Mobile Notary Tip: Getting Repeat Business

As a professional mobile Notary, it is extremely important to earn repeat customers — including title companies, signing services, local attorneys, hospitals and consumers. This affects the very core of your business.

Repeat customers are known to spend more over the long run than first time customers and can become great advocates for your business. A steady flow of repeat customers can also help keep your marketing budget within sensible means.

Building A Loyal Customer Base

In order to maintain that steady flow of repeat customers, it helps to invest time and energy into building your reputation through customer service and some commonsense activities. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Know what’s important to your customer. Each customer is different. Some customers, for example, want a lot of communication via text while others want all communication to take place via a website. If you don’t know already, find out what you can do to make your customer’s job a little easier.
  2. Ask for a glowing review. If you are doing great work for a company and they are constantly using your service, sometimes it is as easy as simply asking if they would do a review for you.
  3. Write a glowing review about the companies you want a review from. I have interviewed several scheduling managers from title as well as signing companies. The great ones read reviews of their companies at least once or twice a month. If one of your clients is treating you well, giving you lots of assignments and paying you in a timely manner, write a glowing review about them. You would be surprised at how many glowing reviews about your service will pop up everywhere.
  4. Build great professional networks. Under the right circumstances, this is a great way to get referral customers. If you spend the time to network and build professional relationships with businesses in your community, they will refer their customers to you. I have notarized documents in post offices, shipping and photocopy stores, banks, hospitals and more all from referrals from these companies.
  5. Sponsor a charity event in your area. Every year a group of Notaries in my area sponsors an event where the general public donates to a local food bank. We advertise this on social media pages as well as on our websites. This is a great way to give back to your community and standout in your profession as a business leader. People want to do business with not only great businesses but with great people. I have personally received referrals from clients who have told me that they love our community consciousness.

Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton once said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Staying connected with your customers and understanding their “customer experience” will play an important part in building a stable business that you can be proud of.

Daniel Lewis of Carmel, Indiana, is the founder of Lewis Notary Services Inc., a nationwide mobile service. He also teaches Notary best practices and is a former NNA Notary of the Year.


Finding General Notary Work

Updated 11-17-17. Mobile Notaries around the country often ask how they can to increase their income. While most mobile Notaries take on loan-signing assignments, the up-and-down nature of the mortgage industry makes it difficult to earn a decent living from that type work alone.

The answer is simple: Find general Notary work, and it’s easier than you think. Here are just a few suggestions that can help anyone in any area of the country locate general Notary work.

Posting Your Business Profile

Place a profile on a Notary community page like These types of Notary community page sites allow you to tell the general public a little more about yourself and the value you can bring to them as a professional Notary in their area.

Your profile should include your professional experience and qualifications, a professional headshot and your contact information. Your profile also should explain the types of services you offer and why you are the right choice. A good profile will allow potential customers to find you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Tell People You Are A Notary

By far this is one of the best and simplest ways to start bringing in general Notary work. It’s also one of the easiest ways to lose income. Let me give you an example. A friend of mine owns a pet care business in a local office park. She’s also a Notary. I stopped by for a visit one day and as I was leaving her office, came across a gentleman who saw my Notary business logo on my shirt.

It turns out he was an insurance agent with an office just a few feet from my friend’s. He started asking me questions about my Notary service. Then he asked for my contact information because he has several clients who would need my service.

Afterward, my friend came out and said that had never told him or anyone else in her building that she was a Notary. As a result, she was losing key opportunities to expand her business.

Wearing a shirt with your business logo, or putting a sign on your car or office door let’s people know that you are available to notarize their documents.

Make The Rounds Of Local Businesses

Contact hospitals and assisted living facilities and let them know that you are a professional mobile Notary public. Because people are living longer, assisted living and retirement communities are an excellent places to get your name out. In every part of the country, people in these facilities need Notary services. This opens up the door for you to get more business.

Contact local banks, law firms, car dealerships and insurance companies. These types of businesses have come to depend more and more on professional mobile Notaries to meet the needs of their clients. Partnering with Notaries allows these businesses to stay competitive and conduct business in a seamless manner. If a business is not familiar with what you do, take the opportunity to explain how they can increase their efficiency by using your services. This also will highlight yourself as an expert, which will make it more likely that you will be the first person they call for Notary services.

Network With Other Notaries

It might seem counterintuitive, but networking with other professional mobile Notaries is a great way to get free referral business. This allows you to get to know other professionals in your area and advertise your business through them. There are times when most mobile Notaries have to turn down requests for any number of reasons. Being able to refer clients to each other keeps clients happy and your business thriving.

Using these techniques can really expand your business.  Please feel free to contact me if you do decide to use these techniques and let me know about your successes and/or failures.

Daniel Lewis, the NNA’s 2010 Notary of the Year, is the owner of Lewis Notary Services Inc. and a contributor to the Notary Bulletin. 

Why Becoming A Notary Is The Ultimate Side Gig

Updated 12-26-17. Whether you’re looking for promising work-from-home jobs or part-time jobs to get you out of the house, you should consider becoming a Notary first. Think of it as the side gig that keeps on giving because the credibility you earn by having a Notary commission opens the door to more than a dozen additional money-making opportunities. Being a Notary shows that you have integrity and it establishes a level of trust that gives you a leg up on your competition – even if you’re not directly using your commission for every freelance job that comes your way.

Here’s a list of 14 side gigs where your Notary skills will help you succeed.

Work-From-Home Jobs

Virtual Assistant: Offer virtual assistant services as an independent contractor or apply with a virtual assistant company for work-at-home jobs. Your clients may need administrative support, creative services or technical support and you’ll be able to provide it from the comfort of your couch. Virtual assistants take on a wide range of tasks from data entry, transcriptions, and proof reading to event planning, online research and website maintenance projects.

Authorized Representative: Market yourself as a dependable resource for businesses that use authorized representatives to verify employment eligibility for their remote workers. As an authorized representative, you’ll certify that the employee presented appropriate ID and complete the Form I-9 on behalf of their employer. Even U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services thinks Notaries are a good fit for the authorized representative role. (The California Secretary of State’s office has said that California Notaries who are not qualified and bonded as immigration consultants may not complete or make the certification on Form I-9, even in a non-notarial capacity. The Secretary’s office considers Form I-9 to be an immigration form.)

Fingerprinting Service Provider: Learn how to take fingerprints using Live Scan technology. For stay-at-home jobs like this one, you’ll need a computer, a device to capture fingerprints electronically, a digital camera and a signature pad. Most U.S. law enforcement agencies use Live Scan for background checks. Fingerprint submissions are also required by a lot of licensed professions including teachers, doctors, nurses and caregivers.

Bookkeeping Clerk: Brush up on your basic math skills so you can provide a variety of freelance financial services to individuals and local businesses. Bookkeeping services include recording transactions such as billing clients and entering customer receipts, as well as updating statements, checking the accuracy of financial records and overseeing payroll. While a degree isn’t required, many businesses look for bookkeepers with professional certifications.

Part-Time Jobs Away From Home

Administrative Assistant: Tap into your communication, general office and organizational skills as an administrative assistant. Busy executives always seem to need another pair of hands to take care of their routine clerical tasks like scheduling meetings, filing, data entry, and possibly getting business documents notarized. In that case, your Notary commission would be a valuable asset on top of your detail-oriented approach to assigned tasks.

Personal Concierge: Expand your assistant work by offering personal concierge services. Those busy executives you’re helping around the office probably have a laundry list of personal errands you can handle for them too. Whether it’s booking reservations and travel or picking up dry cleaning and groceries, you can turn these everyday errands into opportunities to make a few extra dollars.

Mystery Shopper: Double down on your everyday errands by becoming a mystery shopper. While you’re taking care of personal concierge tasks, you may be able to report back on certain shopping experiences with companies seeking customer feedback. Like Notaries, the demand is high for mystery shoppers who are punctual, observant and detail-oriented.

Rideshare Driver: Hop in your car and join the growing network of rideshare drivers. Because you set your own driving schedule, you can make some cash during the downtime between Notary assignments. Uber and Lyft are the two most common app-based ridesharing services. And new competitors roll-in regularly, like RideAustin, a non-profit service currently being tested in the City of Austin, Texas.

Field Inspector: Sign up to work for national field service firms. Field inspectors are used in a variety of industries to take photos and verify information like accurate addresses or real estate occupancy or that a business has its license. You can create your own field inspector starter kit with a few simple items: A smartphone with a good camera and internet access, a tape measure, a clipboard and a pen or two.

Exam Proctor: Get a background check and register as a mobile exam proctor. Proctors meet up with students who need to take tests at a location outside of their home. As a proctor, you identify the student to make sure they are who they say they are, and supervise the exam to make sure the student doesn’t cheat. This process creates a level of trust in the test results similar to the kind of trust Notaries bring to the records they notarize.

Remote Testimony Witness: Put your Notary skills to work as a remote testimony witness. Some small claims courts allow phone testimony in certain cases where a witness cannot be present – for example, people who are suffering from an illness or disability or can’t take time off work to appear. Notaries are a great fit for the remote swearing-in process because they’re appointed by the state to properly identify people, serve as impartial witnesses and administer oaths.

DNA Witness: There’s no need for lab goggles or a science degree…just your stellar identification skills and ability to be an impartial witness. DNA collection and testing is necessary in situations ranging from routine paternity issues to establishing people are biological relatives in certain immigration cases. As a DNA witness, you verify the client’s identity, witness them swab their own mouth using a DNA collection kit and mail the sample to the contracting company.

Wedding Officiant: Keep something old, new, borrowed and blue on hand for your client’s special day. As a wedding officiant, you perform the ceremony, help complete the wedding documents and file them with the right vital records division afterward. You’ll need a separate license to perform marriages in most states, but some states list it as one of a Notary’s official duties. The requirements may also vary for religious, non-denominational and civil ceremonies.

Process Server: Stop watching Law & Order and help deliver justice in real life. As a process server, you’ll deliver documents, such as subpoenas, to people involved with court-related matters. You’ll need to do some research into your state’s current laws because you may need to get a background check, file a surety bond, take a test, pay an application fee or pay for a process server license.

As always, review your state’s laws. Don’t forget to check your state, county and city rules about business licenses and operating a business out of your home. You may also want to consult an accountant about your home office setup to make sure you’re following IRS guidelines.

If you’re still on the fence, there are more reasons why you should become a Notary. As a state-appointed public official, you protect consumers by witnessing and authenticating the signing of mortgages, adoption papers and several other crucial transactions. You may find the part-time work so rewarding that you want to transition into offering full-time Notary Public services. Check out our free, step-by-step guide to learn how to become a Notary in your state.

Alternate Income Opportunity: Mobile Exam Proctors

Though the mortgage market is sluggish, there’s a growing field with work potential for Notaries seeking to supplement their primary careers and make extra money — proctoring exams for online students.

Many educational institutions are expanding their curriculum to allow students to take classes and study online. But when it comes to taking tests, it’s still essential to have a physical proctor present to ensure students don’t cheat, said Andrew Davis, program manager for SmarterProctoring, an educational service that helps online school programs locate qualified proctors for their tests.

Davis said that when a student takes tests for an online course, typically the student is required to take the test outside the home — at a library, business or anywhere outside the residence with an Internet connection. To ensure academic integrity, a mobile proctor is typically assigned to meet the student at the testing location. Notaries are well-qualified to serve as proctors.

Though proctoring does not require a Notary commission, many Notaries are background checked, whether through the commissioning process as in California or individually as part of working as a signing agent — and a background check is the key qualification for a proctor. “A background check lets the school know the Notary is a model citizen. The student knows the Notary is trustworthy and can be comfortable,” Davis said.

The typical fee for proctoring an exam is $25-30 per hour. Availability of assignments varies, but can range from 10-20 exams per semester, according to Davis. “I don’t think people will give up their other work for proctoring, but depending on the Notary, it can be a nice way to earn supplemental income,” he said.

SmarterProctoring is currently looking for proctors, and anyone interested should ​register for possible assignments. There is no charge to register, Davis said. Students who need a proctor submit a request, which includes their offered proctor fee and three appointment options. The prospective proctor is then offered the assignment.

A Notary’s Role In Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation

In Montana, as in every other state, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases of elder financial exploitation. What is particularly concerning is that these crimes are often committed with a Notary Public as an active, though sometimes unwitting, accomplice. This is certainly not the role Notaries should play in our society.

One recent case involved an elderly lady with dementia whose son used her power of attorney to sell her home and drain her bank accounts of over $240,000. She was left destitute — dependent on Medicaid and state-funded nursing care — a far cry from the well-planned and comfortable golden years she and her recently deceased husband had worked and saved for during their 60 years of marriage.

How was the Notary involved in this crime? She admitted to the authorities that she had notarized the power of attorney even though the son was forcibly directing his mother to sign the document when she had no idea what she was doing. By the time the crime was discovered, the son had squandered most of the money and left the country. The banks, the title company, and the other institutions involved in this case all absolved themselves of accountability for the same reason: They relied upon the notarized power of attorney as sufficient authorization for the transactions carried out by her “lawful” agent. And the Notary? Her defense was that she thought all she had to do was identify the elderly woman as the signer of the documents.

Protecting the Public

The National Notary Association advocates that Notaries, as public officials, play a key role in protecting the public. In the NNA’s White Paper, “Why Notarization Is More Relevant and Vital Than Ever,” published in 2011, the case was made that Notaries in the 21st century lend credibility and legitimacy to documents requiring the imprimatur of the Notary Public. The final paragraph summed up the message well:

“Properties are conveyed, contracts are honored, adoptions are finalized, estate plans are established and medical wishes are respected — all because documents bearing the authenticating signature and seal of a Notary Public are trusted. The notarial act is the foundation of trust and the Notaries who perform them are Society’s guarantors of integrity and authenticity.”

Those very elements of trust, integrity, and authenticity are called into question by some of the most egregious instances of elder financial exploitation, like the one above.

Sadly, elder financial exploitation is often committed by family members and caregivers — the people who should be most protective of the welfare of these vulnerable individuals. These crimes are particularly heinous because they are deliberate and premeditated, and frequently the damages cannot be recovered in time to help the victims.

A man who claimed to be a caregiver for an elderly gentleman in a small town in Montana is now facing over twenty years in prison for multiple counts of elder abuse and financial exploitation. A friend of the caregiver, who notarized several of the documents purportedly involved in the scheme, is also under investigation for her part in defrauding the victim of assets and property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. At the heart of the state’s prosecution is the contention that the victim was mentally incompetent to handle his affairs, and the caregiver and his accomplice stole his entire estate by means of documents that were forged and fraudulently notarized. The trial is scheduled for early next year.

With the proliferation of identity theft and the billions of dollars in cost to individuals and society at large, Notaries, of course, must diligently focus on demanding the signer’s physical presence and proof of the signer’s identity. That isn’t all though; the Notary should determine that the signer is intentionally signing the document and is aware of what the document is. The NNA’s Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, Guiding Principle III, states:

“The Notary shall require the presence of each signer and oath-taker in order to carefully screen each for identity and willingness, and to observe that each appears aware of the significance of the transaction requiring a notarial act.”

Unfortunately, while Notaries are diligent in assuring that grandma is physically in their presence and is indeed the person named in the documents, they often do not realize that they should apply the standard of reasonable care to assessing grandma’s ability to knowingly and willingly sign those documents as well. Most states’ Notary laws don’t specifically require Notaries to do so. However, to protect the public in general and our eldest citizens in particular, it is imperative that Notaries take the extra step to verify that signers of powers of attorney and other high-value documents have voluntarily signed their names and understood what their documents mean if the trust that is implied by the notarial seal is to be maintained.

There are a number of things that Notaries can do to become a force in preventing elder financial exploitation and abuse.

Become Educated

Professor Emeritus Malcolm Morris of the Northern Illinois University College of Law, in his presentation during the NNA 2014 Conference in Phoenix, issued a challenge for Notaries to educate themselves when he noted that Notaries have the choice to become either “functionaries or professionals.” A functionary does the minimum; a professional takes the time to learn as much about the duties and responsibilities of the office as possible and prepares for handling unusual and complex situations before they arise. This is particularly necessary for preventing elder financial exploitation.

Professional Notaries should become familiar with the kinds of documents most commonly involved in elder exploitation. Learning the differences between the types of powers of attorney (general, limited, durable and medical) and knowing the types of documents that are used to transfer property (quitclaim deeds, deeds of trust/warranty deeds, titles) prepares the Notary to perform the requested notarization with confidence and a basic comprehension of the potential consequences of the document being signed. It’s not necessary to have extensive knowledge about these documents; simply having a general understanding of their purpose creates a strong foundation for the professional Notary, who can then be extra vigilant when signers present themselves
for notarization.

It’s also important for Notaries to recognize that not every situation of possible elder financial exploitation involves the elderly person directly. As shown by the two examples above, the initial fraud occurred when an enabling document — the power of attorney — was negligently or fraudulently signed and then notarized. Subsequently, the document was used by the agent to sign other documents, many requiring notarization, to perpetrate additional crimes.

In order to thwart those secondary frauds, Notaries must know and follow their state’s regulations about verifying an agent’s authority to sign in a representative capacity. Some states, like Montana, require that a Notary must verify the signer’s capacity before notarizing a document signed by an attorney in fact, trustee, or guardian. However, in most states, Notaries are not explicitly required to do this.

It must be noted that some states’ statutes are silent on this matter and other states specifically prohibit Notaries from requesting authorizing documents. Every Notary must know exactly what his or her state expects regarding the verification of an agent’s authority and capacity to sign on behalf of another person or entity, and then must act accordingly.

Assess the Situation

It is often difficult to determine the potential for abuse. Like many of the situations that Notaries face, reality doesn’t always match the model circumstances. Professional Notaries must know what the warning signs are and prepare themselves in advance to deal with the complex and unusual conditions that can occur when dealing with elderly signers or those who are signing on their behalf.

Some of the red flags include:

  • Someone other than the signer requests the notarization
  • You have been told that the signer is sedated or medicated
  • The signer appears confused, lethargic, tired or sleepy
  • The signer appears reluctant to sign the document
  • A friend or family member seems to be pressuring the signer to execute the documents
  • The signer/agent seems to be in a rush or hurry to have the notarization completed

Not every one of the above situations is always a problem, of course; for instance, it’s not that unusual for a person to ask if you will notarize something for a spouse or a friend. Yet when an adult child unknown to the Notary asks the Notary to come to an elderly parent’s home to notarize end of life documents, the Notary should be more alert for signs pointing to the possibility of fraud.

Manage the Notarization

Once the signers present themselves for the notarization, it’s critical for the Notary to assume control of the notarial process by directing it from start to finish. Unless witnesses are needed, the Notary should seriously consider removing everyone but the signer from the room. This offers the Notary a one-on-one opportunity to directly assess the signer’s awareness and intention to sign the document and to confirm that the signer is free from duress or pressure to sign the documents. This experience culminates in the signer either acknowledging his or her signature to the Notary or swearing to any required oath for the notarization.

Remember, performing a notarization is not an Olympic speed event. Points aren’t earned for completing a notarial certificate in record time. Don’t let the customer or other impending duties pressure you into rushing through the process. Take the time necessary to ascertain what you need to know and to explain to the signer what you are doing. Ultimately, this will ensure that you perform the notarization properly.

Create the Record

The final way that Notaries can combat elder financial exploitation is to complete a detailed record of the transaction. The journal entry is the official record of the transaction, and together with the notarial certificate on the document itself, provides confirmation that the document was properly signed or acknowledged in the presence of the Notary by the signer or legally authorized representative, who willingly executed the document for its intended purpose.

A Notary who records the specific details of the event in a journal provides invaluable information should a future challenge arise about the legitimacy of the transaction. It is not necessary to limit the entries in your journal to only those elements required by law or those suggested by best practices. Think of your journal as your diary and include any data that you think might be important if there would ever be a question about the transaction or the notarization. For example, you might want to record that the notarization was requested by the signer’s caregiver; that the caregiver was excused from the room before the notarization took place; who, if anybody else was present; that you visited with the signer for several minutes and determined that he/she was aware of the document, indicated that he/she understood its purpose, and intended to sign it for that purpose. That’s great contemporaneous evidence to complement the notarial certificate!

As the “guarantors of integrity and authenticity” Notaries Public can and should play a critical role in deterring, preventing, and combatting the scourge of elder financial exploitation. A notarized document should always be a shield, not a weapon, in the fight against elder financial abuse.

5 Tips When Notarizing For Medical Patients

Updated 7-10-17. Notarizing for medical patients can be among the most challenging assignments to complete, and often requires far more than basic Notary skills.

Clients in healthcare facilities can be very ill, heavily medicated or otherwise impaired, which means the notarization could require extra time, compassion and skill.

Often, patients who need to sign documents have issues with alertness, positive identification, signing ability and other challenges you won’t find covered in your Notary handbook.

In this setting, clients are at their most vulnerable. They’re often stuck in a room with equipment connected to them that beeps or buzzes; arm bands or leg stockings that squeeze their limbs; and IV bags hanging on poles, etc. They may be lying down, draped in a gown and thin blanket, and not physically or mentally at their finest.

In this situation, they may need significant documents notarized, such as powers of attorney, which gives another person temporary or long-term power to make their medical or financial decisions. Here are tips for notarizing documents for clients in hospitals, hospices and other healthcare facilities:

1. Schedule Extra Time For Hospital Notarizations

Consider total time versus uninterrupted time. After you find parking, which is usually not near the entrance of the facility, you may walk through a maze of hallways and elevators. There will likely be staff interruptions for taking vitals, making notes and conducting medical procedures, such as X-rays and changing IVs. Book a realistic amount of time for the appointment so that you won’t rush the client or be tempted to take shortcuts.

2. Speak To An Alert Signer

You should always make sure your signer is alert and aware of what’s going on before completing the notarization. Engaging your client in everyday conversation, as well as asking casual questions about the document, should help you decide if it is appropriate to proceed. If you are unsure, look to a nurse or social worker to see if there’s anything prohibiting them from signing. Follow the best practice of noting your client’s behavior and awareness in your journal.

If the signer’s family or other visitors are causing any kind of commotion, you might ask them to step out momentarily to ensure the signer is not being pressured or directed.

3. Know Guidelines For Alternatives To Full Signatures

Your client’s medical condition may make signing the document difficult. Make sure you’re familiar with your state’s guidelines regarding alternatives to a full signature. If witnesses are present and available, you may be able to have the patient sign with a mark, such as an “X” or even a thumbprint. If your signer is unable to sign, your state’s laws may allow the patient to direct another person to sign his or her name.

4. Understand The Alternatives To ID Documents

Many patients do not have their ID with them at the hospital, making the task of verifying your signer’s identity challenging. Again, you need to know what your state’s rules and guidelines say about what is acceptable ID — especially what is an acceptable alternative to an identity document. For example, does your state make provisions for the use of credible witnesses to identify a patient? If so, what are the requirements? If not, what other alternatives are there? When in doubt, call the NNA Hotline for assistance.

Taking assignments at medical facilities requires a little extra flexibility. Being fully prepared — down to bringing extra tools such as a clipboard and special pens for patients with arthritic or damaged hands — will go a long way toward making these types of appointments as streamlined and flawless as if performed in an office setting.

5. Know The Requirements Of The Facility

Apart from the Notary-related requirements, it also is helpful to ask about any non-notarial rules so you do not encounter any unexpected obstacles or legal issues that impact the acceptance of the document.

For example, if you go to a nursing home or long-term care facility in California to notarize an Advance Health Care directive, the signing must be witnessed by a patient advocate called an ombudsman. This person ensures that the patient understands what they are signing, is alert and agrees with the health care decisions detailed in the document. Without this special witness, the directive will not be honored at the facility and could be challenged at another facility.

Most other states have similar requirements. So it’s advisable to find out what type of document you’re expected to notarize ahead of time because ombudsmen are not employed by the facility and generally only work by appointment.

Psychiatric and behavioral centers also may have special requirements. Some facilities have policies barring patients from signing documents because they may be in an altered state or taking psychotropic medications. Either of these situations would impair their ability to make informed decisions. Some facilities will not allow you beyond the front desk.

For these assignments, check with the facility directly about their policies. The person hiring you may not be aware of them or may have inaccurate information.

If policy is not an issue, take extra care screening the signer for willingness and awareness, and make sure to document the steps you take in this environment. I ask for a doctor’s verification that the patient can sign for themselves before proceeding.

Notary Tip: How To Be Prepared For Signers With Special Needs

Over the years, I have notarized many documents for signers with physical impairments and other special needs. Those experiences taught me that I need more than my Notary stamp and journal to accommodate the requirements of the notarization.

It’s always important to be familiar with your state’s requirements and guidelines for dealing with special needs signers. But without a few additional tools, the notarization might come to a halt. Here are a few items I keep with me to be prepared for signers with different needs.

Visually Impaired Signers

One of the more common challenges with visually impaired signers is helping them to sign in the right space — on the document and in your journal. A signature guide card will help with this. This card is about the size of a business card and has the bottom third open to expose the document signature area. This creates a small lip around the space for the signature that the signer can feel with their pen to help them stay in the space without assistance. A signature card can typically be obtained from a support group for the visually impaired.

Physically Impaired Signers

Those who cannot sign their names due to physical impairment may sign with a mark instead. For the Notary, the most important tool in these situations is your state Notary handbook or similar reference. Having the contact information for the NNA Hotline also can be very helpful. That’s because the requirements for signature by mark can be very specific. For example, how many witnesses are required to observe the signing? Are the witnesses required to sign the document or the Notary’s journal? What are the requirements for noting the signature by mark on the document? Is a signature by proxy allowed for signers who cannot make a mark?

If the signer is physically unable to make a mark with a pen, they still may use a thumbprint or fingerprint as their mark. So it would be helpful to have an ink pad ready.

If your state requires you to include a statement about how the document was signed, you can generally meet that requirement by purchasing a stamp with the necessary wording.

Hearing Impaired

In notarizing for the hearing impaired, it is important to confirm I can communicate directly with my signer. If an interpreter is required then I am not the Notary for them. However, if they can write notes to me, then I can notarize their signature. So it’s a good idea to always carry a pen and notepad with you.


Many seniors do not need extra accommodation just because they are older. But I keep these tools in my bag just in case they do:

  • Extra-large-barrel pens and other ergonomically designed writing instruments, such as Penagains;
  • Over-the-counter reading classes 2.0 and 3.0; and
  • A clipboard, for those times when your signer cannot sit at a desk or table.

You may not need these tools when dealing with signers with special needs. But if you have them available, you’ll be able to handle most situations that arise.

Laura Biewer owns At Your Service Mobile Notary in Modesto, California. She also teaches seminars for the National Notary Association and is a regular presenter at the NNA’s annual Conferences.

Related Articles:

Ensuring Successful Notarizations For Hospital And Rehab Patients

A Notary’s Role In Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation

What Would You Do Answers: When A Signer Says She Didn’t Want To Sign

Additional Resources:

NNA Webinars: Commonly Asked Questions

State Law Summaries

Notary Law Primer