Rusty and Penny Keys were selling one of their homes in Oregon. They currently reside in Canada, although they are U.S. Citizens. In anticipation of closing, their escrow officer set up an appointment with a Company approved mobile notary to meet them just across the border in Seattle, to sign and acknowledge their closing documents.
The seller's' plans changed. They were unable to travel to Seattle for signing because they had very sick kids at home. Mr. Keys asked his escrow officer if they could simply go to their bank to sign in front of a notary public there in Canada. The escrow officer agreed and overnighted the closing documents to the Keys at their home in Canada, so they could take them to their bank for acknowledgment.
As part of the closing package the escrow officer included a return label so the sellers could send the originals directly back to her. However, the originals were not returned to the escrow office. Instead, the documents were returned to a notary who works at an investment firm just down the street from the escrow branch in Oregon.
The listing agent's assistant picked up the documents from the notary and delivered them to the escrow branch. When the escrow officer received the documents, she noticed that the notary had notarized the documents two days earlier, on May 3, 2017. This did not seem possible, so the escrow officer decided to track the package using the tracking number still attached to the shipping envelope.
The escrow officer discovered the package left Canada on May 3, 2017. She knew something was wrong. According to the tracking information the package was delivered to the notary on May 5, 2017. The notary even signed for the package. How could the Keys have appeared in front of the notary two days earlier if she had not even received the package yet? The escrow officer escalated the situation to her manager.
The manager reviewed the tracking information and compared the sellers' signatures to the signatures on the deed of trust they signed when they purchased the property. The signature by Mrs. Keys on the deed of trust looked nothing like the signature on the recently executed deed.
The manager discovered the office never had any direct contact with Mrs. Keys — only her husband. They were given a cell phone number for Mrs. Keys but every time they called, it went straight to voice mail. It looked all too suspicious and appeared the Keys did not personally appear in front of the notary.
The manager took the time to review the Company's underwriting policies with the escrow officer. She pointed out to the escrow officer the manner in which the documents were acknowledged did not comply with Company policy. For this reason alone, despite their other suspicions, the documents would have to be re–executed.
The escrow officer and manager contacted Mr. Keys, and explained to him the documents had to be re–executed. The documents would have to be notarized by a notary from Bancserv here in the states.
The escrow officer and manager provided detailed instructions to Mr. Keys, stating both he and his wife must appear in front of the notary, and they each must provide an original, government issued identification which included their picture, personal description and signature on it to the notary.
An appointment was set for the Keys to sign with a mobile notary through Bancserv. Both Mr. and Mrs. Keys appeared in front of the notary. They were properly identified by the notary.
The documents were executed and the transaction successfully closed. As an added measure, the escrow officer and her manager compared Mrs. Keys' signature on the newly executed deed and found it did match her signature on the deed of trust in the chain of title.
MORAL OF THE STORY
Know the Company's policies and procedures and be sure to adhere to them. In this example, it is possible the policy avoided a potential claim of forgery. If unsure about the proper steps to take, do not hesitate to contact the National Escrow Administration team at firstname.lastname@example.org for further guidance.
This article was provided by contributing author, Diana Hoffman.