All posts by hwardale

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 is releasing interest in the vehicle once the debt has been satisfied.

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

 

 

What is an Apostille?

An “apostille” is a form of authentication issued to a public document that has been signed for use in another country.
Public documents, such as  birth certificates, marriage certificates, judgments, corporate records, patents and notarized acknowledgments are frequently sent for use abroad and prior to 1961, went through a slow and costly process called legalisation.  Legalisation involves authentication in the originating country as well as the Embassy or Consulate of the destination country.

To streamline the process, a treaty, The Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents was drafted on October 5, 1961 at the Hague Conference on Private International Law.

It allows participating countries to designate Competent Authorities to authenticate public documents in the country of origin and eliminates the need for additional authentication provided the document is for use in another participating country.

The country of destination determines if the document is authenticated with an apostille or requires certification through legalisation.  A list of countries that accept apostille is here.

As a participating country, the United States has three levels of Competent Authority;  Federal, U.S. Courts, and State.
The origin of the document determines which level authenticates it.

Federal authentications are conducted through the U.S. Department of State Authentications office.  This agency authenticates Federal executive branch documents such as FBI background checks.

U.S. Court  authentications  can be conducted by the Clerks and Deputy Clerks of the Federal Courts, or as an alternative, the U.S. Department of Justice can authenticate the seal of the Federal court and then the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office will place an apostille over that seal.

State authentication is most often conducted by the Secretary of State office, as it is in California.
There are two regional offices for the California Secretary of State:  Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The Secretary of State authenticates signatures only on documents issued in the State of California signed by a notary public or the following public officials and their deputies:

  • County Clerks or Recorders
  • Court Administrators of the Superior Court
  • Executive Clerks of the Superior Court
  • Officers whose authority is not limited to any particular county
  • Executive Officers of the Superior Court
  • Judges of the Superior Court
  • State Officials

The process of obtaining an apostille is relatively simple.  It can be done by mail or in person.
If by mail, the original document in question is submitted to the appropriate competent authority with applicable fees and return postage, and after authentication, the document and apostille certificate is returned to the sender.
Walk-in service is available at the Sacramento and Los Angeles offices Monday – Friday from 8:00am – 4:30pm on a first come, first serve basis.

Do you have urgent need for an apostille?
Totally Notary now provides expedited apostille document service.  Call for details!

©2015 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

Witnesses can complicate a simple notarization

Most documents don’t require witnesses or notarization, but occasionally a document will require both.  It can complicate matters because usually the witnesses, notary and signer must be together when the document is signed.

Who can be a witness?  Any legal adult that does not have financial interest in the document being signed.  The most common source for witnesses are neighbors, co-workers and friends.

The document may be a Will or Advanced Health Care Directive related to a Living Trust or it may be a real estate document that transfers real property located in the state of Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or South Carolina.  Some common documents that would require a witness are Grant Deeds, Warranty Deeds, Quit Claim Deeds, Mortgages, and Deeds of Trust.

State Requirements:
Connecticut:
Two witnesses required (one witness may be the notary)
Florida: Two witnesses required (one witness may be the notary)
Georgia: One witness required (cannot be the notary)
Louisiana: Two witnesses required (neither can be the notary)
South Carolina: Two witnesses required (one witness may be the notary)

Some foreign documents require witnesses in addition to the notarization and often the signers don’t understand that the witnessing and notarization must occur at the same time.
If the document requires an Acknowledgment notarization and the signer signs prior to appearing before the notary, the notarization can still proceed provided the signer acknowledge they signed the document.  If, however, the document requires a Jurat notarization, the signer will need to resign the document once they are before the notary, after the notary administers an oath.

For these reasons it’s generally recommended that the signer wait to sign until they’re before the notary.  While it certainly can be complicated to coordinate signers, witnesses and a notary, utilizing the services of a mobile notary who can travel to the signer’s location can simplify matters and is often the best solution in these situations.

©2015 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved

To Fingerprint or Not To Fingerprint…

I’ve executed over 17, 000 notarizations since I became a notary in 2012 and I established a policy from the beginning to obtain a thumbprint for every notarization, regardless the nature of the document.  It’s a great fraud deterrent and positively identifies the signer.  From my perspective, it provides protection for both the signer and the notary.
I have had only one individual refuse to submit a thumbprint.

In CA, if the document affects the transfer of real property or is a Power of Attorney document, the notary is required to obtain a thumbprint.
It isn’t required for other documents, but is recommended by the National Notary Association:

“It is a strong deterrent to forgery, as it represents absolute proof of the signer’s identity and proves the signer was present before the Notary.”

In 1996, CA passed the following law, California Government Code 8206 (a)(2)(G):
“If the document to be notarized is a deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust, or other document affecting real property, or a power of attorney document, the notary public shall require the party signing the document to place his or her right thumbprint in the journal. If the right thumbprint is not available, then the notary shall have the party use his or her left thumb, or any available finger and shall so indicate in the journal. If the party signing the document is physically unable to provide a thumbprint or fingerprint, the notary shall so indicate in the journal and shall also provide an explanation of that physical condition. This paragraph shall not apply to a trustee’s deed resulting from a decree of foreclosure or a nonjudicial foreclosure pursuant to Section 2924 of the Civil Code, nor to a deed of reconveyance”

In the case of my reluctant thumbprint client, the document in question was not a deed or POA.  After I diligently recorded his full name, address, driver license number and date of birth in my journal, he expressed he was uncomfortable with giving his thumbprint, citing concerns of identity theft.

The client had complied with all the laws that govern notarization and his refusal to give a thumprint was not legal cause to refuse him service.  If his document had required it, however, I would have been unable to proceed.

Because I feel it demonstrates due diligence on my part and provides positive proof of the signer’s identity, which is a powerful fraud deterrent, I will continue to request thumbprints when I perform notarizations.  I’m confident that the majority of my clients will comply.

 ©2015 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved