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Notary Bulletin

Hotline Tip: Determining Representative Capacity

It is sometimes necessary for one individual to sign as a representative for another, usually as attorney in fact or guardian, or as a representative of a legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership or trust. Documents signed in a representative capacity generally require special acknowledgment certificates that specify who or what is being represented.

Depending on state law or the wording of the particular acknowledgment certificate, the Notary may or may not be required to verify the signer’s representative status. Some states do not give Notaries the authority to investigate and certify a person’s representative capacity, including the state of California.

Determining a signer’s authority to sign in a particular representative capacity may be done in several ways: through personal knowledge, by documentary proof or by vouching under the oath or affirmation of the signer or a credible witness.

As mentioned, some states do not permit a Notary to determine a signer’s representative capacity in this way. Nonetheless, if you live in one of these states, you may encounter certificates from out of state that require such proof. Completing these certificates may legally obligate you to verify that a signer is empowered to act as described in the certificate. Always use notarial certificates authorized by your own state.

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Mrs. K

02 Dec 2014

My concern is the same as Mr. J and JD, which states permit a Notary to determine a signer's representative capacity and which states to do? Thank you.

National Notary Association

02 Dec 2014

Hello Mrs. K, Because every state and the District of Columbia has different laws, if you can please provide us with the state you are commissioned in and any specific other states you would like information on, we can better assist you with more detailed information.

National Notary Association

02 Dec 2014

In New York State, if the so-called "all-purpose" acknowledgment certificate prescribed by Section 309-a of New York's Real Property Law is used, the Notary need not ascertain that the signer holds the representative capacity claimed, since the form does not state the exact capacity of the signer. However, nothing prohibits the Notary from asking for documentary proof the signer holds the capacity claimed.

J D

23 Oct 2014

I have the same questions as Mr. J: "Which states permit a Notary to determine a signer's representative capacity, and which states do not permit it? And what sort of "documentary proof" would be useable in verifying an individual's representative capacity? State business license / secretary of state registration? Corporate resolutions?" New York State

Mr. J

29 Sep 2014

Washington State. Though my company often deals with clients from other states. Thank you.

National Notary Association

02 Dec 2014

Hello, RCW 42.44.010 [4] states, "'Acknowledgment' means a statement by a person that the person has executed an instrument as the person's free and voluntary act for the uses and purposes stated therein and, if the instrument is executed in a representative capacity, a statement that the person signed the document with proper authority and executed it as the act of the person or entity represented and identified therein." The Washington Department of Licensing's website (http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/notary/npractices.html) states that you don’t need to see proof of the signer’s representative capacity when performing an acknowledgment.

National Notary Association

29 Sep 2014

Hello, Thank you for your question about representative capacity. To help us answer your question, can you please let us know what state you are contacting us from?

Mr. J

29 Sep 2014

Which states permit a Notary to determine a signer's representative capacity, and which states do not permit it? And what sort of "documentary proof" would be useable in verifying an individual's representative capacity? State business license / secretary of state registration? Corporate resolutions?

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