Q: There is a quit claim deed that was signed and notarized. The deed states that the notary witnessed a certain person who stood before him and signed the deed.
Here’s the problem: I have in my possession a death certificate that shows this person (not the notary) was dead one year before supposedly signing the quit claim deed.
Did the notary do something wrong and what happens now?
A: It’s possible that the notary did not do his duty as a notary. A notary is required to review some form of identification that verifies that a person signing a document matches the identification.
If a notary fails in his or her job as a notary and does not take the required precautions to make sure the proper person is signing a document, the notary may be liable for his failure to properly verify the identity of the person who signed a document.
In some states the notary’s liability may be limited and may not be nearly enough to cover the expenses and costs that someone else might incur as a result of the notary’s failure to properly confirm the identity of the person signing a document.
But a notary may not have a duty to ascertain whether the identification presented is not a forgery. Generally, if a person comes before the notary and presents identification that the notary believes to be accurate, the notary has probably satisfied his or her duties as a notary.
Some states are requiring more and more of notaries. Some states now require notaries to not only review the person’s identification but also fingerprint the person signing the document. While notaries are the first line of defense against fraud, it’s not a foolproof system.
Your case isn’t unique. There have been many cases of fraudulent transactions involving quit claim deeds. If the quit claim deed purportedly transferred title to a property that you had an interest in or would have had an interest in, you might have to take legal action to protect the property or to protect any interest you might have had in that property.
If you are in a position that your interests in the property could have been compromised, please consult with a real estate attorney.
Sept. 11, 2008.