If you are an Idaho notary or resident you have probably heard of the fiasco that has now been dubbed “the Shasta Signing”.
For those unaware, an Idaho notary, who shall remained unnamed, signed a document transferring legal title of a house from a daughter to her father.
Why is This Even News?
Fortunately, that one is settled. The daughter who transferred title to the home was not the owner of the home. So, obviously, under law she can’t transfer title to something she does not own.
The big problem is there has been a ton of misinformation spread around the notary’s obligations for a signing like this. The biggest being that the notary is responsible for verifying the provenance of the title. We all know that is not true, that is the job of a title company. They are the ones who verify ownership, and are willing and able to to back up their findings.
While at some point the title company will use a notary, the notary is responsible for the signing itself, not determining chain of title going back 50 years.
How MisInformation is Spread
The first and biggest source of misinformation, in some cases, can be the victim or the alleged perpetrators lawyers. Spurious claims can be spread quickly and easily as news organizations pick up quotes, even if the substance claimed in those quotes are incorrect.
Then, the Shasta Signing has caused a lot of public outrage. There are numerous op-eds and letters to the editors that spread different information, much of it people trying to correct the person before them.
* We want to make it clear we are not blaming someone who writes a letter to the editor for being misinformed, and we are not claiming bad intent on anyone. *
Anyways, the internet quickly fills with contradicting information, and those without specific knowledge of the law, I guess the average person, either does not know what to believe, or they believe the first source (maybe the only) they got information from.
When Can a Perfectly Legal Act Become a Liability?
So you’ve done your job to the highest standard. Followed all of the rules, verified ID and witness, and anything and everything else required.
So that means I’m in the clear, right?
This is how a civil lawyer works. They find the person, persons, or entities that have the most money, and the most to lose, and they levy accusations against them. Because a civil victory isn’t very satisfying when there is no monetary reward at the end, and they know that just making allegations can get people to settle out of court, to avoid bad publicity.
So a notary that has done their job perfectly, like most of you reading this, might simply become a target based on income.
And How Do I Become a Target?
In a perfect world, you shouldn’t.
But when a signing like the Shasta Signing goes wrong, it becomes way bigger than the signing.
I mean, you can’t blame the victims. Someone tried to steal their home from under them, they’ve been grievously wronged, and they are just trying to find the best way to legally defend themselves.
But, when the notary ends up being accused of “conspiracy to commit fraud” everything gets turned upside down. And when media accounts and other sources are not as informed as they should be, I don’t know that calling it a headache is a strong enough statement.
And while we have found nothing in our research that would indicate the notary did anything wrong, they still ended up with a target on their back.
So How Do I Protect Myself from Becoming the Next Shasta Signing?
When dealing with actual signings, besides our advice to avoid anything that seems hinky, we don’t know that there is much you can do. You cannot see the future.
And con artists are good at what they do. It’s not feasible to believe you could spot a good one.
Well, that’s not very helpful, is it?
So instead of trying to be the next Nostradamus, we should instead focus on limiting our liability. Fortunately, there is a business type called an LLC, or Limited Liability Corporation, that is there for us.
An LLC protects your personal assets. That is the biggest reason to have an LLC, versus being an independent contractor, though there are other advantages. The biggest thing you need to know about an LLC, in terms of protecting yourself, is called Piercing the Veil. We would recommend anyone who does not already understand it, to visit the link and learn about it. And if you have any questions about it, ask.
If I was an independent contractor, and could afford to instead become an LLC, I would seriously consider it. Costs vary by state, but in many, the cost is less than $500 a year, and that often includes additional services for your business. For example, I spoke with one of our mobile notaries in North Carolina, and they said it costs them about $400 a year, which also includes a registered agent, among other services. They said that they only have to file one piece of paperwork a year for the state, and the service takes care of the rest, even sending them reminders for the document they do need to fill out.
And remember, any costs in this area for the LLC are tax deductible.
We wish we could tell you that you could 100% prevent yourself from becoming the next Shasta Signing. But, as most things with business, nothing is really ever perfect, so we do our job to the best of our abilities.
I think an old adage says it best “Hope for the Best, but Prepare for the Worst”.
Don’t miss Part 2 of the Shasta Signing