Category Archives: Totally Notary

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

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

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

What is a Notary Public and what do they do?

A Notary Public is a publicly commissioned officer of the state.  In California, Notaries Public are appointed by the Secretary of State and granted four-year terms.  They serve the public as an impartial witness and perform a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.  These acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts, and sometimes require the Notary to place the signer under oath to swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the information contained in the document is true and correct.

A Notary has three primary duties:

  • To verify the true identity of the signer of the document.
  • To establish their willingness to sign without duress or coercion.
  • To determine their understanding of the content of the document and the implications of signing it.

As official representatives of the state, Notaries Public certify the proper execution of many life-changing documents of private citizens.  Impartiality is essential and dictates that they not act in circumstances where they have personal interest, nor refuse service to any person due to race, nationality, religion, politics or sexual orientation.

©2014 Totally Notary All Rights Reserved