- March 28, 2022

POWERS OF ATTORNEY

We are often asked to notarize powers of attorney (POAs). The problem is that there are many ways to notarize a document. Sometimes clients ask us to “just stamp it”. Please note that our seals and stamps are not arbitrary. They must always be accompanied by some sort of statement. We cannot “just stamp” a document.

Let’s explore all the ways that a power of attorney can be notarized:

1) WITNESSING THE SIGNATURE OF THE EXECUTANT

The Executant is the person that is giving away power to someone else. We can notarize an original POA by stating that we witnessed the executant sign it. For this to happen, the Executant has to attend our office with government-issued photo ID and sign in front of us.

WITNESSES

Some powers of attorney do not require witnesses, only a notary’s signature. If that’s the case, bring your POA to our office along with ID that matches the name on you POA and sign it in front of the notary.

However, most powers of attorney, and in particular Ontario powers of attorney, require two witnesses. This means that the executant needs to bring at least one person with them to the office to witness the executant’s signature. The notary can be the other witness, in most cases. In some cases, the POA will require two witnesses in addition to a notarization. That means that you have to bring two witnesses with you.

Please note that your witness has to be a disinterested party that does not stand to gain from you signing the power of attorney. This means that the person you are giving power to cannot be the witness. In many cases, your spouse, child, parent, also cannot act as a witness.

The witness requirements will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from recipient to recipient. Therefore, we urge you to find out the requirements prior to attending our office. Walk-In Notary cannot advise you as to the requirements of your POA because that would constitute legal advice, which we cannot provide. Furthermore, it would be impossible for us to contact and/or learn about the requirements of every type of recipient in every country. We have notarized thousands of POAs that have gone to hundreds of different countries, all with different requirements.

CAN THE WITNESSES SIGN AT DIFFERENT TIMES AND/OR AT DIFFERENT PLACES?

Take a look at this example that can be found at the bottom of many POAs that we come across regularly:

This structure implies that two witnesses are required as well as a notary. The “Before” implies that the notary is to sign in that section. However, by looking at the document all we can do is guess that this is the intention of the recipient and/or whoever drafted the document. That said, let’s assume that in this example you received confirmation that the Executant has to sign in front of two witnesses as well as a Notary Public. The question that comes up is: does everyone have to sign at the same time? The answer is that it depends on the requirements of the recipient. In most cases, from our experience, the most prudent thing to do is to have everyone (Executant, two witnesses, and Notary) sign at the same time and place. However, sometimes this is not possible, or it’s inconvenient. If that’s the case, we urge you to first contact the recipient and obtain confirmation that you can sign in front of a notary and at a later time and place sign again in front of two witnesses, or vice versa (witnesses first then notary).

2) CERTIFIED COPY OF THE POWER OF ATTORNEY

In this case we would make a photocopy of an original POA and state on the photocopy that the copy is a true copy of the original which we have seen. Anyone can bring the original POA for us to certify because we do not need to witness anyone’s signature.

Which is the right method? Should you choose 1 or 2? Or all?

This depends entirely on what you are trying to accomplish and/or what a third-party has requested from you. For example, banks often require a certified copy of a POA for their records. They might instruct you to “Notarize the POA”. If that is the case, seek clarification. Ask: “Do you want me to have a notary witness the signature of the executor or do you want me to have the notary make a copy of the original POA and certify that the copy is a true copy of the original?”

Please note, that in the example above, the Notary will not know what the bank wants from you. You have to find out. At Walk-In Notary, we do not contact third parties (i.e. the recipient) on your behalf. And without communicating with the recipient there is no way to know exactly what they require. You can read more about our policies and requirements on our instructions page.

Finally, please note that you can learn more about Ontario’s POA requirements on the ministry website.

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