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New York State Assembly Considers Amending Notary Law to Combat Deed Fraud

he New York State Assembly (A10156) and Senate (S9404) have introduced bills to amend Executive Law §137, by adding a section concerning notaries’ obligations for documents  conveying residential real property

The provision, as presently drafted, would require that the notary engage in a “colloquy” or series of questions with the transferor before notarizing the document.  The questions and answers must be taken down and signed by both the notary and the principal whose signature is being acknowledged, and failure to do so would render the document void. Among other thing, the eight-question colloquy asks the conveying party to confirm that the party understands it is transferring ownership of the property in question for consideration and without duress.

The purpose of the bill is to try to combat deed fraud by legislating that a notary must confirm that the party conveying title understands the ramifications of executing the document. While it is doubtful a party at the closing would openly state under such circumstances that they are under duress, the law may, if approved in its current form, or one substantially similar, help avert instances where people execute documents they do not understand.

While the extent to which these requirements would help combat fraud cannot be known, it is clear that such a law would create a heavy burden on the notary to ask these questions, and potentially cause notaries to be more thorough and maintain notes on the transaction should a question arise in the future concerning the validity of the colloquy and the document transferring title.  It is also possible that some notaries will decline to notarize real estate documents rather than incur this additional burden.  We will continue to monitor the status of this bill and provide an update should it be enacted.