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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.

24 Comments

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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?

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

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.

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

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.

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.

aconkling@hcesq.com

12 Mar 2015

Would the phrase "and who executed the same in their authorized capacity" be considered a determination of representative capacity? I am a California Notary wondering about notarizing a Jurat from Hawaii with that phrasing

National Notary Association

12 Mar 2015

Hello. Any jurat performed in California must use the jurat certificate wording specified under Government Code section 8202. You can find the CA jurat wording at the Secretary of State's website: http://notary.cdn.sos.ca.gov/forms/notary-jurat.pdf

Judi Souza

02 Oct 2015

In the state of Hawaii is it suggested or required that the Notary verify the representative capacity? If so, what would be acceptable proof of a corporate officer?

National Notary Association

05 Oct 2015

Hello. Hawaii requires attorneys in fact to present to the Notary the original power of attorney document giving them authority to sign. Copies of the power of attorney document are not acceptable in Hawaii. For more information, see here: http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/09/how-to-handle-notarization-attorney-in-fact

ANM

04 Aug 2016

I have a question pertaining to a Jurat in Michigan. A local recording office requires the Notary's acknowledgment to not only state the natural person that is present and signing, but it also requires the Notary's acknowledgment to label that natural person within the Acknowledgement. This is even though the content of the document states the signor's capacity including the signature line for that person. This requires a manual edit with our new software, which I am stuck doing to get the documents recorded, but I was wondering what the Michigan rule is. It appears that it really isn't required.

National Notary Association

05 Aug 2016

Hello. It's not clear from your question what type of notarial act the recording office is requesting. Can you please clarify if the office is asking for a jurat, acknowledgment or is the office requesting two separate notarial acts?

Jill Carver

27 Jul 2017

I am in the state of Georgia. Can a court appointed guardian sign in a representative capacity for a minor who is mentally disabled? If so, does the state of Georgia allow the notary to verify the signer's representative status? If not, can you verify the signer's representative status as an employee of the bank where the notary act is being performed?

National Notary Association

27 Jul 2017

Hello. We are sorry, but we cannot provide legal advice regarding who may represent a mentally disabled individual. You would need to contact a qualified attorney to answer this question.

Ben H

02 Jan 2018

Hello, Which states permit a Notary to act as an authorized representative, and which states do not? My company is looking to hire employees remotely in the following states, but need to know where it is restricted for notaries to do so. We hope to hire in these states: Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Kansas, Massachussetts, Ohio, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Utah.

National Notary Association

02 Jan 2018

Hello. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2014/08/i-9-forms-notaries-need-to-know

Ben H

04 Jan 2018

Hello, Which states permit a Notary to act as an authorized representative, and which states do not? My company is looking to hire employees remotely in the following states, but need to know where it is restricted for notaries to do so. We hope to hire in these states: Oregon, Colorado, Nevada, Kansas, Massachussetts, Ohio, Minnesota, Georgia, Illinois, Utah.

National Notary Association

05 Jan 2018

Hello. Please see the following article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2014/08/i-9-forms-notaries-need-to-know. Texas Notaries may not complete information on I-9 forms and CA Notaries who are not registered and bonded immigration consultants are also prohibited from completing or certifying information on I-9 forms, even in a non-notarial capacity. For the other states you mentioned, we would recommend contacting those states to ask if there are any specific restrictions on Notaries for I-9 forms, as individual state rules vary. For example, Ohio Notaries are regulated differently in each county of the state, so one county's rules may be different from another's.

W MARTIN

26 Apr 2018

Does the state of Montana require notaries to have documentary proof of representative capacity in order to do the notary. Or is verbal acknowledgement that they possess the documents enough?

National Notary Association

26 Apr 2018

Hello. Montana's Notary Public Handbook states: "When notarizing a document that is being signed by someone other than the person or entity designated as the signer, the notary should determine (1) the identity of the person who is actually signing the document, (2) the capacity of the person to sign on behalf of the person or entity, and (3) the authority to sign for that person or entity in this particular transaction." Link: https://sos.mt.gov/portals/142/notary/misc/handbook.html#4c

CF

19 Feb 2019

Does Alabama require a notary to view the power of attorney before someone signs on behalf of another person?

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2019

Hello. No, but the NNA recommends asking the signer to formally state out loud in your presence that they have authority to sign on the principal's behalf.

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