When it comes to notarizing documents in California, thorough inspection is not just a good practice; it’s the law. (Government Code section 8205 [A][2])  As a notary, ensuring the integrity and completeness of the documents you handle protects all parties involved including you. A document should not be able to change or be altered once Notarized.

When inspecting a document for completeness we are looking for:

  1. Blank Spaces
  2. Missing Pages
  3. Non-Legal corrections

If any of these are found you will need to inform the signer you can not Notarize incomplete documents. Warning! Do not inform them how to complete the document, this can be seen as the unlawful practice of law! Let them know the document is incomplete and that once it is complete you would be happy to Notarize it. 

How do we inspect the document for these flaws?

1. Identifying and Addressing Blank Spaces

Blank spaces in a document can be a significant red flag. They might indicate areas where information was inadvertently omitted or where someone could later add unauthorized content. Here’s how to handle them:

  • Review Each Page: Carefully scan each page for blank spaces, especially in critical sections like dates, dollar amounts and important clauses.
  • Note that sections to be used by the county clerk or signature lines of non-present signers may remain blank and you can still notarize the document.

2. Ensuring All Pages Are Present

Missing pages can compromise the integrity of the document and its enforceability. Here are steps to ensure completeness:

  • Count the Pages: Number the pages before starting the notarization process and confirm that the total matches what is expected.
  • Check Continuity: Look for signs of missing pages, such as inconsistent numbering, missing sections, or references to content not present in the document.

4. Identifying Non-Legal Corrections

Non-legal corrections, such as redactions or alterations made outside of proper legal channels, can compromise the document’s validity. Here’s how to spot and handle them:

  • Examine for Alterations: Look for signs of changes, such as white-out, blacked-out text, or handwritten modifications.
  • Verify Legality: Confirm whether any corrections have been made legally, with proper documentation and authorization.
  • Document Anomalies: Note any questionable corrections and discuss them with the signer. If necessary, refuse to notarize until the document is corrected or clarified.

As a notary, your role is crucial in safeguarding the authenticity and legality of documents. By diligently inspecting for blank spaces, missing information, missing pages, and non-legal corrections, you ensure that the documents you notarize are complete and trustworthy. This meticulous attention to detail not only protects the parties involved but also upholds the standards of your profession. Always remember, a thorough inspection today can prevent legal headaches tomorrow.