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Secretary of State’s Office Ready to Protect Consumers from Fraud by Regulating Document Preparation Services
Passage of Assembly Bill 74 allows Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office to guard consumers from individuals and businesses engaging in unlicensed practice of the law
Posted Date: 2/25/2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Catherine Lu, Public Information Officer 
             (702) 486-6982 / 334-7953 
             clu@sos.nv.gov  


(Carson City, NV; February 25, 2014) – Effective March 1, 2014, Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office begins administering and enforcing the rules and regulations for document preparation services, as set forth by Assembly Bill 74/NRS Chapter 240A.

Some individuals and businesses have been engaging in unlicensed practice of the law, and performing services and providing legal advice well beyond their scope of legal authority. AB 74 was passed to prevent such activity, and to regulate businesses providing document preparation services in order to protect consumers.

“Many document preparers advertise themselves as ‘Notarios,’ which should not be confused with ‘Notaries Public,’” said Secretary Miller. “Notarios in Mexico serve a specific legal function which is not recognized in the United States, and therefore carry no legal jurisdiction here. The registration of document preparation services under the new Nevada law is intended, in part, to clarify that distinction.”

A document preparation service is a person who, for compensation and at the direction of a client, provides assistance to the client in a legal matter, including:

  • Preparing or completing any pleading, application or other document for the client, 
  • Translating the client’s answer to a question posed in such a document, 
  • Securing any supporting document, such as a birth certificate, required in connection with the legal matter, 
  • Submitting a completed document on behalf of the client to a court or administrative agency.

According to NRS 240A.040, document preparation services include preparing documents for any will or trust; any proceeding, filing or action affecting the immigration or citizenship status of a person; or any proceeding filing or action otherwise affecting the legal rights, duties, obligations or liabilities of a person.

Those who are already engage in document preparation services on March 1 will be given a 30-day grace period (by April 1) to register and become compliant with the State.

The application to register as a document preparation service is available online at the Secretary of State’s website, www.nvsos.gov. Applicants submit their business information and undergo a fingerprinting and background check. They must meet certain requirements that will be outlined on the Secretary of State’s website. Once the individual’s application and background check have been reviewed and approved, the applicant must provide a cash or surety bond in the amount of $50,000 before the Certificate of Registration will be issued. The registration is valid for one year after the date of issuance of the Certificate of Registration, unless the registration is cancelled, suspended or revoked.

Any person who is conducting or plans to conduct a business as a document preparation services must submit his or her application by April 1, 2014. Processing time may take between four to six weeks depending on the volume of applications and receipt of the background report from the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History. All employees who work at a business and prepare legal documents must be registered and bonded.

This new law provides consumers with some protections as customers or clients who utilize document preparation services:

1. Evidence that a document preparation service is registered with the State of Nevada.
2. Public posted notices including Certificate of Registration, business licenses and disclosure notices.
3. Disclosure of specific information such as that the person serving as a document preparation service is not an attorney prior to the customer contracting or making a payment for service.
4. A written contract in English and if different, the language in which the document preparation services transacts the business with the client for the services to be provided.
5. Explanation of the fees to be charged for services and a receipt for payment.
6. A complaint process for violations.
7. Restitution if the client suffers a pecuniary loss as result of a violation.
8. Award of damages against the bond by a court.
9. A private right of action.
10. A public search function will be available on the Secretary of State’s website, www.nvsos.gov, to verify that a document preparation service is registered with the state.

The Secretary of State’s office has a toll-free telephone number for any person to make a complaint about a registrant or an alleged violation. Anyone who believes a document preparer has committed a violation is encouraged to call (800) 450-8594, option 6. A complaint form is also available online.

If after an investigation the Secretary of State finds that a document preparation service is not registered, the individual has 15 business days to submit an application. The law provides the Secretary of State’s office, along with the Attorney General’s office, with statutory authority for enforcement. If a violation is found, the Secretary of State’s office can revoke or suspect an individual’s registration, and/or impose civil and/or criminal penalties.

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