The bitter divorce trial between power couple Frank and Jamie McCourt has captured headlines because the prize in the proceedings is ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball team. But testimony from a family attorney underscores the importance of notarization and demonstrates the tangle that can occur when the highest standards of professional care and ethical conduct are not followed.
Attorney Larry Silverstein admitted under oath that he altered a post-nuptial agreement after it was signed and notarized. The one-word change would give Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers. The fact that the agreement had been notarized helped establish a timeline for events and shined the light on the attorney’s actions, which he claimed were intended to correct an honest mistake. But the whole point of following proper procedure as well as legal and ethical standards is to make sure our actions can stand up to scrutiny and imbue transactions with greater trustworthiness and reliability.
If a material change is made to a contract or agreement that has already been signed and notarized, the document would have to be re-signed and notarized again. Re-notarization would be important to ensure that both parties were signing the agreement willingly without duress and that they understood what they were signing.
This case has brought to light the importance of a notarized agreement and what can happen when a small change is made without the client’s knowledge. Not only is this the wrong thing to do, it can cause substantial problems to the client and the attorney. When you sign a document before a notary, it is always a good idea to make a copy of what you signed so there can be no questions later about the document.
- Jamie McCourt questions whether estranged husband should pursue Dodgers, CFO testifies (theglobeandmail.com)
- After Judge Picks Owner, Dodgers’ Ills May Persist (nytimes.com)
- Key witness testifies at McCourt divorce trial (cbc.ca)