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Four Common Mistakes Notaries Must Avoid

Notary mistakes

It’s crucial for Notaries to be on guard against careless errors. Mistakes on a notarized document can have serious consequences for signers, ranging from delays in filing legal papers to mortgage applications being rejected.

The Utah Lieutenant Governor’s office listed some common mistakes Notaries make on documents. We take a look at four that can easily trip up Notaries — with suggestions on avoiding them — below.

1. Mixing up different notarial acts. Remember that an acknowledgment is different from a jurat. These two acts are not interchangeable. If the document must be “sworn to” or “affirmed” and signed in your presence, you’ll need to perform a jurat, not an acknowledgment. Performing the wrong type of act could at least require the document to be re-notarized; at worst, it could result in a legal challenge. Always make sure you have clear instruction what kind of notarial act is desired, and remember that non-attorney Notaries may not choose the notarial act for the signer.

2. Failing to require personal appearance. Except in rare, strictly limited situations such as when an attorney in fact represents a principal signer, a signer must always physically appear before the Notary.

Many cases of fraud begin with stories of why the document signer can’t appear before the Notary: “He’s too ill to come into the office.” “The signer is my grandmother and she asked me to get this notarized.” “You’ve been my friend for years — you know I wouldn’t lie to you.” Excuses like this are never justification for ignoring the personal appearance requirement and get the Notary into serious legal trouble.

3. Incomplete certificates. Recording offices list incomplete notarial certificates as a common reason for rejecting documents, and failing to write the signer’s name into the notarial certificate is a typical example of this. Make sure that the signer’s name is entered correctly in the notarial wording. It’s also common for Notaries to accidentally omit the venue where the notarization took place on the wording — or even forget to write and sign their own name in the wording. Always check to be sure you’ve included all the required information in the notarial wording.

4. Failure to require proper ID. Always make sure that the signer provides satisfactory evidence of identity in accordance with your state’s Notary laws. In jurisdictions that don’t set specific guidelines for identification, the NNA recommends requesting a current ID that includes a photograph, description and signature of the signer.

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

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Ann Phillips

13 Aug 2014

Thanks for the information, yes it is all crucial to get it right, thanks, Ann

Ian mckinlay

29 Aug 2016

Is each and every signature a separate notorization and requires a separate certificate and journal entry

National Notary Association

30 Aug 2016

Hello. Each signature you notarize is considered a separate notarization.

Monika White

31 Aug 2017

This is great information!

shannon hudson

11 Jan 2018

my husband had a post-nup drawn up by his lawyer,then had it notarized without me being present. Is the document legal?

National Notary Association

12 Jan 2018

Hello. Did you sign the document, and if so was your signature notarized without you being present?

Rena Taylor

29 May 2018

Papers were notarized in my name I were not standing in front of one.i signed the papers .not in front of a can I get copy's of the notary paper.who . notarized it. Help me please.i feel are these papers legal now.even if I were not present to show my id

National Notary Association

30 May 2018

Hello. If you believe you have been the victim of Notary fraud, you may want to report the incident to a law enforcement agency such as your local district attorney's office or your state attorney general's office. You may also wish to contact your state's Notary-regulating agency to see if you can file a complaint against the Notary.

Gloria Aguilera

10 May 2022

Thru the county of los angeles we took a loan for $23,000 at roof done okay the loan doesn't need to be paid back and it's interest free either told me so the house are we have the money to pay it back now that is notarized lady we signed the papers but the big mistake was it was for $27 but it should have been 23 because changes were made so what do I do from here

National Notary Association

11 May 2022

Hello. We're sorry, but you would need to contact the loan agency or an attorney for instructions how to correct the document.

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