From NNA: Notary Tip: How To Deal With Blank Spaces On Documents
Updated 1-23-18. You’ve just been handed a document to notarize. The signer’s ID checks out, but then you spot several blank spaces in the main body of the document. Can you proceed, or do you have to call a halt to the notarization? Here are some helpful guidelines for these situations.
Notarizing Incomplete Documents
You should not notarize an incomplete document because of the risk of potential fraud. For example, if a document selling a vehicle to someone else for an agreed amount was signed and notarized with the selling price left blank, a dishonest person could fill in a different amount later and claim that was the agreed sum of money.
Because of this, many states prohibit notarizing a document that is incomplte or contains blank spaces. In California, the Secretary of State recommended in its 2015 state Notary newsletter that Notaries visually scan a document for completeness to ensure there are no blank lines or spaces for data to be entered at a later date.
If you are presented with an incomplete document, you should refuse to notarize citing the missing pages or blank spaces. Even if you are commissioned in a state that does not provide specific guidance regarding blank document spaces, such as Texas, Article IV-D-1 of The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility recommends: “The Notary shall refuse to notarize any document whose text is blank or incomplete.
Are Some Blank Spaces Okay?
There are some limited situations where it is permissible to leave a space blank, such as the following:
Spaces for additional signatures. Documents often need to be signed by multiple individuals at different times in different locations. You may be asked to notarize one signature on a document that includes additional, blank signature spaces. In such a case, the document is not considered incomplete, and you may complete the notarization for any signers who are physically present and properly identified. However, you should record in the journal entry that the document included additional signature spaces and why they were not used.
Spaces reserved for use by government officials. Some documents include a boxed-off section or separate area of blank spaces marked with a title such as “For Official Use Only,” “Reserved For Recorder Use Only” or some other label indicating it may only be completed by an authorized official. If you are asked to notarize such a document, it is OK to proceed without filling in the blanks in a section reserved for official use.
Exceptions in state law. Some states permit certain documents that include blanks to still be notarized. For example, Florida prohibits notarizing most documents that include blank spaces, but FS 117.107(10) allows exceptions for an endorsement or assignment in blank of a negotiable or nonnegotiable note and the assignment in blank of any instrument given as security for such a note.
Fill Out Notarial Wording Completely
Never leave blanks or omit information when you are completing the notarial wording. Missing information in the notarial wording was listed by county recorders in California as one of the top 10 reasons notarized documents are rejected by recording offices.
Inapplicable Blanks Or Spaces To Be Filled In Later
Sometimes a blank space on a document will not be used. In such cases, you should refuse to notarize, citing the blank space as a reason. Remember that you may only complete information in the notarial certificate wording. Any blanks in the main text must be completed by the signer or another individual authorized to do so before the notarization may proceed.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.
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