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.

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