Certificates of Notarial Acts
A certificate must be included with each notarial act. The certificate must:
- Be executed at the same time as the performance of the notarial act;
- Be signed and dated by the notary;
- Be signed in the same manner as on file with the Secretary of State;
- Identify the jurisdiction (state and county) in which the notarial act was performed; and
- Contain a clear impression of the notary's official stamping device, which includes the commission expiration date.
A notary is accountable for every word in the notarial certificate. A notary may not notarize a document that does not have a complete notarial certificate on the document or on an attachment to the document.
A notary should never assume a preprinted certificate complies with law or that it is accurate or truthful. A notary should scrutinize the preprinted certificate for compliance with statutory requirements, accuracy and truthfulness.
Notary certificates do not need to be typed or printed in order to be valid. They may be handwritten in ink. The notary certificates also do not need to be on the same page as the signature being notarized. If necessary, the notary may prepare the certificate on a separate page and attach it to the document containing the notarized signature. If the certificate is on a separate page, is may be beneficial to add additional wording for extra security, such as:
"This notary certificate is prepared on a separate page and is attached to the document entitled _______________________, containing _________ (__) pages and is attached to that document by means of __________ (staple, glue, tape)."
If a notary is asked to notarize a document that contains a prepared notarial certificate, the key words "acknowledged" or "sworn to" tell the notary which notarial act is required. If there is no notarial certificate on the document, the signer must inform the notary whether he or she wants to make an acknowledgment or take an oath. Unless the notary is an attorney, the notary is not authorized to advise a person which notarial act is appropriate for the document presented for notarization.
When a signature is notarized, one of three official notarial acts takes place: (1) acknowledgment; (2) verification on oath or affirmation of the document signer; or (3) witnessing or attesting a signature. Each of these official notarial acts has a different purpose.
Acknowledgments are the simple authentication of a signature. They prove or acknowledge that the signer personally appeared and was identified before the notary public.
To make an acknowledgment, the document signer must personally appear before the notary public and declare that he or she has executed and signed the document. The notary should ensure that the signer understands the document and has not been coerced into signing. If there is any question about the signer's willingness to execute the document or his or her understanding of the terms of the document, a notary should refuse to notarize. At the time the document is acknowledged, the notary should complete a certificate that states the signer acknowledged the document.
Verification on Oath or Affirmation (formerly known as jurat)
Some certifications are for the authentication of a signature made under oath or affirmation. An oath or affirmation is administered to a document signer when the signer is required to make a sworn statement about certain facts. The signer personally appears before the notary to swear (or affirm) to the notary, who is an officer duly appointed to administer oaths, that the information contained in the document is true. A person who makes a false oath or affirmation may be subject to criminal charges. A notarization requiring an oath should begin with the administration of an oath or affirmation. The person must then sign the document in the presence of the notary and the notary must complete a proper notarial certificate indicating that an oath or affirmation was taken
Witnessing or Attesting a Signature
A notary may simply be asked to witness or attest the signature of the person signing the document. The person must personally appear before the notary and sign the document in the presence of the notary prior to completion of the certificate.
Copy certifications prove the notary compared the copy of a document with the original and the copy is a true, correct and complete copy of the original. Notaries are not authorized to certify a copy of a "recordable document," such as birth and death certificates, recorded titles to property, college transcripts or anything bearing an official government seal.