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Handle Name Discrepancies

Occasionally, you the Notary will be asked to notarize a document whose signature differs from the name on the signer’s current identification document. This is not an unusual circumstance. People commonly change their names legally due to marriage, divorce or other reasons. Some also use casual or formal variations of their names in different circumstances.

In cases where the document name and ID name do not agree, the Notary must either: 1) determine if the difference is acceptable; 2) have the signer provide additional identification; or 3) have the signer sign by an “AKA” ("also known as") process.

A discrepancy is acceptable if it follows the general rule of “less, not more.” In other words, the signature on the document can be less than the signature on the ID, but not more. For example, “Kevin J. White” is an acceptable signature on the document if the name on the ID is “Kevin James White.” But the opposite is not acceptable. Nor would “Jane K. Douglas-Smith” be an acceptable document signature if the name on the ID says “Jane K. Douglas.”

Supplemental IDs, as the name implies, may be used to support the primary ID and supply valuable additional information. Supplemental IDs alone, however, should never be the basis for identifying a stranger. A supplemental ID may or may not contain a photograph, but it usually has at least the bearer’s signature. Among the documents that can be used for supplemental ID are Social Security cards, credit cards or other IDs that are not allowed as a primary ID in your state. Another option is to use credible identifying witnesses who know the signer under the name written on the document.

With the AKA option, the individual signs the name as it appears on the ID, then writes "AKA" and signs the name as it is shown in the document. A Notary may not advise a signer to do this since the AKA process might not be acceptable to the receiving agency. The signer should inquire about the appropriateness of this solution.

If none of these solutions is satisfactory, then the Notary may have no choice but to refuse to perform the notarization.

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