A recent call on the Free Legal Services Program that I operate for members of the Big I posed an interesting question. What are the obligations of a notary public when asked to notarize the new Form WC-10 that became effective on January 1, 2013? As many of my readers are probably aware, that form is used for the election or rejection of workers compensation coverage by officers of corporations, members of limited liability companies, sole proprietors, and partners of partnerships. As of January 1, 2013, the execution of that form must be notarized.
My caller, who was also a notary, had been presented with a telefax copy of a signed form WC-10 by one of his customers and had been asked to notarize that document. My gut reaction to whether that could be legally done was no, if for no other reason than the signature he was being asked to notarize was not an original one. However, if the signature had been an original one would that have made a difference? My research revealed that the Georgia code section on notary publics provides that a notary “shall confirm the identity of the document signer, oath taker, or affirmant based on personal knowledge or on satisfactory evidence.” I also came across a Georgia Supreme Court decision that seemed to indicate that the person signing the document in question must appear in person before the notary.
My caller pointed out the practical difficulty of requiring every customer who signs the new form WC-10 to appear in person before him before he could notarize the form. Requiring the customer to have the form notarized before returning it to him also had its practical difficulties. But it appears to me that, to be safe, one of these two things should be done. For those agents who are also notary publics or have one in your offices, the violation of the notary public law is a misdemeanor, which can be punished by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.00. It is also questionable whether the form WC-10 would be considered valid if it is not properly notarized, so the customer may also have the basis for an E&O claim.
I would like to hear from you about your experiences with the new form WC-10. What are your customers asking you to do and how are you responding to their requests? Post a comment and lets have a discussion.