I’m surprised how many people have a full name they don’t have ID for. I just had one yesterday who is on title as (name changed of course): Mary Jane Doe. She had no ID that showed her middle name and said, “oh that’s an old name I don’t use anymore”. She continues, “the lawyer said it was ok and other notaries have signed me with that name.” Since I only had enough to prove she was Mary Doe, I said I would have to prove her ID with 2 credible witnesses, or refuse to notarize it myself and let her notarize with someone else who would do it.
I keep seeing “wrong” middle names perpetuated because somehow they get notarized with a “wrong” name.. of course they can use credible witnesses if they don’t have correct ID, but I’m told they didn’t get notarized that way. I don’t think it is emphasized in the notary courses what is acceptable in terms of matching a name to what they are signing. It looks like another notary just notarized her without any problem… so I feel like a stickler but hey, what are we for?
Heather, you are doing your job correctly. Other notaries doing their job wrong, does not make it right. I know how difficult this is, I hear it all the time. “Well, the last notary didn’t require this”. My bottom line question to myself is, “If I had to go to court regarding this signing, did I do my due diligence to ensure that I properly identified the individual in front of me”. It’s your commission and you ultimately are responsible. Follow your laws for your State. I carry my Notary Handbook from the State with me at all times.
My position is that I must have personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence that the person described in the document being signed is the person in front of me. If the only evidence I have about that is an ID card, that isn’t enough for me to accept a middle name that isn’t on the ID. On the other hand, if the person is described in the document as having owned a particular piece of property for 30 years, the signing is being done in the property in question, and the little grandkids are calling the signer by the right name, that would probably be enough. It’s about the totality of the circumstances. Of course, my state, Vermont, has no specific rules about how I ID people.
Heather, if you’re a stickler you may want to note that this is not correct:
” of course they can use credible witnesses if they don’t have correct ID”
No they can’t – use of credible witnesses is for those who have NO identfication and it would be difficult if not impossible for them to obtain it. This is clear in your handbook. CW’s are walking ID for those who can’t obtain it, not for those who got “incorrect” ID or who were too lazy to renew their ID to begin with.
Joan is right though, as are you in the fact that you can’t notarize a signature for someone if they can’t prove who they are. What I would do (and I think this would pass in CA as well as in FL) is have her sign “Mary Jane Doe” but “Mary Doe” is in my certificate PROVIDED she can show me SOMETHING that she truly IS Mary Jane Doe. (Here in FL we can state in our certs “MJD, who represented to me that she took title as, or is also known as, Mary Doe). I don’t like doing it that way but here it CAN be done.
I also don’t buy into the “other notaries do it” pitch. When I’ve been told that, especially about something that I know is clearly wrong, my response is “well, perhaps other notaries don’t mind breaking the law or not following proper procedure, but I do”.
The rule that credible witnesses are for those who have no identification is in the California handbook, but is not necessarily the rule in other states. In Vermont the handbook says a credible witness who is known to the notary is better than relying on the signer’s ID card (page 10-11), but even that is taking a chance, and the most prudent thing to do is to refuse to notarize for those you don’t know personally.
Thanks for the input and your diligence in your own performance. Yes, that’s a good point Linda, using a credible witness shouldn’t just be for people who are too lazy to fix their ID or correct the title documents… Whenever I call the NNA hotline with questions though, they seem to lean on the credible witness as an alternative to these types of questions. Usually when I start explaining the credible witness “option”, people start looking queasy anyway and usually just want to take the document to another notary. I’ve never seen it where the document didn’t come back from another notary without problem though… so that’s just frustrating because it feels like there is a lot of variance in standards among notaries. I’ve looked through the California Handbook many times, and it’s not very specific on how to actually match a name..and doesn’t address issues with name variances. It seems to leave it up to the notary to have “satisfactory evidence”.. which could be somewhat subjective. I hear and use the “less not more” rule, but I don’t seem to be able to actually find that in the CA Handbook.
I just had another one today whose name on title showed just his middle name and last name.. and when I look at his ID, he has a first name that “he doesn’t use anymore”… i.e., he was signing as Doe Smith, and his ID shows John Doe Smith… I don’t think you can just cut off your first name, right? He would at least need a first initial of his first name, but you can’t just not use your first name, right? Well he took it to another notary at an attorney’s office that we know. My boss was curious and asked their office how they justified it, and the attorney basically told the notary to just do it because they know the guy and figure the risk is low (in California though, we can’t use personal knowledge anymore to ID someone).
I’ve only been doing this about a year and I’m just surprised how many people’s names are different between what they hold title as and what’s on their ID.. people who have mysterious middle names they have no ID for and have no idea how they got that name.. people who have parts of their name “they don’t use anymore”.. the hyphenated last names where they only have ID for one of the last names.. I mean do you guys get this a lot?
Heather, In this profession you see all kinds of things, especially with I.D. I’ve been a Notary Public for almost 8 years now and continue to learn something new each day.
Ultimately it is your choice to deny or proceed. You know your State laws and must proceed accordingly. Although, many of the notarial laws are up for interpretation, I think. Here in California, we have a very clear list of what is acceptable as I.D. As far as the , “more not less” rule, you won’t find this in the California Handbook. This was something that started with XYZ organization. We do have to use our own common sense and judgement in some of these cases.
I’m with Linda, I put in my notarial certificate what I see on the actual I.D. There has been numerous discussions on notary boards regarding matching name and I.D. At the same time, there is just as many different opinions regarding this. Some feel, if the individual has enough other documentation to go along with the state approved I.D. to prove who they are, they will proceed with the notarization. While others will refuse to notarize, unless everything matches exactly.
If you call the SOS (Secretary of State), Notary Public Division, you will probably be told to call an attorney for your answer or they will read to you directly from the handbook.
I looked up the handbook (because there is a need to be sure). The handbook says satisfactory evidence for acknowledgment or jurat (both) is reasonable reliance on any ONE of the following documents (list) OR oath of a single credible witness (who has paper ID AND is personally known). The credible witness must sign the journal. I have been getting TWO forms of ID (not required but not prohibited either) and often a DL and a witness (since not many people have TWO picture id’s). I of course get the witnesses on a separate entry in the journal as well as signing the line where they are witness of the original signer. Imagine (in your mind’s eye) that you are subpoenaed to testify about your journal; (it could happen). Either counsel might ask about the entry in point, but can also ask about other entries (why did you do X or Y in this case?) So you ought o be prepared to explain ALL of the entries at any time. Omissions are not a good thing. Errors, spellings, ID numbers, title of document all ought to be accurate and explainable. I am not doing a lot of notarizing .. so it is not routine when I do it. I am not certain at this point that it has paid for my expenses. [at one point the question was why California notary numbers have fallen — it’s does not pay its own way for sure]
It isn’t surprising that people don’t have ID to back up their middle name, especially the way states like California define acceptable ID. The only acceptable ID that most people have that would count in California is a driver’s license. Many states won’t put a full middle name on the license, only an initial. Many states have changed their rules about the middle name or initial, so the rules for the most recent license might be different than the rules when the property was bought. The most recent change in my state, Vermont, is that one may get an enhanced driver’s license, which serves the purpose of a passport when crossing borders in North America by land or water. That new license never includes a middle name, and never includes a generational identifier (Jr, III, etc.).
When people change their name (Miss Mary Jane Doe becomes Mrs. Mary Jane Jones) we might reasonably expect them to record some kind of notice in the land records, in accord with state law, so in the future they could sign their new names on deeds. But when people don’t change their name, and it is only a change in DMV rules, we can’t expect people to run around changing land records.
OK, I’m a newbie here….I just took my class last week. But I’m pretty sure this scenario came up as an example. The teacher said that she got to the customer and their ID did not match the document. She told them they could get 2 neighbors who could swear to the names on the document, ie 2 credible witnesses.
In our handbook for the class it says:
The use of a credible witness as identification—If someone is requiring a notary but lacks the “proper identification,” we can us a procedure called obtaining a credible witness.”
If the ID doesn’t match, that would be lacking proper identification.
The SOS Handbooks states: “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 clams to be…”
The “or” allows it to be “other circumstances, not just the absence of any information.
From previous discussions, I recognize your quote as being from the California handbook. I’m from Vermont, so I’ve never taken a notary class (but will take one this month now that the SOS is finally putting some on). I would agree with your interpretation of “OR other circumstances”. For example, California no longer allows personal knowledge to establish a person’s ID. But suppose you happened to be behind the signer in line at the bank yesterday, and happened to hear the signer use the name Charles Arthur Floyd. Today the signer wants to use the name John Doe. That would be an “other circumstance”.
Notice also that your handbook says “Paper Identification Documents – Identity of the signer can be established by the notary public’s reasonable reliance on the presentation of any one of the following documents…” The handbook does not define reasonable reliance. I’ve seen in forum discussions that when people called the SOS’s office, they got different advice about this on different days. Some got the advice that you can’t use a combination of ID documents to link from the name on the ID to the name on the document. If I were in California, I would not use a combination of documents to try to link between substantially different names. But I would recognize there are common variations in name use, and that forms and ID card issuers often put limitations on what parts of their name people are allowed to use. An ID card issuer may refuse to include the full middle name, the middle initial, a double surname of a Latino, or a suffix like Jr. Traditionally in America, it is the first and last name that are considered important. If the first and last name on the ID match the first and last name the signer wants to sign, I think “reasonable reliance” would allow the notary to look at a additional evidence to add a middle name, additional surname for a Latino, or suffix like Jr.