Does California law specify that a Notary Public cannot notarize documents for a person known to suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s? -- K.K. of Fresno, California
No, there are currently no California statutes specifically addressing competence. However, Notaries do have three very important responsibilities. They are responsible for ensuring that signers are aware of the significance of the transaction; that they are signing the document of their own volition; and that they are positively identified. If the Notary doubts the signer’s understanding of the document, he or she should draw the signer into a conversation. If the signer can communicate effectively, the Notary may consider the signer aware. However, if a signer is unable to respond coherently, the Notary should refuse because awareness and comprehension are in doubt.
Lawsuits alleging that signers were “incompetent” to handle their legal affairs sometimes occur. Because Notaries are often dragged into these suits, the NNA recommends refusing to perform the notarization if there is any doubt about the signer’s awareness.
Confronted with a tricky notarization? Unsure how to proceed? NNA members have unlimited access to our expertly trained NNA Hotline counselors to help you with all of your notarial questions. Call (888) 876-0827, Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST; Saturday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST