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Attorney States vs. Escrow States for Loan Signing Agents

Understanding Attorney States vs. Escrow States for Loan Signing Agents

The role of a loan signing agent is crucial in the real estate transaction process. These professionals are responsible for facilitating the signing of important documents between the borrower and lender. However, the way a loan signing agent operates can differ significantly depending on whether they are in an "Attorney State" or an "Escrow State." Understanding these differences is essential for anyone in the notary business, especially those who aim to specialize as loan signing agents.

What is an Attorney State?

In an Attorney State, only a licensed attorney is allowed to conduct the closing of real estate transactions. This means that the attorney is responsible for preparing and reviewing all the legal documents, explaining the terms to the parties involved, and ensuring that all laws and regulations are followed. Loan signing agents in Attorney States often have a more limited role, primarily focusing on notarizing signatures rather than conducting the entire closing process. ( Attorney States vs Escrow States)

Scenario in an Attorney State

Let's say you're a loan signing agent in Massachusetts, an Attorney State. You're called to a closing where an attorney is present. Your role would be to verify the identity of the parties involved, ensure they understand what they're signing, and notarize the documents. The attorney, on the other hand, would handle explaining the terms of the loan, the legal implications, and any state-specific requirements.

Let's take a closer look: Example: Refinancing a Home in Massachusetts (An Attorney State)


John and Sarah, a married couple, decide to refinance their home in Massachusetts to take advantage of lower interest rates. They contact their bank, which approves them for the refinance. Because Massachusetts is an Attorney State, a licensed attorney must oversee the closing process. The attorney prepares all the necessary documents, including the new mortgage agreement, disclosure forms, and other legal paperwork.

Role of the Loan Signing Agent:

The attorney's office contacts a loan signing agent to assist with the closing. The loan signing agent's role is more limited in scope compared to an Escrow State. They are primarily responsible for verifying the identity of John and Sarah and ensuring that all documents are signed and notarized correctly.


1. Preparation: The loan signing agent reviews the list of documents that need to be signed and notarized. They also confirm the appointment time and location with the attorney's office.

2. Verification: Upon arrival, the loan signing agent verifies the identities of John and Sarah using acceptable forms of identification, such as driver's licenses or passports.

3. Document Presentation: The attorney explains the terms of the loan and the legal implications of each document to John and Sarah. The loan signing agent is present during this time but does not offer any legal advice.

4. Signing and Notarizing: After the attorney's explanation, John and Sarah proceed to sign the documents. The loan signing agent notarizes the signatures where required, ensuring that the signers are willingly and knowingly entering into the agreement.

5. Completion: The loan signing agent organizes the signed and notarized documents, making sure everything is in order. They then hand over the documents to the attorney for final review and filing.

6. Payment and Records: The loan signing agent receives payment for their services, either through the attorney's office or directly from John and Sarah, depending on the arrangement. They also keep a record of the notarial acts performed, as required by law.

In this example, the loan signing agent plays a crucial but limited role in the closing process. They act as an impartial witness to the signing, ensuring that the documents are executed correctly. Even though they don't oversee the entire closing, their role is vital in ensuring the legality and validity of the transaction.

What is an Escrow State?

In an Escrow State, the closing process is typically handled by a title or escrow company. These companies act as neutral third parties that hold and disburse funds, prepare and record documents, and carry out the instructions of the buyer and seller. In these states, loan signing agents often have a more comprehensive role. They may be responsible for explaining the documents, collecting signatures, and even disbursing funds in some cases. (Attorney States vs Escrow States)

Scenario in an Escrow State

Imagine you're a loan signing agent in California, an Escrow State. You might be hired by a title company to handle the entire closing process. This could involve explaining the terms of the loan to the borrower, ensuring all documents are signed and notarized, and then returning the completed package to the title company for final processing.

Key Differences

1. cope of Work: In Attorney States, the scope of work for loan signing agents is usually more limited compared to Escrow States.

2. Legal Oversight: Attorney States require a licensed attorney to oversee the closing, while Escrow States often allow title or escrow companies to handle this aspect.

3. Fees: Because of the involvement of attorneys, the fees in Attorney States can sometimes be higher.

4. Regulatory Requirements: Loan signing agents in Attorney States may need to be more cautious about not overstepping the boundaries of their role to avoid the unauthorized practice of law.

Find out if you're in an Attorney State or Escrow State - Attorney States vs Escrow States

Certainly! Based on the information from the National Notary Association as of my last update in January 2022, here is an updated table categorizing states as either Attorney States or Escrow States. Please note that some states may have specific restrictions or requirements, so it's always best to consult local laws for the most current information.

Attorney States





New York

South Carolina


Escrow States











New Mexico

North Dakota




South Dakota





Hybrid States

Some states are considered "hybrid" states, where either an attorney or an escrow/title company can handle the closing. Examples include:

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arkansas

  • Florida

  • Hawaii

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Nebraska

  • New Hampshire

  • New Jersey

  • North Carolina

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Virginia

  • West Virginia

The Benefits of Signing Up With Signing Services for Loan Signing Agents in Attorney States

In Attorney States, where the role of a loan signing agent is often more limited due to the requirement for a licensed attorney to oversee the closing process, signing up with signing services can offer several advantages. Here's why:

Increased Exposure and Credibility

Signing services often have established relationships with lenders, title companies, and law firms. By signing up with a reputable service, you gain immediate access to a network that can provide you with consistent work. This can be especially beneficial in Attorney States, where the market might be more competitive due to the presence of legal professionals.

Streamlined Workflow

Signing services often provide software and platforms that help manage appointments, document delivery, and invoicing. This can be a significant advantage for loan signing agents who may not have the time or resources to manage these aspects independently. In Attorney States, where your role is more specialized, a streamlined workflow allows you to focus on your core responsibilities.

Skill Enhancement

Working with a variety of clients through a signing service can help you gain experience quickly. You'll be exposed to different types of loans and legal frameworks, which can be invaluable in Attorney States where the laws and regulations can be more complex. Some signing services also offer training and certification programs, which can further enhance your skills and marketability.

Flexibility and Convenience

Signing services often offer the flexibility to accept or decline assignments based on your schedule. This can be particularly beneficial if you are looking to work part-time or are balancing other commitments. In Attorney States, where you might not be the one conducting the entire closing, this flexibility can be a significant advantage.

Financial Benefits

While signing services do take a commission, they also save you the time and effort of marketing yourself, managing client relationships, and handling administrative tasks. This can be particularly beneficial in Attorney States, where competition can be stiff and marketing yourself alongside legal professionals can be challenging.

Signing up with signing services can offer loan signing agents in Attorney States a range of benefits, from increased exposure and streamlined workflows to skill enhancement and legal safeguards. While the role of a loan signing agent in Attorney States is often more limited compared to Escrow States, these services can help you maximize your opportunities and grow your business effectively.Understanding the differences between Attorney States and Escrow States is crucial for loan signing agents. It affects the scope of their work, the way they interact with other professionals in the field, and even their earning potential. Whether you're a seasoned notary or just starting your journey, knowing these distinctions can help you navigate the complexities of real estate transactions more effectively.

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