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  • Writer's picturejsiegelhill

Three Common Notary Issues and their Solutions

Updated: Feb 21

I'd like to point out three common issues that might seem problematic to Virginia notaries. These are practices that may be compliant with other states' laws, but not with Virginia notary laws and if notarized, may put the validity of legal documents at risk or may cause them to be deemed invalid. I'll show you how simple modifications can make them fully compliant with Virginia laws and procedures. I'm writing this especially for the benefit of an attorney, title company owner, or signing service owner who is either in Virginia or outside of Virginia and assigns legal documents to be notarized in our state. Since I got my commission in 2021, these issues have come up quite often. Unfortunately, when I've pointed them out to the assigning parties and explained how I could resolve them, many have replied: "Well every other notary does it. Why can't you?" Ouch. I know what notaries can and cannot do in my state because I've had the proper training. I read every notary block carefully and check the language to be certain that the document has all the elements required of that specific notarial act and that it is an authorized notarial act in Virginia. There are two notarial acts that are not permitted in VA--the "Hybrid" and "Signature Witnessing." The notarial act known as the Hybrid is not recognized as an acceptable notarial act. It has become increasingly popular over the last few years but is permitted in only a few states. The hybrid is a combination of an Acknowledgement and a Jurat and contains verbiage from each, such as "acknowledged and sworn to before me." The Acknowledgement and the Jurat have different implications and they may not be combined into one notarial act. I created this Venn diagram to show how the Acknowledgement and Jurat differ from one another. It should be easy to see why this is not a recognized notarial act in most states.

How can this be resolved? It can either be reformatted into an acceptable format by the hiring party, or, with permission and direction from the assigning party, the notary may cross out the notarial block on the page, write, "See attached notarial certificate," and attach a loose Acknowledgement or Jurat, according to the direction of the assigning party or document preparer. The notarial act called Signature Witnessing is permitted in many states but not in Virginia. This notarial act states that the document signer is merely signing before the notary. Example: "Signed (or attested) before me on date by (name of signer). This language has very different implications from the Acknowledgement or the Jurat. The signer is not acknowledging anything and is not making an oath. Again, to modify it, at the direction of the assigning party or document preparer, the notary may strike out this notary block, write "See attached notarial certificate," and attach a loose certificate. Handling Funds at Closing Virginia notaries are not permitted to collect or handle funds at a real estate closing or a loan signing assignment if they are not a licensed settlement agent. The State Corporation Commission stated the following in 2016: "A notary public may obtain signatures on closing documents without a title insurance license or settlement agent registration when acting on behalf of a properly licensed and registered settlement agent provided that the notary public does not receive or handle money, and/or does not sell, solicit, or negotiate a contract of title insurance." If the borrower is required to send funds at settlement and is mailing a check, the notary may not handle the check or include the check in the envelope with the signed file. The title company should send the notary or the borrower an extra shipping label so that the borrower can take responsibility for mailing the check. The three issues above are things that every Virginia notary should be aware of. The two notarial acts mentioned--the Hybrid and Signature Witnessing--are not mentioned in our Notary Handbook; however, we're still expected to know the laws of our state or else we risk being held responsible for documents deemed invalid. Since our Handbook doesn't contain everything we need to know, we have to attend high quality notary training offered by respected teachers. We have to take continuing education classes and participate in regular mentorship sessions so that our skills stay sharp and we abide by our laws. June Siegel-Hill Emerald Mobile Notary Service February 18, 2024

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