Fun Facts About Notary Certificates

Is this statement true or false?

Notary certificates are no big deal — just do what you can to fill them out correctly and move on.

FalseHowever, this is often how a new notary perceives notarial certificates.  

I remember that I was no different!  That’s why we are going to talk a bit about notarial certificates this week.  Hopefully, you will read a fact or two that you did not know or have not considered in the past.   Please keep in mind as you read that this is not legal advice and notary laws differ from state to state.

Fact #1 – Notarial certificates outlive the notary.

The purpose of a notarial certificate is to memorialize forever who appeared before the notary on what date, the county and state in which the transaction took place, and the type of act that the notary performed.  Notary certificates are part of the official record for future generations. Your properly completed notarial acts will remain a part of history long after you are gone.

Fact #2 –  Notaries can not stamp and sign a document with no certificate.

Notaries must always use a notarial certificate to perform a notarial act. 

Fact #3 – The laws of the notary’s state dictate the acceptable language of a notarial certificate. 

If a document is provided with a certificate that came from another state, always check the language against that of your state’s lawful notary language to ensure you can use the certificate like it is.  If you cannot use it as is, either make corrections neatly or attach a corresponding certificate type that complies with your own state’s laws.

Fact #4 –  Notaries may not instruct signers on the type of certificate to choose.

If a document arrives without a notarial certificate, the notary may not pick the type of certificate, but rather should show the client copies of the most common certificates used in the notary’s state and let the client choose.  Do not engage in the unlicensed practice of law.

Fact #5 – Certificates of acknowledgment are one of the most common notarial certificates.

Certificates of acknowledgment are one of two of the most common notary certificate. The jurat is the other commonly used certificate.

Fact #6 – Certificates of acknowledgments do not state that the attached document must be signed in the notary’s presence.

Generally speaking, a certificate of acknowledgment does not indicate that the signer executed the document in the presence of the notary, therefore, unless your laws specifically state differently, it is acceptable for the person who appears before the notary to have signed the document ahead of time.

Fact #7 – A certificate of acknowledgment does not state that the signer took an oath or affirmation.

Generally speaking, certificates of acknowledgment do not require the notary to administer an oath, but the notary should have the signer acknowledge that the signature is there for sincere and genuine purposes, and that the signature belongs to the signer.  Below is an example of common acknowledgment language. (You must check your state’s laws for its mandated certificate of acknowledgment language.)

State of _________________________
County of ________________________
This instrument was acknowledged before me on ______________ (date) by ___________________________ (name/s of person/s).
(Signature of Notary Public)

Fact # 8 – Certificates of acknowledgment are most commonly seen on recordable documents.

They are generally attached to documents that must be recorded in the official public records of a county. For instance, certificates of acknowledgment are attached to deeds, mortgages, and deeds of trust.  They are commonly seen on powers of attorney, as well.  It bears repeating here that notaries should never instruct a client on which certificate should appear on a document.

This type of certificate represents that the signer appeared before the notary, acknowledged that his or her signature was placed on the document for the purposes stated within the document.

Fact #9 – A jurat is one of two of the most common types of notarial certificates. 

As mentioned above, the certificate of acknowledgment is the other certificate that notaries see most frequently.

Fact #10 – Jurats indicate that the signer took an oath (or affirmed) that the statement preceding the jurat is the truth.

It is imperative that when a jurat is attached to a document, the notary observe the signer of the document actually place his or her signature on the document; the notary must also administer a verbal oath or affirmation to the signer.

Jurats contain a few words or phrases that will remind you of those two requirements:

  • Subscribed (meaning “signed” or “executed”)
  • Sworn (Or “sworn or affirmed” which means that a verbal exchange must take place in which the signer of the document must solemnly swear or affirm that the facts stated are true.)
  • Before me (In this case, “me” is the presiding notary).

Below is sample language for a jurat.  (Remember to check your state’s laws for proper jurat language in your state.)

State of ______________
County of _____________
Sworn to and subscribed before me on the __________ day of
_______________, (year), by (name of signer).

Notary Public’s Signature

Fact #11 –  A jurat is almost always the certificate of choice for documents that have the word “Affidavit” in the title. 

Jurats are also used frequently on documents referred to as “sworn statements.” 

A couple of additional points to note:

  • In most states, a penalty of perjury can be applied when a person lies under oath to a notary public. That’s why the notary must deliver a verbal oath and hear the signer’s response of “Yes.”
  • Notaries who do not complete a jurat properly or fail to administer an oath or affirmation as required by law are easy targets for the blame of a lawsuit going awry.  To learn more about how this happens, refer to one of my favorite resources on this topic is an article entitled “Attacking Affidavits” by Christopher M. Kelly and Laura G. Simons. 

Questions or Comments?

If you have questions or comments that others can learn from on this topic, please share in the comments.  What you have to say is important.  Talk to us!  For information on our notary training courses: Notary Training

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