In the wake of the robo-signing scandal and National Mortgage Settlement, states have been tightening laws to better prevent fraud and abuse of real estate documents. A new law in California, effective January 1, 2013, requires Notaries to obtain a signer’s thumbprint for their journals for any document affecting real property.Previously, California required Notaries to obtain a signer’s thumbprint in the journal entry when notarizing deeds, quitclaim deeds and deeds of trust affecting real property, or any power of attorney document. AB 2636 expands the thumbprint requirement to a broader category of any “document affecting real property,” as well as prohibiting the use of proofs of execution by subscribing witnesses on documents affecting real property.However the new law does not specify the definition of “affecting real property” or provide a list of documents that would fall under the new law’s provisions.Because a broad range of documents could fall into the category of “affecting real property,” Notaries may not always be able to clearly determine if a document being notarized requires a journal thumbprint. One option is for Notaries to simply request a thumbprint for all documents notarized as a general policy. However, Notaries cannot require thumbprints for all documents. An NNA webinar available online explains the new law and provides tips for identifying documents that involve real property, and the new edition of the 2013 California Notary Law Primer, available now, provides steps to determine if a document affects real property and includes a partial list of known real property documents.
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