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Notary FAQs: All About Powers Of Attorney

Power of attorney document

Updated 8-13-19. Powers of attorney often raise questions for Notaries — How should the document be signed? Whose name goes in the certificate wording? Here are answers to some of the most common power of attorney questions.

What is a power of attorney document?

A power of attorney is a legal document authorizing someone to make decisions and sign documents on behalf of someone else. Generally, the person creating the power of attorney is known as the “principal,” who authorizes another person “the agent,” or “attorney in fact” to sign documents as the principal’s representative.

How do I notarize a power of attorney document?

Generally, when notarizing a signature on a power of attorney document, you would follow the normal steps for completing an acknowledgment or performing a jurat, depending on which type of notarial act is required or the principal asks for. You will follow the basic steps of notarization for any notarial act you perform:

If someone signs a document as attorney in fact, whose name and signature do I notarize?

In this situation, you notarize the signature of the attorney in fact, not the principal. This may be confusing because an attorney in fact will typically sign the document with both their name and the name of the person they are representing, such as “John Burns, attorney in fact for Mary Anderson, principal” or “Mary Anderson, principal, by John Burns, attorney in fact.”

​However, since the attorney in fact has legal authority to represent the principal, you notarize only the attorney in fact’s signature. This means you verify the identity of the attorney in fact — not the principal — and write only the attorney in fact’s name in the notarial certificate wording.

The attorney in fact signing your journal entry should sign only his or her name. Under the “Additional information” section of the journal entry, you should note that the attorney in fact is signing on behalf of an absent principal and include the principal’s name. 

Signature of the attorney in fact
Example entry in Notary journal

Can an attorney in fact swear to or affirm the statement in the affidavit on behalf of the principal?
 

In most cases, one person cannot swear to or affirm truthfulness on behalf of another. If the attorney in fact requests a jurat or verification upon oath or affirmation, the attorney in fact must swear to or affirm the statement in their name only.

Using our previous example, if John Burns, attorney in fact for principal Mary Anderson, requests that you execute a jurat, he may state “I, John Burns, swear (or affirm) …” but he may not state “Mary Anderson swears (or affirms) ….”

If an attorney in fact in California requests a jurat, they must present proof of identity as required under California’s identification rules for notarizations.

Florida has a similar requirement. However, some states, such as Texas, do not require the Notary to verify identity for jurats.

If I’m notarizing the signature of an attorney in fact, do I need to ask the signer for proof of power of attorney first?

Each state’s laws on proof of an attorney in fact’s authority are different on this matter, so you will need to check your state’s Notary handbook or guidelines. Most states, including California, do not require Notaries to verify an attorney in fact’s representative capacity by checking the power of attorney naming the attorney in fact. Other states, such as Hawaii, require the Notary to see proof that the signer has power of attorney.

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

38 Comments

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T. Morris Ostler

29 Sep 2014

Advise is very helpful

Jeri Brown

08 Oct 2014

I cannot connect to your webinar

National Notary Association

09 Oct 2014

Hi Jeri. We're sorry you had problems viewing the Webinar. We'll be happy to look into the problem and try to resolve it for you. Could you please email us at social@national notary.org and please describe in as much detail as you can the nature of the problem-for example,does the webinar not load at all, does it stop mid-way or did you get any kind of error message? Also, please let us know what kind of device and browser you are using to try and view the webinar. Thanks and again we apologize for any inconvenience.

Dorene Pemberton

11 Nov 2014

There are also powers of attorney for Joint Venture and P3 contractors in which the lead contractor holds the authority to act on behalf of both companies. They lead contractor would have a Joint Venture Power-of-Attorney and is authorized in advance with the JV Agreement to sign all contracts, change orders etc for the particular project.

Noreen Peadick

11 Nov 2014

Very helpful. Thank you

Letha J. Ferguson

20 Nov 2014

Can you sign a POA with an X?

Monica Pappas

30 Mar 2015

Can a notary who is married to the attorney who notarized documents such as wills or POA, notarize his signature?

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2015

Hello Monica. Different states have different regulations regarding notarizing for spouses. Can you please tell us what state you are writing us from?

M L Field

30 Mar 2015

Depending on your state requirements I say yes for CA with the proper wording and signers .

Jessica Enlow

09 Apr 2015

I have POA for daughter who is deployed. Our question is that she is putting in paperwork to make me a dependent, and we have to have a notary for signatures and we need to know if I can sign for her since she is deployed?

National Notary Association

14 Apr 2015

Hi Jessica. I'm sorry, but that's a legal question that we aren't authorized to answer. For information whether a power of attorney authorizes you to sign on someone's behalf for specific documents, you will need to consult with a qualified attorney.

Kelly Callan

18 Jan 2016

Thanks, interesting topic.

Diane

19 Jan 2016

I frequently notarize Durable POAs for my company (in California). The form requests notarization of the Principal's signature, not the AIF. This is a company-specific POA, and I attach an Acknowledgment form each time, since it doesn't have the California wording on it. Just want to verify this is okay???

National Notary Association

25 Jan 2016

Hello Diane. Provided that the person making the request asks for an acknowledgment, it is acceptable for you to attach the appropriate acknowledgment wording that meets your state's requirements. The signer must choose the type of notarial act needed-the Notary should not make this choice on behalf of the signer.

Manuel Espinoza

20 Jan 2016

I believe some of what was presented in this article is misleading. In the above article the author states that the attorney in fact signature is the one notary will witness and notarize. So I can state to a notary that I am Represnting Bill Gates and will be signing all his property to charity without him acknowledging this. I think that is incorrect and should be the principal making the statement and the POA in the presence of the notary.

National Notary Association

25 Jan 2016

Hello Manuel.State laws vary regarding requirements for an attorney in fact to present proof of authority to sign. Idaho and Minnesota require Notaries to verify the authority of someone signing as a representative through either your personal knowledge or by requesting written proof from the signer. Montana strongly recommends this practice. Two other states — Hawaii and Utah — require 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 and Utah. California, Kansas and North Carolina do not require Notaries to verify a signer's representative status. In other states, if a person is signing as a representative of an absent principal, 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.

Dawn DeLaVega

21 Jan 2016

Very helpful!

Irene Jones

28 Jun 2016

The California Copy Certification of a Power of Attorney does not require the person requesting the certification to sign any document. This is because the Power of Attorney document has already been signed. The notary is certifying that it is an exact copy and no signature is required correct??

National Notary Association

08 Jul 2016

Hello. There is no statutory wording for the notarial certificate for a certified copy of a power of attorney, although the certificate must “state that the certifying person has examined the original power of attorney and the copy and that the copy is a true and correct copy of the original power of attorney” (Probate Code 4307[c]).

sadie_delaney@yahoo.com

30 Oct 2016

I signed in front of notary givingmy ex my pension can this be cancelled or revoked

National Notary Association

31 Oct 2016

Hi Sadie. Sorry but we're afraid that's a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

claudiastrup@gmail.com

10 Nov 2016

Do all California Power of Attorney's require notary?

National Notary Association

14 Nov 2016

Hello. We're sorry, but that's a legal question we can't answer.. Any questions regarding the requirements for preparing a power of attorney should be directed to a qualified attorney.

Linda

21 Feb 2017

POA vs Limited POA. So it was noticed that in NV POA is really ACK but the Limited POA lists "sworn" before me which would lead to believe that it is a jurat.....?

kstryer@balchenterprises.com

22 May 2017

I am a new CA notary. How can we possibly just accept someone's word that they have a POA for a principal? You say we are not required to ask for it, but can we ask for it, and if it is not presented refuse to complete the notary? I would be completely uncomfortable notarizing something without seeing the POA.

Diane

22 May 2017

frequently notarize Durable POAs for my company (in California). The form requests notarization of the Principal's signature, not the AIF. This is a company-specific POA, and I attach an Acknowledgment form each time (it doesn't have the California required wording on it). Their form doesn't require the AIF's signature to be notarized, but it does require it for the Principal's signature to be notarized. This is all my company requires. Is this okay for CA notaries to go by what the company is requesting, only?

National Notary Association

23 May 2017

Hello Diane. We can't provide advice on the requirements for preparing a POA or if your company's instructions meet those requirements. However, we can tell you that if you are being asked to notarize a principal's signature, the principal would have to physically appear in your presence for the notarization and would have to be identified according to CA law.

angelina

20 Aug 2017

will a notary service notarize my power of attorney over myself..? self ownership

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2017

Hello. We're sorry but we did not understand your question. Can you please clarify what you are asking?

Katie

24 Apr 2018

How about in Texas or Colorado if a person signs as the executor of an estate? Do they have to prove to the notary they have been named the executor?

National Notary Association

25 Apr 2018

Hello. The Colorado Notary Public Handbook provides the following guidance (not requirements) regarding a signer acting in a representative capacity: “For some acknowledgments, client identification may have a second part. A signer may be acknowledging in a representative capacity. In such cases, the notary should identify the individual AND his or her capacity. The signer should attest to his capacity/or legal authority. It is not up to the notary to research their authority, make an ultimate determination, or to draw any legal conclusions. To do so is considered the unauthorized practice of law.” While Texas provides sample certificates in which the Notary is certifying representative capacity, the state does not provide guidance how to determine if the signer holds that capacity.

J.J.

25 May 2018

I am a Louisiana notary. My mother-in-law wants me to have her power of attorney. In Louisiana, the attorney in fact does not have to sign--only the principal. Can I notarize it, although I am the agent?

National Notary Association

29 May 2018

Hello. Louisiana Revised Statute 35:4 says that a Notary who is an employee, officer, stockholder or director of a bank or other corporation may notarize for that bank or corporation, unless the Notary is a party to the instrument, either individually or as a representative of the bank or corporation. The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, Guiding Principle II-A-1, recommends that a Notary should decline to notarize in any transaction that would result, directly or indirectly, in any actual or potential gain or advantage for the Notary, financial or otherwise, apart from the fee for performing a notarial act allowed by statute.

Helena

14 Aug 2018

I have a durable power of attorney for my brother who is mentally incapacitated. I can't find the original copy. We had it notarized in California, but I don't remember the notary I used (it happened like 3yrs ago). How would I go about getting a copy. Also, we took the original to the bank, and they made a copy of it. Could I get a copy from my bank? Thank you.

National Notary Association

15 Aug 2018

Hello. Normally, the Notary would not be able to assist you as Notaries are typically not provided with copies of the documents they notarize. Did you file a copy with any agency or an attorney? If so, you may be able to contact that agency for assistance.

Norma Laparra

20 Nov 2018

On 5/22/17 kstryer asked a question on POA and asking to see a copy of it. May I ask what your answer was to the comment? I would also ask that your answer to not be put on your website. Your kind response would be appreciated

National Notary Association

21 Nov 2018

Hello. If you wish us to contact you privately, you can email us at social@nationalnotary.org with the best way to get in touch with you.

Eleana Burroughs

19 Aug 2019

I need to understand how the Attorney in Fact can do a jurat using their name on the Signature/Name affidavit? I've always insisted the AIF could NOT take an oath on behalf of an absent signer and asked the lender if they would accept an ACK. Now I've learned they can take an other on behalf of themself, the AIF. But docs for the signature affidavit are listed for the absent signers name and or any AKA's also. ??

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