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Notary Bulletin

How To Certify A Copy Of A Document

Certified CopyNotaries are often asked by signers to verify that a reproduction or photocopy of an original document is a true, complete and correct copy of the original. This is called "certifying a copy" or "copy certification." Whether you can do so isn’t always clear-cut. Here are some important facts about copy certification all Notaries should know.​

Can Notaries certify copies?

Not in every state. Some states (such as Michigan and New York), do not allow Notaries to certify copies of documents as an official notarial act, and three states (California, Hawaii, Maryland) limit the types of documents or records that Notaries may certify.

If I can’t certify a copy of a document, is there an alternative?

An alternative procedure called “copy certification by document custodian” may be permissible. With this procedure, the document’s custodian or holder signs a statement attesting to the accuracy of the copy, and the Notary notarizes the custodian’s signature on the statement. The difference is that rather than directly certifying the copy, the Notary is notarizing the custodian’s signature on a statement vouching for the copy’s accuracy.

How can I advise a signer?

You have to be careful not to provide unauthorized legal advice to the signer. You can mention that you may perform a copy certification by document custodian, but should not suggest or recommend that to the signer. For example, if asked to certify a copy, you may say “State law does not authorize me to certify a copy of your document. However, in this circumstance I may be able to notarize your signature on a written statement in which you certify the copy.” You should not say something like, “I can’t do this and must perform a copy certification by document custodian instead.” The important difference here is that you may mention you can perform the procedure, and let the signer choose that option if he or she wishes, but you should not tell the signer what to do — that could constitute legal advice Notaries aren’t allowed to give.

What if a signer asks me to certify a copy of a vital record, like a birth or marriage certificate?

In some jurisdictions, such as Delaware, Notaries are not permitted to certify copies of vital records. However, it’s the signer’s responsibility — not the Notary’s — to check if copying a document violates a law or will be accepted by a receiving agency.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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verna kuykendall

15 Jul 2014

This is an excellent explanation - clear and concise! Thank you.

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