“What is a notary public” On Location with Fabie Combs (Part 2 of 3)

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.

“What is a notary public” On Location with Fabie Combs (Part 3 of 3)

Fabie Combs:                  Next, we’ll be chatting with Tim Levin, another seasoned notary.

Welcome Tim. Thank you for being here today.

Timothy Levin:                Thank you.

Fabie Combs:                  Now, your company is Performance Notary, and you’ve been involved since 2004.

Timothy Levin:                Correct.

Fabie Combs:                  Can you tell me the specific types of notaries you do? I know there’s quite a few different types, but what would you say the majority of your business is?

Timothy Levin:                Probably 50/50 foreign documents and business documents.

Fabie Combs:                  Speaking of foreign documents, tell me what an apostille is.

Timothy Levin:                The document we use in a foreign country.

Fabie Combs:                  Can you give me some examples of an apostille? How someone would need an apostille?

Timothy Levin:                Adoption is more of the commonly used, or medical patents to be used in foreign countries.

Fabie Combs:                  Anything to do with property?

Timothy Levin:                Yes. Power of attorneys is widely used. That’s a number one of a, I wouldn’t say normal, but the individual would use the power of attorney. Most companies don’t use the power of attorney.

Fabie Combs:                  And what percentage of that in your business?

Timothy Levin:                50 percent.

Fabie Combs:                  Really?

Timothy Levin:                Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  So you’re kind of an expert in that field.

Timothy Levin:                I’ve done very many of them. Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  Tim, if someone were to call you and they wanted something legalized as far as a document and authenticated, what does that mean, actually?

Timothy Levin:                Authenticated process is done at the county level. Some countries do ask for authentication, but normally that’s done at the county.

Legalization is done at the embassy or consulate level, and it basically takes the process of notarizing a document, verifying the notary by the county, and then the state would certify the document and then it would go on to the embassy or consulate to get legalized.

Fabie Combs:                  Sounds like quite a process.

Timothy Levin:                Yes. It is.

Fabie Combs:                  And speaking of that, what kind of fees would someone incur to have something like that done?

Timothy Levin:                Anywhere from $150 to over one thousand dollars.

Fabie Combs:                  My goodness.

Timothy Levin:                For one document.

Fabie Combs:                  But there’s a lot of legwork on your part.

Timothy Levin:                When you do legalization, that must be done through Washington, so you have the Department of State involved, too.

Fabie Combs:                  And what about an apostille?

Timothy Levin:                The apostille normally stops at state level, and that’s a part of a process members of the Hague Convention, and that means that certification process of the document stops at state level.

Fabie Combs:                  And do a lot of notaries do apostilles?

Timothy Levin:                No. No, they don’t.

Fabie Combs:                  Do people come up to ask you for different forms? When they come to see you do they expect you to have a power of attorney or a grant deed, what have you?

Timothy Levin:                Yes. That’s a common problem where people think that I have all the documents for everything they need done.

Fabie Combs:                  Now if you were to go into a nursing home, say, and they don’t have a passport, they don’t have an ID, driver’s license, and they need help for financial and for healthcare reasons, are you able to do a notary there?

Timothy Levin:                50/50 we can do that. For the financial we can, but for the health we’d have to bring in a California ombudsman.

Fabie Combs:                  And can you explain a little bit about that?

Timothy Levin:                The ombudsman is somebody that’s for patient’s rights, and they’re an advocate for people in long term care. The ombudsman would come in and talk to the client and make sure that they are to the capacity understand what they are doing and can make healthcare related decisions.

Fabie Combs:                  So if you were in a nursing home and they had trouble signing their name but the doctor said that they were coherent and knew what they were doing, would they still be able to have something notarized if it had to do with healthcare as well as finances?

Timothy Levin:                Finance, yes. You’d bring in credible witnesses. People that can tell me who that person is and under oath swear to that fact. And then as far as trouble signing, that’s not a problem because we can notarize something by a mark.

Fabie Combs:                  Really?

Timothy Levin:                Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  I didn’t know that.

Timothy Levin:                Yes. So that’s a way … if they can’t use their hands, they can use their mouth. As long as they make the mark.

Fabie Combs:                  Have you ever had to do a notarization for someone that’s blind?

Timothy Levin:                Yes. I have.

Fabie Combs:                  You have to have someone interpret?

Timothy Levin:                As long as I can communicate with the person, that’s all that I need. But the persona must have already had prior knowledge to what they’re signing. They have to understand it completely. That would be something I would ask the person signing the document.

Fabie Combs:                  And that would be advice that was given to them by someone else or read to them by someone else.

Timothy Levin:                Correct.

Fabie Combs:                  Not by you.

Timothy Levin:                Correct.

Fabie Combs:                  I understand you had an interesting signing that took you two days. Can you briefly explain that?

Timothy Levin:                It was a four to five hundred million dollar deal that was done and 11 principals had to sign, and it came out to over 600 documents.

Fabie Combs:                  Wow. No wonder it took two days.

Timothy Levin:                We were fighting hand cramps.

Fabie Combs:                  My goodness. And something like that, when you’ve doing multiple signatures, you give a special rate, I would guess.

Timothy Levin:                Oh, of course. Oh, yes.

Fabie Combs:                  Now I know that you can only charge $10 for an acknowledgement, $5 for jurats in the state of California.

Timothy Levin:                Maximum. Correct.

Fabie Combs:                  But you can charge less.

Timothy Levin:                Correct.

Fabie Combs:                  Now one of the things that I realize with you that you actually give back to the community. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Timothy Levin:                I’ve been volunteering at the Huntington Beach Senior Center for probably six, seven years now. It’s a service that I can provide to the seniors to get their affairs or their documents notarized without a concern for cost.

Fabie Combs:                  That’s great. Are there a lot of notaries that do things like that?

Timothy Levin:                I know of two. Myself and another person that does every other week when I’m not there.

Fabie Combs:                  Now other than that, when you’re actually doing notarizations, do you collect up front? Or do you collect after the signing?

Timothy Levin:                It’s always taught to you to collect up front, but I don’t feel that’s a good business practice. I feel to collect after the job has been finished completely.

Fabie Combs:                  Now as far as going into prisons or jails, do you have to be on a type of approved list to go in?

Timothy Levin:                That is the case now. With Orange County you have to have security clearance, and that’s done by the county.

Fabie Combs:                  And what times can you go?

Timothy Levin:                24/7. Anytime. They never close for official business.

Fabie Combs:                  That’s great.

If a wife calls you and says, “I need to get a notarization for my husband and myself. My husband works. Can I bring some identification for him so that you can notarize both of our signatures?”

Timothy Levin:                No. The law states that you have to appear in front of a notary.

Fabie Combs:                  Ah. Okay.

Timothy Levin:                So he physically needs to be in front of me for me to notarize something.

Fabie Combs:                  And when someone calls you, what do you tell them before you go do a notary?

Timothy Levin:                Make sure they have current and valid identification.

Fabie Combs:                  So I see you have your equipment here, and one of the things I notice is your embosser. That’s not used as much in California. Is it?

Timothy Levin:                Correct. I use it more for foreign documents. Foreign governments and that, they recognize the embossed stamp more because anything that comes from a county, state, or federal is embossed on a piece of paper or gold seals.

Fabie Combs:                  And I understand, too, to photocopy anything, this transfers much easier than the embossment.

Timothy Levin:                Correct. Anything that’s going to be recorded must be 100 percent reproducible. That’s why we use a stamp.

Fabie Combs:                  Tim, what was your most unusual notary that you’ve ever done?

Timothy Levin:                One does come to mind. It was a divorce settlement in a Circle K parking lot. And one of the people getting notarized didn’t have their identification, so we had to bring in credible witnesses to identify the person. That brought more people to the parking lot, which made for more confusion.

Fabie Combs:                  Is there anything that you would like to add to people watching? Maybe to be prepared for the next time they need a document notarized?

Timothy Levin:                I think the most important thing is understand what they’re doing and what they need a notary for.

Fabie Combs:                  Very good. Thank you so much for your information. It’s been very valuable.

Timothy Levin:                Thank you.

Fabie Combs:                  Did you know there are approximately five million notary publics worldwide? There are notaries in every country. The United States has the most notaries and California leads the pack with about 168 thousand.

In India, notaries serve as arbitrators while in China they’re authorized to give instruction on the preparation of legal documents.

Ink seals are more legible when a document is photocopied. However, Alabama and the U.S. Virgin Islands require an embossed or raised seal.

Most states do not require a stamp and an embossing seal, but a good idea for further protection of the documents.

A glossy surfaced fax document should never be notarized as the printing will fade in time.

Fax signatures cannot be notarized.

California has a Certified Copy by Document Custodian Form that is a hybrid, which is an acknowledgement where a signature is witnessed and a jurat, which is attesting to or affirming by oath document combined.

Some states do not require a journal, but it is a good idea to have extra documentation for any questionable situations in the future.

Let’s look at some fun and unique notarized items.

Well known singer of the Beatles group John Lennon’s authentic hair shaft was notarized.

Legendary baseball player Hank Aaron’s authentic notarized autograph.

Another famous baseball player, Micky Mantle, seen here with the notary who witnessed and notarized his signature.

Here we have a great Hall of Fame baseball player that played for the Yankees, Lefty Gomez, with his notarized signature, as well.

Even a notarial service was performed for a brick that was affirmed to be from Abraham Lincoln’s home.

One of the Ram’s original fearsome foursome, Deacon Jones’s notarized signature on this football.

Baseball star Ted Williams who played for the Red Sox notarized autograph, also.

Another hair sampling of the famous actress Marilyn Monroe with the notarized document and stamp on the upper left side of this framed collectible.

We’ve certainly learned a lot about what a notary really is. I hope this will help you the next time you need one or want to be one.

I’d like to especially thank Tustin Lexus and the following people for their assistance in this production.

This is Fabie Combs saying hope to see you on location.

NOTE: A Notary Public is not an attorney, and cannot give legal advice.
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