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Confusing Certificates

Completing notarial certificate wording is an essential part of notarizing signatures. But what do you do if the certificate is presented to you with some or all of its information filled in? Or even filled in with the wrong information? Or the wording isn’t normally used in your state? Take our quiz and see how you would deal with confusing certificate situations.

1. You are asked to notarize a co-worker’s signature on an office document. While performing the notarization, you see that the venue on the certificate wording has been filled in already — and it’s a different state and county than where the notarization is taking place. What do you do?

A. Just complete the notarization with the information already filled in
B. Line through the incorrect venue information and write in the correct location
C. Attach a new, loose certificate to use instead and fill in the correct venue information
D. Either B or C

2. A customer requests that you perform a jurat and administer an oath to her after she signs a business document in your presence. However, after she signs the document, you see that the certificate wording is for an acknowledgment, not a jurat. When you ask the customer, she confirms that she wants a jurat. What should you do?

A. Perform both an acknowledgment and a jurat.
B. Perform an acknowledgment using the wording provided on the document instead of a jurat
C. Perform a jurat, completing and attaching jurat certificate wording to the document instead of the acknowledgment wording provided.
D. Perform a proof of execution by subscribing witness instead

3. A customer asks you to notarize his signature on a document sent from another country. You see that the certificate wording is asking you to perform a notarial act that isn’t authorized under your state’s laws. What should you do?

A. Explain to the signer that you aren’t allowed to perform a notarial act using this wording
B. Perform the notarization but make a note about the unusual wording in your journal
C. Refer the signer to another notary
D. Photocopy the wording for your records and perform the notarization




1. D. You should never complete a notarization with wrong information in the notarial wording. In this case, the Notary has two options. The first is to cross out the wrong venue information, write in the correct location where the notarization is taking place, and initial and date the correction on the certificate. The second option is to complete a new, loose notarial certificate with the correct venue information and attach this certificate to the document in place of the original certificate.

2. C. When completing a notarization, you should always perform the act requested by the signer. Since the customer has confirmed she wants a jurat, attach and complete a loose jurat certificate to the document instead of using the provided acknowledgment wording.

If you are in a situation in which the signer isn’t sure whether an acknowledgment or jurat is needed, you can briefly describe both notarial acts and let the signer choose which one he or she wants. If the signer still isn’t sure, the signer should contact the document’s issuing agency or an attorney for guidance before you proceed with the notarization. Remember that nonattorney Notaries are prohibited by law from choosing a notarial act on a signer’s behalf.

3. A. Notaries from other nations often have different duties than their U.S. counterparts and may perform notarial acts that aren’t permitted under your state’s laws. If a document requests an act that isn’t permitted by statute, you must refuse the notarization. You may ask if the signer wants you to perform an act you are authorized by law to perform — such as an acknowledgment or jurat — as an alternative. If the signer does not want an alternative notarial act, an officer at a consulate or embassy for the country the document came from may be able to notarize the document instead.

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


Add your comment

15 Nov 2014

In the first case, I would opt with the new Notarial certificate. I believe it would help curtail any discussions later on. In the second case, I think think waiting for the person to speak with an attorney and finding out what she really needs would be wise and probably save her time and money later. And as for the third case, I would avoid breaking the law and would just send the person to the Consulate or Embassy, that way there would be no question.


16 Jul 2015

I agree with Dr. Pepper on all three cases. This is how confusion and possible misrepresentation can occur which is not what we want. And breaking the law is never be an option when notarizing any document.

Julie Brickley

20 Jul 2015

1. B or C work. With regards to #2, using good customer service, I would first refer the signer o the person/entity that created or is requesting the document, especially in the case of a loan closing or other formal document prepared by a lawyer, to verify if it would be acceptable. If that is not an option, or they prefer not to, I would complete the acknowledgement on the document AND add the loose jurat to comply with the signer's request. Bare minimum, don't argue, do as requested (attach the jurat), and let them suffer the consequences and costs of their own actions.

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