Notaries are governed by the laws of the state in which they are commissioned. Regardless of where the paperwork originated, a notary is compelled to comply with state law. This may mean changing the wording in the document to reflect the state in which the notarization takes place and even adding a codicil regarding swearing under oath in a particular state.
As long as the signatory is present and is identified through state- or country-issued documents, the notary is legally allowed to notarize a document that originated in another state. Of course, there are exceptions.
Preventing Fraud Through Notarization
Establishing the identity of the person requesting a notary’s signature is vital when a real estate transaction or establishing power of attorney is the aim. Those and other legal transactions result in over a billion requests for a notary’s signature each year. The mobilization of our society and the fact that property is often purchased by people living in one state but wishing to own in another state propels the uptick in notary requests.
But not all transactions are valid. The transfer of the title of a property from one person to another can be the result of fraud. The change in a will’s directive or the naming of a person as power of attorney may be a situation in which someone has fraudulent intentions. Often, the fraudsters present a notary with paperwork originating out of state in the hope that the signature is placed on the documents without question.
While it’s not the job of a notary to act as an attorney, the notary is compelled to perform her duties within the laws of her state. Her signature attests to the truthfulness of the signatory’s document as sworn under oath. If there is a question as to the legality of the document, she can refuse to sign.
Dotting the I’s
When faced with a document originating in another state, the notary must change the paperwork. She must cross out the name of the original state and county under the “venue” section and replace it with her location, regardless of where the paperwork is to be filed.
The notary must also verify that the wording on the certificate is compliant with her own state’s guidelines. If not, a separate certificate is attached, with the signatory’s permission, indicating the appropriate wording in the notary’s state.
State Laws Prevail
California notaries are subject to an extensive verification process, including fingerprinting, especially when signing documents pertaining to real estate. When faced with documents originating out of state, they can complete a certificate using the state’s wording if the paperwork is being filed out of state.
Florida notaries must verify that the nine elements required by the state are included in the out-of-state paperwork. And even if it’s not evident in the out-of-state paperwork, the date of the notary signature must be included.
Recording the Document
Not all states allow documents notarized out of state to be recorded in the originating state. It’s not up to the notary to determine the laws of another state, but the question should be posed to the person requesting the notarization.
Crossing State and Country Lines
A few states allow notaries from one state to legally perform their duties as governed in a bordering state. Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota share reciprocity regarding notarization.
With the advent of digital communications, some states are leaning toward remote notarizations via webcams. While this allows the process to take place from anywhere in the world, there are concerns regarding the presence of the actual signatory and whether the paperwork is being presented willingly.
Read More: Can You Notarize Across State Lines?
A writer for many years, Jann has contributed to television programming revolving around legal issues, written for magazines and web sites regarding the law, and her manuals on real estate law specifics are used in real estate schools in Florida.