, the bank advances sums to the elder against the future sale of the property.  These loans allow homeowners age 62 and older to convert a portion of their home equity into loan proceeds that can be used to supplement their retirement spending.

The advances can take the form of a lump sum, a credit line, or monthly cash advances or a combination of all three.

The amount of money the elder may borrow depends on:

  • their age
  • current interest rate
  • amount of fees charged
  • and the Maximum Claim Amount (MCA), which is currently $679,650 (eff. 1/1/18) or the appraised value of the home, whichever is less.

The Reverse Mortgage becomes due when:

  • the elder dies*
  • permanently leaves the home
  • fails to maintain the property
  • fails to pay their property taxes
  • fails to pay their homeowner’s insurance.
    *If the surviving widow or widower is not on the deed, they may lose the home if they are unable to repay the debt when the Deed holder passes or leaves the home.

The vast majority of reverse mortgages are federally-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs) that are backed by the Federal Housing Administration.
To ensure that the elder is informed before making the decision to take out a reverse mortgage, one of requirements of the reverse mortgage is that the homeowner receives counseling from a HUD approved counseling agency.  The reverse mortgage counselors explain how reverse mortgages work, including payment options, costs, tax implications, benefits and drawbacks.  The counseling appointment can be in person or over the phone.

While a reverse mortgage can be helpful and provide financial relief for some seniors, there is potential for elder financial abuse and exploitation.
Reverse mortgage abuse is perpetuated by financial abuse predators that seek to take advantage of elders by manipulating and misleading them into acting against their own best interests.

Often the financial abuse predators are brokers, insurance agents, tax planners, family members or caregivers.
Sometimes the financial abuse predator is selling a financial product, like an annuity, or home improvements which the elder is persuaded to pay for with a reverse mortgage.
Sometimes, it’s a family member or caregiver that is attempting to swindle the proceeds from the elder.

I once met with an elderly client for a reverse mortgage closing.  When I arrived, his caregiver met me at the door and as I introduced myself, she prompted him as he entered the room to cooperate and not give me a hard time.  Suspicious, I asked him if he knew why I was there.  He responded that I was there to “check up on him”, as if he thought I was there from Social Services.  When I asked him if he had applied for a reverse mortgage, he had no idea what I was talking about.  Turns out, his caregiver had requested it on his behalf after receiving a post card advertisement and his reverse mortgage, had it been successfully closed, would have resulted in an initial $60,000 advance.
To the caregiver’s disappointment, I adjourned the closing.  I promptly alerted the lender to the situation and I called the county’s Adult Protection Services to report the incident.

While elder abuse can take several forms: physical, psychological/emotional, neglect and financial, in Alameda County, more than 70% of reports of abuse are for alleged financial abuse.

©2018 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

 

 

Buying a Home and the Certified Loan Signing Agent

Purchasing a home can be one of the most important financial decisions a person will make in their lifetime.  Before you get the keys, however, a series of steps must be satisfied as part of an escrow process.  This escrow closing, which begins after the seller accepts your offer, can be confusing, stressful and intimidating, but with the right team to guide you, it can be navigated successfully.

There are many important players in the home buying process.  Choosing the right agent, escrow officer and lender can greatly facilitate and smooth the way to a successful conclusion.

Steps of the Escrow Process:

  •  Go into escrow/under contract and open an escrow account
  • Await the bank’s appraisal
  • Secure Financing
  • Approve the seller’s disclosures
  • Obtain inspections
  • Purchase hazard insurance
  • Acquire the title report and title insurance
  • Do the final walk-through
  • Review the Closing Disclosure
  • Sign the closing documents with the Notary Public*
  • Close escrow

*The notary’s role in not an insignificant one in this process.  An experienced notary can be instrumental in insuring that the closing documents are properly executed.

Choosing the right notary to assist with these important documents is essential.  If the documents are not signed and initialed properly, there could be a delay in the funding process which could cause the borrower to lose their negotiated interest rate, potentially costing them thousands of dollars over the term of their loan.
For this reason, many title and escrow companies insist on the use of company approved notaries who have passed stringent background screenings and have achieved specialized training in real estate documents and the closing presentation of loan packages.

Helen Wardale, the owner of Totally Notary is an approved notary for Fidelity National, First American and Old Republic Title companies.  She is a certified loan signing agent with the NNA, Notary2Pro, and 123 Notary and has completed over 2,000 loan signings.  She is licensed, bonded and carries $1,000,000 in Error & Omissions insurance.  She is e-doc capable and has a dual tray laser printer for loan package printing.

If your escrow officer has emailed you the documents with the instructions to “find a notary”, be careful!  Loan packages are often formatted in a mixture of letter and legal.  “Printing to fit” is unacceptable, and many county recorders have specific rules about the font size and margins of the documents they record.  If it is printed improperly, it may be rejected.  Don’t trust your sensitive information to Fedex or Kinko’s!  Totally Notary can print your documents properly, confidentially, and when you sign, will insure they are executed flawlessly.

To ensure a successful conclusion to the complicated escrow process of purchasing a home, insist on a certified loan signing notary with the qualifications and experience to guarantee the closing documents will be executed properly, the first time.

©2018 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

California Apostille Service by Totally Notary

Do you need an Apostille for a document originating in California and for use abroad?  Do you need it quickly?

In California, Apostille requests are processed by the Secretary of State offices in Sacramento and Los Angeles.  Requests are processed by mail or in person.  Mail processing can take weeks and the commitment of time to drive to a local office and to wait in line isn’t feasible for many with busy schedules.

Let Totally Notary do the legwork for you, quickly and efficiently.

California Apostille requests are processed by Totally Notary within 2 business days of receipt (weekends and holidays excluded).
Rates include all state fees and USPS Priority Mail (2-3 day) return shipping, if needed.  Expedited overnight shipping is available for an additional $10.
If you are located near Pleasanton, CA, you may drop off your Apostille request and pick up your processed order at the Totally Notary business office, 205 Main Street, Suite J, Pleasanton, CA.

Apostille Rates

Rates include all state fees & USPS Priority Mail return shipping.  Expedited overnight shipping available for an additional $10.

First Document……………………………………………………………..$149.00
Each Additional Document*…………………………………………..$99.00
*Discount available for five or more documents

Steps for successful Apostille processing:

1.   Submit a scan of the document and the Apostille Order Form to Totally Notary for a complementary evaluation.
Email or Fax: (925) 271-6155.

2.   Once the document has been assessed by Totally Notary and approved for Apostille processing, mail or drop off the ORIGINAL document and the Apostille Order Form to Totally Notary at 205 Main Street, Suite J, Pleasanton, CA  94566.  Before shipping, please notify Totally Notary by text or email to expect it.  

3.   Accepted forms of payment:  Cash, money order, cashier check, PayPal and major credit cards.  Personal and Business checks will be subject to a 7 business day hold time for clearing of funds.  For faster processing, please pay by credit card.

4.   Processed orders will be available for return shipping or local pick-up within 2 business days of receipt (weekends and holidays excluded).

California Apostille Service by Totally Notary is 100% guaranteed.  If an Apostille certificate cannot be obtained, the full fee will be refunded.

Totally Notary cannot guarantee that the document destination will accept the Apostille, only that the Apostille request will be processed by the California Secretary of State according to their policies and the Hague convention.

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

Does an Application for Duplicate or Paperless Title ( DMV REG 227) Need a Notary?

When the title of a California vehicle is lost, a replacement can be ordered from the DMV by submitting REG 227 and paying a duplicate title fee.

Often people mistakenly believe REG 227 needs to be notarized before it is sent to the DMV.  While it is true that the REG 227 has a notarization certificate at the bottom of the first page, it isn’t meant for most requestors.  It applies specifically to Section 5.

Click to enlarge
DMV REG 227

Section 5 LEGAL OWNER OF RECORD RELEASE OF OWNERSHIP AND/OR INTEREST—Must be notarized   is for situations where a lienholder or legal owner is releasing interest in the vehicle once the debt has been satisfied and/or the vehicle is being sold.

In most cases, unless you are transferring ownership, only Section 1 and 3 are completed to request a duplicate title and neither require notarization.

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

Limited Power of Attorney – Appoint Totally Notary to be your Attorney-In-Fact

When someone is unavailable to sign real estate documents due to absence or illness, it is often possible to arrange a limited Power of Attorney for another person to sign the documents on their behalf.   A limited Power of Attorney (also known as a Specific Power of Attorney) grants limited executive powers to a designated person (the agent) to act on the behalf of a signer (the principal).  The agent is also referred to as an Attorney-In-Fact.

A limited Power of Attorney is usually utilized for a specific process or matter, unlike a General Power of Attorney which grants broader authority.  It may also be effective for a limited period of time.

A few examples where a limited Power of Attorney may be used:

  • Accountant :  A principal might grant a limited Power of Attorney to his accountant, so the accountant can act on his behalf with taxing agencies.
  • Banker:  A principal might grant one to his investment banker, so the banker can have the power to make investment decisions on his behalf.
  • Legal Document Signing:  The principal might use a limited Power of Attorney to designate an agent to sign contracts or documents on his behalf.  The documents could be related to business operations or the purchase, sale or refinance of real estate.

The limited Power of Attorney document itself will specify the authority the agent will have and includes detailed instructions from the Principal.  It requires notarization.
If the limited Power of Attorney is to be utilized in a real estate transaction, the title company and lender (if applicable), must approve the limited Power of Attorney prior to use.  In many cases, the title company will have a specific template they prefer the principal to use.

Once the principal has signed and notarized the limited Power of Attorney, the agent then has the legal capacity to transact business and to sign on behalf of the principal, as if the principal himself were doing it.

Some reasons why a limited Power of Attorney might be used  to sign real estate documents:

  • The principal is traveling out of the country or working out of state
  • The principal is ill and indisposed
  • The principal is elderly and signing would be an ordeal
  • The principal cannot sign legibly
  • The principal prefers to skip the tedious signing process

Totally Notary is an experienced licensed, bonded and insured notary public that specializes in real estate documents and is well versed in the execution of Power of Attorneys.

If you are unavailable to sign your real estate documents and need an agent to sign on your behalf, call Totally Notary.  With Helen signing on your behalf as your attorney-in-fact, you can have confidence that your documents will be executed accurately and confidentially.

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

The General Power of Attorney for India and the Role of Witnesses

Some documents have the legal requirement that the signer’s signature be witnessed.  This is primarily to prevent forgery.  The witnessing requirement may be in place or in addition to a notarization requirement.

One of the most common documents that require both witnessing and notarization is the General Power of Attorney for use in India.
The purpose of this Power of Attorney is to grant power to an resident of India to act as an agent for a purchase or sale of property on behalf of a resident in the United States.
Unfortunately, many signers misunderstand the purpose of the witnesses.  They mistakenly believe that the purpose of the witnesses is to validate the content of the document or to verify that the Principal (the signer) understands the legal document they are signing.  Acting on that misapprehension, the signer often requests the witnesses sign before the signer takes the document to the notary to be signed and notarized.
The primary duty of the witness is to watch the signer physically sign the document to prevent forgery.  If the witnesses sign before the signer does, they have failed in their primary duty.

Sometimes a witness also certifies they have personal knowledge of the signer.  For example, a Canadian Transfer of Land document requires the witness to personally know the signer and be willing to certify that the individual who signed the document was indeed the person named in the document.

Who can be a witness?

The witness should be an adult at least 18 years old and impartial. The witness should neither be named in the document, nor benefit financially from its signing,  The witness should be of sound mind. The best witnesses are those that know the signer such as friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

What other documents are witnessed?

Mortgages, Power of Attorneys, Last Will and Testaments, Deeds, Advance Health Care Directives and foreign documents related to property transfer.

What if the document needs to be witnessed and notarized?

Ideally, the signer, witnesses and notary would meet at the same time.  When done that way, the witnessing and notarization occur in one step.  Mobile notary services are usually the best way to accommodate all parties in this situation.

If that is not possible, this alternative is permissible in CA:

CA law allows a document that requires an Acknowledgment notarization (like most Power of Attorneys) to be signed in advance and then presented to a notary for notarization.  Provided the signer appears before the notary, furnishes satisfactory evidence of their identity and “acknowledges” that they signed the document prior to coming before the notary, the notary can perform an Acknowledgment notarization.

Based on that scenario the following steps would apply:

  • The Principal (signer) signs the Power of Attorney while the witnesses watch (which satisfies the witness requirement)
  • The witnesses sign that they observed the signature (It is recommended that they print their name below their signature)
  • The signer then takes the signed and witnessed  POA to the notary
  • The signer provides satisfactory evidence of his identity and acknowledges to the notary that he signed it prior to appearing before the notary
  • The notary performs an acknowledgment notarization

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

Notary Challenges—How to notarize a sleeping signer

Most mobile notarizations are prompted by a signer that is unable to come to the notary due to ambulatory limitations.  They may be ill and bedridden or just frail and elderly.  They may still live at home or be a patient in a residential care home or the hospital.  These notarizations can be problematic.  Thorough screening when scheduling is important to prevent wasted travel.  Most of the time, it’s a family member that makes the call to the notary to schedule.  Some questions to ask:

  • What document will be notarized?  Is it an Advanced Healthcare Directive?  This is important because if the patient is in a skilled nursing facility an ombudsman will need to be present when the signer executes the document.
  • Does the signer have valid photo ID?  Many of the elderly let their driver license lapse once they stop driving and do not replace it with a DMV Senior Citizen ID card.  If they do not have valid ID, two credible witnesses (unrelated to the document) would be necessary to identify the signer.
  • Do they have the physical ability to sign legibly?  Weakness and injury can affect the signer’s ability to sign in a recognizable fashion.  Sometimes the signer can only make a mark.  If that is the case, two witnesses (unrelated to the document) would need to be available to watch the signer execute the mark.
  • Do they have an awareness and willingness to sign the document?
    If the signer lacks the capacity to understand what they are signing, the notarization cannot proceed.
  • Are they taking medications that might impair their ability to understand what they are signing?  Are they taking narcotics or sedatives?  If they are, it is important that they do not take the medications prior to the notary meeting.

Despite the best made plans and attempts to pre-screen the signer, things don’t always go as planned.

I was scheduled by the spouse to meet with her bedridden husband, a resident of a residential care home, to notarize a General Durable Power of Attorney.  Despite careful screening, the first words out of her mouth after the introduction were, “They gave him something and he’s sleeping.  I’ll need to wake him up.”

Needless to say, the signing was ajourned.

The best laid plans of mice and notaries often go awry, despite best intentions.

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

How to Self-Attest a Document

When a copy of a document is requested by a government agency or other entity, it is often specified as Certified, Notarized or Original. Sometimes it is specified as Self-Attested.

Self-Attestation allows the owner of the document to certify that the photocopy of their original document is a true copy by signing it. Self-attestation does not require an affidavit from a notary.

Per the Consulate General of India, San Francisco:
“Self attestation means- signing the photocopy of the required documents stating as “true copy of the original”. In case of minors, documents should be attested by either of the parent.”

The steps of Self-Attestation:

  • Make a photocopy of the original document requested
  • Write the statement on the photocopy “True copy of the original”
  • Sign below the statement
  • Submit the self-attested photocopy with the application
  • Retain the original

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

What’s the difference between a Certified document vs a Notarized document?

When a copy of a document is requested by a government agency or other entity, it is often specified as Certified, Notarized or Original.
In California, the notary is prohibited from “Certifying” documents with the exception of Power of Attorney documents and their own journal entries.  Some other states do allow the notary to do so, which can cause confusion if the requesting agency is located outside California.

Certified documents:
Certified documents (or certified copies) are often requested for important documents such as vital records.  Examples of vital records are birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce decrees and death certificates.  The original vital record remains on file with the jurisdictional agency (usually the county).  As custodians of the original document, only the agency that issued it can certify the copy of it.  Contrary to popular belief, one’s birth certificate is not an original document, it is a certified copy of the information on file at the county.

In California, if a customer asks a notary to “Notarize” their birth certificate or any other vital record, the notary should refer them to the county where it is filed so they may apply for a certified copy.

Notarized documents:
Notarized documents are documents where the identity and signature of the signer has been verified and witnessed by a notary at the time of signing.  The notary’s signature and stamp will usually be present on the document as proof of the notarization.

Original documents:
Original is simply that.  It is the original document you received from the issuing agency.  It is not a copy or duplicate.  An example would be your current passport.  When applying for a passport renewal, the original is generally sent back with the renewal application.

It is routine for foreign governments to require Certified or Notarized copies of original documents when processing passport, visa and OCI renewals and applications.  CA prohibits the notary from certifying that the photocopy is a true and correct reproduction of the original document, but the custodian (owner) of the document may and their statement can be notarized.

Per the National Notary Association:

“In states where Notaries are prohibited from certifying copies of documents, there is an alternative procedure called a copy certification by document custodian. This procedure allows a person in permanent possession of an original document to sign a written declaration that a copy of it is identical to the original, and take an oath or affirmation before the Notary.

The custodian’s signature is then notarized on the written declaration using jurat wording. In essence, a copy certification by document custodian is an affidavit signed and sworn to by the custodian with a jurat as the notarization. Remember, the custodian, not the Notary, guarantees that the copy is an authentic reproduction of the original.”

Once the customer has written their statement on the photocopy, the notary will place them under oath and the customer will sign their statement.  The notary will then execute a jurat notarization.  If there is room on the document and the notary has notarial verbiage stamps, they may notarize directly on the document.  If there is no room to do so, the notary will attach a jurat notary certificate.

©2017 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

Volkswagen’s Individual Release of Claims notarization rejected?

On September 18, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen after it was determined that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed TDI diesel engines to activate emission controls during smog tests, which caused the vehicles to meet US standards during the test, when in reality they were releasing 40x more NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) during real-time driving.
Volkswagen stated that 11 million vehicles are affected worldwide and 500,000 are in the United States.

The Volkswagen/Audi Emissions settlement program offers owners of affected vehicles two options: modification or buyback.  The owner submits their selection with an Acceptance of Offer Letter.

The Acceptance of Offer Letter contains an Individual Release of Claims form that requires the notarized signatures of all title owners.  Once signed and notarized, the claimant sends the documents back to Volkswagen using the Online Claims Portal, mail or fax.  If mailing, the documents go to Michigan.

Many California volkswagen owners have reported that the notary certificate in their Individual Release of Claims form was rejected by Volkswagen.

The form’s certificate contains the following format:

WITNESS:

State of_________________________________ )
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx) SS
County of ______________________________ )

I, ______________________________________, a Notary Public in and for said County in the State aforesaid, do hereby certify that __________________________________, who is personally known to me and the same person whose name is subscribed to the foregoing instrument appeared before me this day in person and acknowledged that they signed, sealed, and delivered the same instrument as their free and voluntary act for the uses and purposes therein set forth.

My seal:                                              __________________________________________
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXNOTARY PUBLIC

CA law allows a notary to use an out of state notary certificate if the document is going out of state and it does not violate CA state law. Volkswagen’s Individual Release of Claims document appears destined for Michigan, so in theory a notary might assume they could utilize the notary certificate it contains.  The sticking point is the verbiage.  This certificate states that the notary personally knows the signer.  California is the only state that prohibits a notary from using personal knowledge as a means of identifying a signer.
Per the 2016 California Notary Handbook:
“Identity is established if the notary public is presented with satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity. (Civil Code section 1185(a)) Satisfactory Evidence – “Satisfactory Evidence” means the absence of any information, evidence, or other circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the individual is not the individual he or she claims to be and (A) identification documents or (B) the oath of a single credible witness or (C) the oaths of two credible witnesses under penalty of perjury, as specified below:the notary must rely on government issued identification documents to establish satisfactory evidence as to use satisfactory evidence supported by government issued identification documents.”

To be compliant with California law and to prevent rejection while processing this form in California, the notary is strongly urged to attach a CA all-purpose acknowledgment in lieu of executing the enclosed certificate.  It is also recommended to write or stamp “See Attached” in the form’s notary section, which references the loose certificate that is stapled behind it.

©2016 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved