One of the keystones of notarization is the proper identification of the signer. The notary must always be totally and completely satisfied as to the identity of the signer before proceeding with the notarization. However, in today’s pandemic world of CDC mandated mask-wearing, identifying a signer can be extremely problematic.
While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has given the public legitimate reasons to wear a face covering, every notary public still must be able to positively identify the signer and be satisfied that the person appearing before the notary public is the person described on the identification presented. If the notary is unable to positively identify the person appearing before them due to a face covering, before proceeding with the signing, the face covering should be temporarily removed to allow the notary to fully identify the signer. The notary should be prepared to explain that the law requires every notary public to visually confirm that an individual’s appearance matches the photo on his or her identification.
An authentic notary public must be able to reasonably conclude that the individual performing any signing is the person who is named in the document requiring notarization. If uncomfortable with the transaction, the notary should advise the individual that he or she is unable to proceed with the signing due to the lack of positive identification.
It is important to keep in mind that some states have enacted temporary Covid rules that apply to notarizations, and these rules may have provisions related to face coverings. For this reason, notaries should always consult their own state’s laws and commissioning authorities for specific questions regarding identification of persons who are wearing a face-covering.
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