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Notary Bulletin

Notarizing For Clients Using Different Languages

As with Notaries in any work environment, Notaries working for law firms may be asked to notarize documents for persons who don’t speak or write English. In all such cases, adherence to the following best practice guidelines will ensure notarizations are performed properly and all parties are protected from fraud and miscommunication.

Do not use an interpreter. In order to notarize a document, the Notary should be able to communicate directly with the signer. A Notary cannot know if a third-party interpreter — even when it’s a trusted attorney or employee at the Notary’s firm — is correctly relaying the signer’s intent. The signer and Notary must be able to directly communicate and understand each other in the same language. Only in one state, Arizona, does law expressly authorize a Notary to rely on an interpreter in discerning the intent of the signer.

The client’s name must be signed using characters the Notary can read. In order to verify that the signature matches the name the signer is being identified by, the Notary must be able to read the signature being notarized. A signature written using an alphabet or characters the Notary cannot read or discern may not be notarized, as the Notary has no way to tell if an entirely different name was signed.

The notarial certificate wording must be in a language the Notary understands. If the Notary cannot read the certificate wording being used in the notarization, the Notary has no way of knowing how to correctly fill out the certificate or even knowing if it’s an act the Notary may legally perform. The best solution is to find a duly authorized Notary who can read and understand the language of the certificate and document — not to attach an English-language certificate that might cause the document’s rejection.

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