Being a notary public requires an exam, fees and licensing through the Department of State. With all these loops to jump through, getting your signature notarized is required on almost every court document submitted. A notary is required to authenticate someone’s signature on a particular document to ensure that the person who signed is the person described in the document. This is done by having the person sign right in front of the licensed notary public after obtaining photo identification from the person. Once the notary witnesses the person’s signature, he or she then signs a jurat and annexed a stamp with all their licensing information. But what happens when there is notary fraud? Should there be a requirement to check the status or existence of a notary’s license?
There are instances in which a notary public’s stamp has been replicated and used to falsely to “notarize” documents. In one case that I am familiar with, this has lead to preparation of a fraudulent will which did not represent the Testator’s wishes, but rather, the wishes of a disinherited family member. In another case, it led to a divorce being granted based on an affidavit agreeing to the divorce which was fraudulently signed by someone, who was not in fact not a party to marriage.
In these and other similar cases, it takes a lot of time and money to prove the truth. Is it beneficial to check every single notary on each and every document submitted? Or should it be the responsibility of the attorney submitting the documents? It’s a simple enough check on New York State website to see if someone is licensed, but it does not ensure that their isn’t fraud. In the case of the fraudulent will, the notary did in fact exist, but his stamp was replicated and his signature forged. Do we require identification from the notary? Is this even a big enough problem to go through all this trouble?