Notary Bulletin Four Answers That Will Help New Notaries Properly Complete Notarial Certificates By David Thun on August 20, 2014 in Best Practices Notaries who have been on the job for a year or less often encounter confusing scenarios with certificate wording. To help guide you through the process, the Notary Bulletin compiled answers for these commonly asked questions on the NNA Notary Hotline. If a document doesn’t include notarial certificate wording, can I affix my stamp to the document? The answer is generally “no.” In most states, if there is no certificate wording included with the document, the signer must tell you what type of notarial act they need. Notaries aren’t allowed to choose a notarial act on a signer’s behalf. If the signer isn’t clear on this, you may describe the different notarial acts — for example, the two most common types of notarial acts are acknowledgments and jurats — and let the signer choose. If the signer isn’t sure what notarial act is needed, they can contact the agency that issued or is receiving the document or an attorney for instructions. Once you are informed what notarial act is needed, you can attach and complete a loose certificate for the appropriate notarial act. One exception is the state of Maryland, which does not allow loose certificates. In Maryland, if the document does not contain any acknowledgment or oath wording the Notary may witness the signing of the document in the Notary’s official capacity. This is considered “signature witnessing.” The Maryland Notary must obtain identification, observe the signing of the document; date, sign and stamp/seal the document, note on the document the date the Notary’s commission expires and record the notarization in the Notary’s journal. May a Notary complete both an acknowledgment and a jurat for the same signer on one document? Yes. This request would constitute two separate notarial acts for a signer. The Notary may charge for each notarization (acknowledgment and jurat) and would make two separate journal entries. May I use certificate wording from another state to complete a notarization? In the vast majority of cases, yes. California is the only exception, where Notaries are required to use specific certificate language prescribed by statute. California Notaries must always use statutory jurat wording, and they must use statutory acknowledgment wording if the document will be filed in California. Most states have certificate wording in their statutes but permit Notaries to use other wording, as long as it meets the requirements of the state’s other laws. A few states, such as Georgia, don’t have any specific certificate wording in their statutes but offer suggested wording elsewhere, such as in their Notary handbook or on their website, but again permit Notaries to use other wording. So, as a general rule, you may use an out-of-state certificate, as long as it meets your state’s requirements for that notarial act and doesn’t ask you to do something that’s not authorized in your state (such as asking a California Notary to certify a person’s representative capacity, which is not allowed in California). Can I correct an error on an acknowledgment or jurat certificate? It depends on your state’s requirements and when the mistake is discovered. In California and Florida, if you spot an error during the notarization while the signer is present before you, then “yes” — you can line through the mistake, enter the correct information, and initial and date the change. However, if the error is found after the notarization is completed and the signer leaves, the answer is “no” — in that case, a new notarial act would have to be completed. Some states provide specific instructions or regulations on making corrections in the certificate. Note that in Arizona and Hawaii, if a Notary attaches a loose certificate to correct an error, the law requires the Notary to describe the attached document on the loose certificate. Always be sure to follow your state’s rules regarding certificate corrections. Helpful Resources For NNA Members NNA Members can access information on state-specific laws regarding certificate wording online in the NNA’s U.S. Notary Reference Manual or contact our Hotline with any questions regarding unusual notarial certificates. David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association. Email Share CommentsAdd your commentJohn27 Aug 2014I noticed that there is no law primer for new notaries. Yet they need to be extremely aware of the requirements of the State where they have their commission. For example, if they are NSAs in Maryland do they have their Title Insurance License? Do they have the required E & O insurance as required (and not just the amount NNA offers)? Do they have the required CPEs? There are a mess of laws and "Best Practices they need to follow. I've encountered other NPs who believe they can notarized in several States using the same seal. Wrong! The 4th is not completely correct. ISO REQUIRES that a single line be drawn through the incorrect entry and an entry be made as to the reason for the error. Best Practices does not just mean what NNA says they are but also what industry standards require or you can lose certification.National Notary Association28 Aug 2014Hello John, Thanks for your feedback. We saw your comment about ISO standards in our other story too. In case you haven't seen our reply in that thread, please feel free to email us at email@example.com. We're happy to discuss your concerns and would appreciate it if you can include the specific sections you're referring to in your message. Thanksfirstname.lastname@example.org Aug 2014Thanks for providing all this valuable informationKathy Liccardi25 Aug 2014I need information on Journaling PleaseNational Notary Association26 Aug 2014Hi, Kathy! You can find some basic information on keeping a journal in our complimentary webinar "How To Complete A Journal" here: http://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/webinars/commonly-asked-questions/how-to-complete-a-journal-entry Also, here are some Bulletin articles on journals that may be helpful to you: Recommended Notary Practices: Maintaining A Journal http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2011/06/recommended-notary-practices-journal Handling Journal Inspection Requests: http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2013/05/handling-notary-journal-inspection-requests Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. 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