Buying anything these days with a credit card or even check requires the production of a driver’s license or photo identification. Signing loan documents or a deed to convey property is no different. Unless the person signing the document is personally known to the notary, the notary should always require evidence of identity such as a driver’s license.
Why is it important for notaries to follow a standard practice of requiring a driver’s license or other photographic identification? If the notary handles hundreds of documents a year (such as the notary in a law office), after passage of five or ten years the notary would have no specific recollection of the person who signed the document. However, if the signer of the document later denies that he or she signed the document and the notary cannot specifically remember the document due to the passage of time, the notary can at least testify in court that it is the notary’s standard procedure to require photographic identification. This evidence, together with evidence from a handwriting expert, should be enough to satisfy a court of law concerning the validity of a challenged signature.
The notary should follow the following minimum procedure: (1) the signer of the document should physically appear before the notary and acknowledge the signature; (2) the signer must be personally known to the notary or have his identity proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence. (“Satisfactory evidence” should take the form of a federal or state government photographic identification such as a driver’s license); and (3) the document should be signed in the presence of the notary or the signer should indicate to the notary that he or she voluntarily signed the document.
By creating and following a standard procedure, the notary will insure against future challenges concerning the validity of the signature.
Ryan C. Hawkins is a partner at Ferguson, Hayes, Hawkins & DeMay, PLLC and a member of the Real Property Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.