July 26, 2021

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How Duress Can Affect The Notary Process

3 min read
How Duress Can Affect The Notary Process Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that people sign documents under pressure. Most signatures have to be notarized, and a reliable specialist may even save the life of a customer by being attentive. Duress can affect the notary process and change it for the good of the client. Any individual…

How Duress Can Affect The Notary Process

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon that people sign documents under pressure. Most signatures have to be notarized, and a reliable specialist may even save the life of a customer by being attentive.

Duress can affect the notary process and change it for the good of the client. Any individual has a right to refuse to sign a document in most cases. And if the decision is to sign, it has to be done willingly. You can see if it’s an honest or reluctant signing.

To make sure you’re right, check the situation for the following warning signs.

How to See the Warning Signs of Possible Duress During the Notary Process

Here’s how to detect potential signs of duress:

  • Be attentive to the behavior of the participants.
    Try to check the vibe in the room. Does the client seem very nervous, frustrated, or afraid? Maybe you can notice signs of hesitation. Pay attention to the words, mimics, and body language.
  • Find a moment to speak to the client.
    There should be a moment when you’re alone with the customer. Talk to them, notice any hesitance. See if the behavior of the signee shifts while you’re alone.
  • Ask honestly.
    If you see the signs of an unwilling signing, ask honestly. Then, observe the behavior.
  • Establish eye contact.
    While this isn’t necessarily a sign of trouble, if the person is too nervous or gives you signals when you catch their eyes, something might be off.

A trusted notary will not rush to make a decision and cause panic. There are many other reasons for the signer and other people present in the room to be nervous.

Signature by Proxy

There’s one serious rule to remember. If the signer is very weak or ill and a family member takes their hand to “help” them sign a document, prevent it from happening. This is prohibited because you don’t know if the person is signing willingly. 

In case the person is disabled or can’t finish the process themselves but wants to, a family member must get a document proving they have a right to act on behalf of the client. This is called signature by proxy.

How You Can Assist in Case of Client’s Duress

The best thing to do if you see that the customer is reluctant to sign a document and may do it unwillingly is to refuse to provide your service.

It’s very important to know the laws of the state you’re practicing in. The rules differ for notarization denial. Nevertheless, it’s very wise to keep a notary journal and write down every step you take practice-wise. Make notes as to the behavior of the client and what you do to prevent coerced signing from happening.

If you, as a specialist, see evidence of duress, act immediately. You have all the rights to refuse notarization and call the police if necessary. In case you’re the victim, let the notary know you’re in trouble. A trusted professional will do everything to help.

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