Fabie Combs: Hi, Dominic. Thanks for being here today.
Dominic Mestas: Thank you for having me.
Fabie Combs: How long have you been a notary?
Dominic Mestas: I’ve been a notary for going on six years now.
Fabie Combs: And your company is The OC Notary?
Dominic Mestas: That is correct.
Fabie Combs: So do you stay strictly in Orange County, or do you go all over?
Dominic Mestas: You know, I’ve been known to go as far north as San Francisco, but typically I like to keep it closer to home. I service Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, and San Bernardino.
Fabie Combs: Oh, I see. Okay. And is it necessary to be a Certified Signing Agent? I see that every once in a while.
Dominic Mestas: You know, it’s not necessary. It’s not required by law, but it definitely is recommended, especially for a new and novice or upcoming notary to really keep abreast of any new laws that are affected with the real estate market, so specifically it caters towards loan document signings.
Fabie Combs: I see. Now, there’s different organizations out there that help up and coming notaries and answer questions, like the National Notary Association. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely. The NNA in particular, they offer a wonderful service. They do have a hotline that you can call, especially if you’re unsure about a certain law or whether or not a document is legal to sign or not and if you’re doing everything according to the letter of the law. So NNA does supply a wonderful wealth of information for you and is either a click away or a phone call away, so …
Fabie Combs: As a former notary myself, my husband and I actually went to a National Notary Association convention, and my goodness, they had so many classes and so much wealth of information, and they have the hotlines. So we were members of that, and I agree with you, it really gives you a wealth of information.
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely. I’ve been a good-standing member for as long as I had my commission. I will continue to be a member, and yeah, and the fact that they offer you the bond that is required as a notary, as well, so …
Fabie Combs: Can you tell me what a notario publico is?
Dominic Mestas: Certainly. In certain Latin countries, or more specifically in Mexico, a notario publico is somebody who offers legal advice. They’re an actual attorney or a lawyer, but they can do legal services and give legal advice. Now, the reason it is against the law here in the United States to advertise as a notario publico is because these people who are from these countries would have automatically an assumption that you are able to offer legal counsel, and as notary publics here in the United States, we are not able to offer that service.
Fabie Combs: I see.
Dominic Mestas: So that essentially is what notario public is and why we are not allowed to advertise as such.
Fabie Combs: Well, speaking of that, do you have to be a legal citizen in the state of California, where you practice, to have something notarized?
Dominic Mestas: No, you don’t. Regardless of your citizenship, you can have a document notarized.
Fabie Combs: Okay. Also, can you tell me about if someone is incarcerated and they want to get married?
Dominic Mestas: In that event, a notary will get a form called an Inability to Appear Form, appear before the inmate, have the document notarized, transfer it to the spouse, who will then apply for a marriage certificate so that they can get married.
Fabie Combs: I see. Only certain documents can be certified?
Dominic Mestas: That is correct. There are only two items that a notary public can certify as original copies, the first of which would be a journal line item out of their own journal. The second would be a power of attorney, and it would also have to be a power of attorney that they originally notarized, in which case they can certify a copy of that original power of attorney.
Fabie Combs: Can a notary refuse service?
Dominic Mestas: A notary can refuse service if they suspect fraud or if the individual does not have the proper identification.
Fabie Combs: Can a notary give any advice as to their document or explain a document to them or anything in that order?
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely not. A notary public should never give any legal advice.
Fabie Combs: Can you help someone verify the validity of a form or help them fill out a form?
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely not. This is also a no-no. You should never tell somebody whether or not the document is valid. All you can do is attest to the fact that the signature belongs to the person who’s signing it.
Fabie Combs: Now, when someone comes in to have something notarized and they have to produce their identification, what do you look for on that identification?
Dominic Mestas: There are certain key items that we need to see, obviously the first of which is a photo identification. There also needs to be an expiration date, an issue date, a description, physical description, of the individual who’s signing, and a serial number.
Fabie Combs: I see.
Dominic Mestas: These are the elements that we need.
Fabie Combs: And we learned earlier today that Cheryl [Higgin 00:04:47] that it can even be used if it’s expired within five years.
Dominic Mestas: That’s correct. As long as it’s been issued within the last five years, you can still use it to validate that person’s identity.
Fabie Combs: Can you explain what a credible witness is?
Dominic Mestas: Yes. In the event that an individual doesn’t have a valid form of identification, a credible witness can used. In particular, you would need two individuals who can personally vouch for the individual who does not have the identification, as long as they both have valid IDs.
Fabie Combs: I see. Can you do digital signing online?
Dominic Mestas: In the state of California, we cannot. There’s a few other states that have outright refused to do digital signing, and then again, there are a few states that do allow it. So in California, no.
Fabie Combs: When do you actually need to do fingerprints for someone that you notarize for?
Dominic Mestas: As required by law in the state of California, you need to have a fingerprint in regards to any document pertaining to real estate: grant deed, quit claim deed, et cetera. However, I find it’s best practice is to take a fingerprint whenever I do an acknowledgement. It just provides that much more security for myself and the individual who’s signing the document.
Fabie Combs: Can you ever notarize for someone that’s not present?
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely not. That is the biggest deal-breaker ever. You do not want to sign for anybody who is not present.
Fabie Combs: Where are you supposed to keep your journal and your stamp and your seal, your supplies?
Dominic Mestas: Ideally under lock and key. You should always keep them in a safe place. I have a fireproof safe to keep my journals in when I’m not using them, but definitely under lock and key. You want to keep them as safe as possible.
Fabie Combs: What if, for instance, you had someone that appeared before you and the document said “John Smith” and they sign as “John J. Smith”?
Dominic Mestas: I typically only go off of what the identification says. And regardless of what the document is, they should match up, because I can only attest to the signature, the signer, and his identification.
Fabie Combs: If there was a natural disaster and you lost your seal and you lost your journal, what would you do?
Dominic Mestas: I would hate to have a natural disaster occur, but I would immediately notify the secretary of state and let them know that my book and my stamp has been compromised, to prevent any incidents of fraud.
Fabie Combs: I know for myself, one of the things that we had to do when we moved, we had to notify the State of California Secretary of State-
Dominic Mestas: Absolutely.
Fabie Combs: … to let them we moved. And then when were ready to resign our commission, we had to do the same by letter.
Dominic Mestas: Yeah, and you have to turn your books in, as well, so they keep that.
Fabie Combs: Yes. We turned it in to the recorder, also.
Dominic, what if a ID looks suspicious?
Dominic Mestas: In that event, I would have to ask for another form of identification, be it a passport, a military ID. If they didn’t have any other supporting documentation, I would probably have to refuse service.
Fabie Combs: Well, thank you so much today.
Dominic Mestas: Oh, thank you very much for having me.
Fabie Combs: You’ve been a lot of help. A lot of great information.
Dominic Mestas: Appreciate it.