As a notary you have to keep in mind that the signatures you witness are obtained willingly without coercion and in full consciousness of all parties involved.
Naturally, this proves to be a challenge when it comes to hospitalized or terminally ill patients. It is further complicated by the fact that these patients, who have significant health issues, do need crucial documents notarized, such as:
- Advance directives/ Health care directives
- Living wills
- Powers of attorney
And, less importantly:
- Bank statements
- Estate Planning Documents
The former relate to their health care directly as they determine the future course of their medical treatment. The latter are necessary to settle their financial affairs in their temporary or permanent absence.
Notarizing these documents for medical patients requires a different, less formal set of protocols and a lot of patience. It is important to remember that you may also come across people not in a state of full consciousness.
Before you set out for a hospital notarization, here are some things to consider.
Be Patient and Follow Protocol
Hospitals come with their own set of protocols and interruptions. It is advisable to contact the facility you’re visiting beforehand and familiarize yourself with their policies and timings.
Similarly, remember that at any point during your visit an admitted patient might be taken for medical procedures or staff might interrupt you to take vitals, etc. Thus, you need to take out extra time for this appointment.
If you are visiting any long-term care facility in California, an ombudsman will also need to be present to witness any signing.
Adhere to California State’s Laws for Physically Impaired Patients
If a person is in no capacity to sign their name due to their medical condition, several alternatives can be followed depending on the situation.
The patient can mark an “X” on the document. This act needs to be performed in the presence of two witnesses, who will both also sign a confirmation of having witnessed the act.
For this procedure, three other people need to be present apart from the patient. These include an attorney, a disinterested party— the amanuensis—, and a relative of the patient. The amanuensis will take diction from the patient and sign their name on their behalf. The relative of the patient is present to ensure that the patient did indeed give their consent.
This is reserved for cases where the patient does not have the required mental capacity to sign. A petition is lodged with the Superior Court whereby the judge’s order takes the place of the patient’s signature.
In some cases, you might also need to make a video of the entire procedure to prove the willingness of the signatory.
Keeping in mind all the legal notarization requirements in California in an already complicated situation can be burdensome. SLO Notary has an abundance of resources to assist you regarding notarization.