Fraudulent acts are committed by a relative or caregiver of a property owner. In many cases, they involve family disputes. There have been reports of children stealing their parents’ property, people attempting to co-opt inheritances from their siblings, and people attempting to defraud their spouses. To transfer ownership, the scammers create fake documents, including fraudulent or incorrect notarizations.
Unlike in many other parts of the country, California’s laws and real estate practices make it very easy to fraudulently transfer property title. When a document is recorded, it becomes part of the official title chain, and the new owner—legitimate or not—can obtain loans or even sell the property. The statute of limitations is relatively short (three years for forgery and two years for fraud) and has frequently expired by the time the victim realizes his home is no longer in his name.
What Are Fraudulent Transfers in California?
Fraud transfers include signed documents that allow a creditor to seize the debtor’s assets or force the debtor to pay the debt from their income. Some judgment debtors decide to hide or dispose of their assets after learning that judgment collection methods will allow the creditor to seize their assets. Debtors, for example, may transfer their assets. This could be to relatives, friends, or legal entities, simply place the assets under false names, or burden their assets with fictitious debts. Debtors may engage in such schemes, the courts and legislature have long recognized. As a result, the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act provides remedies for creditors who face this issue.
Making a mistake during a notarization can have serious financial and legal ramifications for California Notaries, and breaking the law on purpose can result in even harsher penalties. This guide will assist Notaries in becoming acquainted with the Golden State’s Notary laws and penalties for misconduct.
Notary Misconduct Penalties in California
If a Notary commits an infraction, the penalties under California law are divided into four categories:
- Civil Penalties Disciplinary Action by the Secretary of State
- Penalties for crime
It is critical to understand that misconduct can result in multiple penalties for a Notary. For example, if a Notary is found negligent for failing to properly complete and seal an acknowledgment on a real estate document, the Secretary of State may impose a civil penalty as well as suspend or revoke the Notary’s commission. Furthermore, if the Notary’s error resulted in a financial loss for the signer, the signer could sue the Notary to recover any damages incurred as a result of the faulty notarization.
Intentionally violating state Notary laws (“willful misconduct”) carries significantly harsher penalties than unintentional violations (“negligence”).
How Can Fraudulent Notaries Be Avoided?
A Notary misconduct can be avoided by the following steps:
1. Never skip or disregard required laws, such as a signer’s personal appearance or presenting proof of identity when notarizing.
2. Double-check that any certificate wording is complete and accurate. Never agree to backdate a certificate or provide false or incorrect information.
3. For each notarization, ensure that you record all required information in your journal entry.
4. When not in use, keep your seal and journal in a locked, secure location.
5. Never give unauthorized legal advice or select a notarial act for a signer.
Contact a Los Angeles Attorney Today
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