“Notarizing on behalf of a patient who is under the influence of drugs is a NO – NO!”
Early evening on Monday, March 28, 2016, the Granddaughter of a Greenville Memorial Intensive Care Unit patient called into the notary lines regarding a fairly urgent Durable Power of Attorney. Not knowing the outcome of the situation, the Granddaughter said she had her relative’s paperwork in hand and could be back to the hospital within the hour.
When visiting a hospital or any other type of facility where the person signing is a patient, there are several situations notaries public SHOULD be aware of before agreeing to notarize documents for a patient.
1) Incapacitation – There have been situations where a signer could not ‘voice’ their willingness to sign. And by voice, I do not mean a physical voice; just because a signer cannot physically speak or physically sign does not mean they are incapacitated. In ‘voice’, I mean, after evaluating the situation, they appear as though they are aloof, don’t understand what’s going on with the documents presented and seem to be in another place.
Some notaries conduct certain social tests, some confer with a chaplain, social worker or a patient care representative familiar with the patient to ensure they are of Sound Mind.
2) Physical Inability to Sign – Some would think that this would cause a major problem. However, this does not. In the State of South Carolina, a designee or the Notary Public, if the patient desiginates them to, has the ability to sign on behalf of the Principal if they are physically unable to sign (use of hands/fingers is limited or non-existent). For more information on this, please refer to either an attorney or the official State of South Carolina Notary Public Manual.
3) Duress – Oftentimes, family members take advantage of sick, shut-in or hospitalized loved ones. When a loved one is coerced or forced to sign a document, or made to feel uncomfortable in signing paperwork, this is considered Duress.
4) Medication – Yes, there are HIPAA laws that prevent the release of certain medically related information, so it’s important to ask your signer (or relative if it’s appropriate) if your signer has recently taken any mind-altering drugs, or drugs that would make them less aware of their surroundings.
5) Conflict of Interest – Many documents available can be signed by relatives as witnesses, however there are a few to watch out for, as they may present a potential or present actual conflicts of interest. It happens quite a bit, a relative will call regarding a patient. They are usually the one that will act as the patient’s agent. They will have another party related to the signer in tow and inquire whether it’s a good fit for their relative to witness the signing. What do you think? In the comment section below, state why or why not having relatives sign for other relatives as witnesses would be good or bad.
Today’s Durable Power of Attorney signing was conducted by GreenvilleNotary.com Owner and Certified Notary Public Signing Agent Sonita M. Leak at a Private ICU wing of Greenville Memorial Hospital, 701 Grove Road, Greenville, SC 29605. One witness was needed and was acquired for this assignment.