I guess my question is the following:
I was presented with a will that needed to be notarized. There were 2 witnesses. Since I’m notarizing two signatures, and TX law says $6 per signature and $1 for each additional, would I be charging $7 total? Or do you charge more for witnesses? I read on someone’s website that they charged $20 for each witness. Could that be correct?
You have to follow your state notary laws to determine notarial fees - you’ll also need to know if your laws allow a notary to charge a travel fee (if travel applies) and a fee for time and such.
Now - you said two witnesses - were you notarizing both witnesses’ signatures (such as in a self-proving affidavit)
Texas law states " notaries can charge no more than $6 for the first acknowledgement, $1 for each additional signature, $6 for oaths and $0.50 per 100 words of a deposition."
So, reading this - if you are notarizing the witneses’ signatures, it looks to me like you can charge $6 for notarizing the Testator’s signature, $1 for each witness signature notarized - $8; HOWEVER, you are authorized to charge $6 per oath, and the self-serving affidavit requires oaths - so an additional $12 for a total of $20 plus any travel/service fee your state allows you to charge.
That $20 that was cited elsewhere may be if the notary supplies the witness - he/she may charge a fee to be paid to that witness, which many do.
Good luck - hope this helps. Honestly I’d check with your SOS for clarification - or with a TX notary association who may be able to help
You may wish to consider whether you will even get involved in notarizing wills. If the will were drawn up by a lawyer, one would expect someone in the law office would have notarized it. So if the person with the will is coming to you, that suggests it wasn’t drawn up by a lawyer. After the person dies, if the will doesn’t accomplish what the person intended, the heirs (or people who think they should have been heirs) are apt to sue everyone who had anything to do with the will, including you.
But as long as the notary didn’t draft the will, and they performed their notarial duties correctly, I don’t see how they can be held liable.
Our SOS issued a statement some years ago that, yes, we are authorized to notarize wills, but just be careful not to give advice or opinions about the will and yes, it’s best that the will is drawn by an attorney.
Getting named in a lawsuit can be an expensive proposition, even if one is ultimately not found to be liable. So I would avoid any situation that I think has a higher-than-average risk of being sued.
I, myself, refuse to notarize last will and testaments. Too much of a risk that an aggrieved family member who was left out, and files suit against everyone involved … including the notary for failure to follow due diligence. As far as I know, banks, libraries and town clerks do likewise. Most likely not covered by your E&O insurance.
If Banks, Libraries and Town Clerks do likewise, then who is left to notarize a will. Our job as professionals, in most cases certified signing agents, and often with a background in Title, Mortgage or Finance qualifies us, better than most, to competently notarize a last will. Unless an egregious error is made by the notary, they are the last person the family will look to sue, any attorney would discourage that suit based on the fact that they likely won’t win in court and not much is to be gained if they did. If due diligence was taken and the we are careful to follow procedure, the laws of our State and employ good ethics, there is no reason we should refuse to notarize wills. We do a disservice to our potential client and the community at large when we shy away from that which we are trained to do because of a litigious society. It amazes me how frequently I hear complaining in our industry about fees, the lack thereof and those greedy signing agencies and then I see our community discourage notaries from taking the tough jobs for fear of lawsuit of some other overly cautious perception. Nothing risked, nothing gained and that saying is true in our business. If I were in the community JohnCrown describes, I would specialize on last wills and corner the market on them, assuming there is a large enough market to be had. Don’t be afraid to do what we were trained to do. If everyone who was in a line of work that had large liability risks refused to do their job for risk of liability, who would be left to to those jobs?
Just an aside, E&O insurance is inexpensive and so is liability. Buy a policy and take all work in the field.
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