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What If The Name On An ID Doesn’t Match The Name On The Document?


Sometimes the name on a signer’s identification doesn’t exactly match the name on the document being signed.

The most common situation is when a signer has recently married or divorced but has not yet updated their ID to reflect the change of name. Other people use a nickname in social settings, but use their full formal name instead on documents. If you encounter a name discrepancy between an ID and a name on a document, here are some options:

Alternate ID

Ask the signer if they have an alternate ID — such as a passport — that exactly matches the name on the document and is acceptable proof of identity under your state’s law. If your state permits the use of credible identifying witnesses, another option is for the signer to find one or more credible witnesses who meet state law requirements and can identify the signer under the name printed on the document.

No Alternate ID

If the signer doesn’t have an alternate ID that exactly matches the name on the document, then you may have to make a judgment call whether the variation in names between the ID and document is acceptable or not. As a general rule, if the name on the ID provides enough detail to support that the signer is the same person as the version named in the document, the ID should be acceptable.

For example, if the name on the ID reads “Patricia J. Carson” and the name on the document is “Patti Carson,” in most cases the ID should be acceptable — the name “Patti” on the document is a generally accepted shortened version of the full name “Patricia.”

However, if the name on the ID reads “John A. Smith.” and the name on the document reads “John Alan Smith,” the ID would not be acceptable because there is no way for the Notary to know if the “A” on the ID stands for “Alan” or some other name.

Note that some documents, such as recordable deeds, have much stricter rules for notarization and may require the name on the identification to exactly match the name on the deed. The signer should check with the issuing or receiving agency for instructions.


Finally, another method used to reconcile document and ID name discrepancies is for the signer to sign both names, linking the two with the phrase “also known as,” “AKA” or other wording to that effect. This is usually indicated on the signature line. If the signature line does not provide this direction,  the Notary can’t tell the signer if this is acceptable or not — the signer should ask the document’s issuing or receiving agency to confirm if an “AKA” may be used.

When notarizing an “AKA” signature, the only name you notarize is the name that appears on the ID. In this case, only the name appearing on the ID is entered in the notarial certificate, since this name is the only one which can be proven to you. Typically, signature formats would be as follows:

  • “Beverly C. Person, also known as Beverly C. Eisman”  or
  • “Maria Garcia Lopez AKA Maria Garcia” or
  • “John Smith, who took title to property in the name of John Smith, Jr.”

So using one of the examples above, if the name “Beverly C. Person” appears on the signer’s driver’s license, that is the only name that would be entered in the notarial certificate.

Alternatively, the signer can use the phrase “professionally known as” (PKA) or “formerly known as" (FKA) as the case warrants.

When recording an “AKA” notarization in your journal entry, it is recommended that you note both names used for the “AKA” signature, perhaps in the additional information column.  If your state requires a signature in your journal,  the signer should sign the same way he/she signed the document.

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


Add your comment

Yolanda Adams

08 Sep 2014

For California, your Alternate ID above is not acceptable insofar as credible witness(es). Please note 4. below as stated in California Handbook (2014): "Under oath, the credible witness must swear or affirm that each of the following is true (Civil Code section 1185(b)(1) (A)(i)-(v)): 1. The individual appearing before the notary public as the signer of the document is the person named in the document; 2. The credible witness personally knows the signer; 3. The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification; 4. The signer does not possess any of the identification documents authorized by law to establish the signer’s identity; and 5. The credible witness does not have a financial interest and is not named in the document signed."

Howard Blum

08 Sep 2014

Yoli, I find nothing wrong with what was written in the article. You quoted from the single credible witness requirement. The likelihood of finding a credible witness that just happens to know the notary is rather remote, which is why CA allows for an alternative of two credit witnesses are allowed for people not personally known to the notary signing agent.

Walter Hertz

08 Sep 2014

I object to the facts in your article. 1st of all, let me point out, this does NOT apply to all states. I am in New Jersey & the NJ Laws states that I must be convinced that the person in front of me is the signer. While ID is the best way, if the signer does not have the name spelled out as the document states, as long as the Notary is convinced, then it is OK. Also: Identification documents are not required if: 1) the signer is personally known to the Notary; or 2) a credible witness, known to both the signer and Notary, swears to the identity of the signer. Also, it is very unlikely that a credible witness in this state can be used. See above. Also, you say I can use an AKA if there is an issue. A Notary, at least in NJ cannot just present a AKA for the signer to sign. That is the work of a lawyer or the signer. The Notary cannot present the document if the Notary is NOT an attorney. The way you wrote the article it appears to mean all states & that is NOT true. Different states have different laws.

National Notary Association

08 Sep 2014

Hello Walter, Thanks for commenting. In case you have not yet received the response I emailed to your message earlier today, I've also posted it below: You are correct that different states have different laws regarding identification of signers and a Notary should always follow the laws of the state he or she is commissioned in. Regarding your comments about specific identification rules for your state and whether a credible identifying witness can be used in New Jersey, the New Jersey Notary Public Manual published online by the state gives Notaries the option of using a credible identifying witness who is known to both the signer and Notary. See below: “Requirements for Taking an Acknowledgment The Notary should: • Ensure that the signer appears before him/her and presents at least one form of identification (ID) that provides a physical description of the signer-- e.g., driver's license. Note: Identification documents are not required if: 1) the signer is personally known to the Notary, or 2) a credible witness, known to both the signer and Notary, swears to the identity of the signer.” We agree that it is not the Notary’s place to advise a signer if an “AKA” signature is an acceptable alternative to sign a document or not. This is why I wrote in the article, “If the signature line does not provide this direction, the Notary can’t tell the signer if this is acceptable or not — the signer should ask the document’s issuing or receiving agency to confirm if an “AKA” may be used.” I appreciate your comments and hope the above information helps address the questions and concerns you raised regarding the article. Have a good day. Sincerely, David Thun, Associate Editor, NNA

Anne Roninson

08 Sep 2014

I find the information very informative. I became a notary through a former Employer, whom had a lawyer to oversee what I stamped and signed. Where can I take a refresher class, no more then 6 weeks?

National Notary Association

08 Sep 2014

Thanks for your positive feedback, Anne! You may want to check out our series of complimentary webinars, which can help refresh you on a variety of notarial topics, at For information on NNA training classes, please visit our homepage at and select "Training & Education" from the tabs at the top of the page.

Jill Dietz

08 Sep 2014

I thought the abbreviation for formerly known as was FKA, not FNA as stated in your article. Am I mistaken?

National Notary Association

08 Sep 2014

Hello Jill, The abbreviation should be "FKA." We'll correct it in the article. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Jack Crawford

08 Sep 2014

RE: "Note that some documents, such as recordable deeds, have much stricter rules for notarization and may require the name on the identification to exactly match the name on the deed. The signer should check with the issuing or receiving agency for instructions." If a Grant Deed shows the name "John A. Smith" and we are presented with an acceptable ID that is "John Alan Smith" how are we supposed to know that the recorder expects the two names to match exactly? I recently had a situation like this. In the acknowledgement I entered the full name as it appeared on the valid ID presented to me. It was rejected by the recorder, so I had to have the customer come back in to re-notarise the document. Since fraud prevention is key to our function as a notary, it would seem to make more sense for us to always enter the name as it appears on the ID presented. Consider this hypothetical situation: A grant deed for property belonging to John Alan Smith is prepared in the name of John A. Smith. His son John Arthur Smith brings it in for notarization. If we have to enter his name as John A. Smith on the acknowledgement to match the name on the grant deed there is nothing to alert anyone that this is the wrong person. If we were required to enter the name on the acknowledgement just as it appears on the ID there would be a chance that someone in a position to know would be able to catch the discrepancy. In this situation should we refuse to do the notarization until the signer checks with the issuing agency? If so, should we insist that it be done in our presence? The possible implications are greater than just determining whether they require an acknowledgement or a jurat attachment.

Tim Gatewood

09 Sep 2014

I blogged about this very topic several months ago. Please see here:

Marian Harmon

12 Sep 2014

I'm concerned about the recommendations in this article as it applies to California notaries. Can somebody point to state law that says the name on the ID must match the document (in CA)? Guess what? You won't find it. Does anybody pay attention to the satisfactory evidence rule? That's what matters. This article sort of implies following that, but only after other steps that may not be appropriate or even necessary. Per CA law (CC 1185(a) we are told: "The acknowledgment of an instrument shall not be taken unless the officer taking it has satisfactory evidence that the person making the acknowledgment is the individual who is described in and who executed the instrument." Now... there are some levels to this. First, you have "described in" the document rule and the satisfactory evidence rule. The law, nor the handbook, etc. define what "described in" actually means. For sure, it does NOT tell us that names must match. You have to use the satisfactory evidence rule. In part (b) below that aforementioned paragraph, we are told, "For the purposes of this section “satisfactory evidence” means the absence of information, evidence, or other circumstances that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person making the acknowledgment is not the individual he or she claims to be..." In other words... each circumstance is different and depends on YOUR judgment. We are never told that the name on the ID must match the name on a document. We are told that the person must be "described" in the document AND that the signer must make a claim of the capacity to sign. (Keep in mind this is for acknowledgments, the 'described in' rule doesn't even apply to jurats.) Remember (in CA), the acknowledgment certificate we sign and stamp does NOT certify anything except that you identified the person in FRONT OF YOU and that person, the SIGNER is making the claims of capacity, not you. You are NOT legalizing anything or legitimatizing the content of a document. In fact, the contents of the document are none of your business! As the notary, you have ZERO reason to tell a person you can't notarize their signature simply because the name on a document doesn't exactly match their ID. Doing so based on that alone may be grounds for a complaint to the Secretary of State for denying a legal request. You better have a much better reason as to why they don't pass the satisfactory evidence test. Somebody signing as an attorney in fact, obviously, will not have a matching name...and they CAN claim the capacity to sign a document. This is a a perfectly legitimate scenario and one you should not turn away. This, IMO, is why we should be entering the name on the ID in the notarial certificate... because that's who you're seeing. You can never 100% guarantee that John Jones written on a document is THE John Jones in front of you. And as with AIFs... we're not allowed to determine or certify their claimed capacities, so we have to take them for their word. That's not your call, nor your business. Your job is to identify the person in front of you and notarize THEIR signature. Everything else is left to the courts and document receivers.


06 Oct 2014

I cancelled an appointment recently bc, after talking to the borrower and co-borrower for 5 days, the borrower (husband) tells me, day of closing, that the co-borrower (wife) has NO photo I.D. I mapped a DMV 4 miles from their house, discovered that the hours were M-F, 8AM-5PM and Saturdays, 8AM-midnight, and $20.00 gets you a license or IL state I.D. I had already sent them an email explaining and listing all possible primary and secondary I.D.'s, and the response had been, yes, we have those. EVEN THOUGH the lender wanted to use a friend of theirs to verify identity, THEIR friend was a stranger to ME, so I said that I wouldn't perform the closing. It seemed odd, and I didn't want to be involved in this kind of identification, bc the resource for the State of Illinois to verify her identity was readily available and she didn't want to use it. =/

Chrstine Kempczenski

13 Nov 2014

In January 2014, I notarized a document for a client, saw his ID with the proper spelling of his first, middle and last name. I recorded it as I saw it in my journal. Recently, this individual's name appeared in a different document my office was trying to record at our State Recordation Office in Hawaii. The document was rejected because the Apostille that was attached o to it had the person's first and middle name joined together as if was one name. So, it would look like "John Doe as JohnDoe". The apostille appeared to have the name wrong. I took my journal along with the document that was to be recorded back to the State Recordation Office and explained to the registrar how the name should've been. The document was approved.

Christine Kempczenski

25 Nov 2014

To clarify my previous post (November 14, 2014), when the client appeared before me and I checked his ID, I matched his signature to his signing. The second time his name appeared consistent throughout the document as the first time. It was only the apostille had it wrong, by joining the first and middle name together.

22 Apr 2015

COLORADO.......Refinance documents show name as Caroline M Jativa but Colorado DL shows Caroline Jativa (I am using my name in this example!) other primary ID that would reflect the "M" initial. No social security card, no birth certificate nor passport available. Only an employee ID shows Caroline Jativa. Healh insurance card, mortgage statement, tax roll states Caroline M Jativa, What do I do in this case? How do I handle it? Please advise ASAP. I called NNA and CO Secretary of State advised me that if the are no other supporting primary documents, then ID has to be changed with DMV or get a witness, that I as Notary, personally know the signer and the witness,

National Notary Association

23 Apr 2015

Hello Caroline. If the signer lacks ID that matches the name in the document, as you mentioned above the signer would have to provide an identification document that matches the name on the document and meets Colorado requirements (issued by a federal or state government agency and include a photograph of the bearer and the bearer's signature) or provide a credible identifying witness personally known to both you and the signer who can identify the signer under the name on the document. If the signer cannot provide satisfactory proof of identity under Colorado law, you cannot perform the notarization.


28 May 2015

I'm trying to get dual citizenship but the last names on my birth certificate on backwards from my moms can I get a notarized statement stating that I only used one .all my IDs only have one last name

National Notary Association

29 May 2015

Hello. You should contact the agency that holds the original birth certificate to find out what steps you need to take to have information on the certificate corrected.

Tina Rebeles

24 Jun 2015

I am working for a trucking company and i have a driver that has his name signed backwards(completely backwards) and his social security card is signed the correct direction is this leagal to have different signatures as he does?

National Notary Association

08 Jul 2015

Hi Tina. In order for us to answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?


20 Aug 2015

I live in Louisiana and I am signing title documents next week for a house. I recently got married and changed my name legally, but have not gotten an updated photo ID with my new last name. Would it suffice for me to bring my marraige license and/or social security card as secondary ID documents?

National Notary Association

24 Aug 2015

Hello Sara. I'm sorry, but the person who would normally answer this question is out of the office until Thursday. If you need a response right away, please contact our Hotline team at and they should be able to assist you.

Jane Cai

19 Apr 2016

For example, I put the name "Doe, John" in the notary certificates, but the name on notarized document is "John Doe", the ID's last name is Doe, first name is John. Does the notary certificate acceptable?

National Notary Association

19 Apr 2016

Hello. Generally the name in the certificate should match the way the name is printed in the document. If there is still a question, seek instruction from the receiving agency.

Jerry Lucas

15 Jun 2016

In Colorado, I have met a few people over the years that carry a driver's license with a misspelled name. They are aware of the error. The problem comes from Colorado DMV. If the DMV makes a typo on the name when creating the license, they will not correct it, unless the driver pays another license fee to have it re-issued. Some people refuse to pay another fee to correct the DMV error, so they decide to carry a license with a spelling error in the name. Colorado DMV has a reputation of arrogance and poor customer service.


17 Aug 2016

I was (mistakenly) named in my mother's will as having taken my husbands last name (I kept my maiden name) So instead of my real name Michelle Smith I was listed as Michelle S. Hall. As you can imagine this has caused all sorts of problems bc I do not have any ID that lists me as Michelle S. Hall. Would a copy of my marriage license and my husband of a credible witness suffice for a signature guarantee. I've been turned away by my bank and notaries in the past. I am beneficiary of property that was just sold and need to sign the closing contract with a signature guarantee but am listed the wrong way. Ps we can't change the will post mortem. Advice???? I'd love to fix this with a generic "one and the same" form but I'm told i have to do this every time with each transaction. PPs I live in Califirnia but the house and contract is in NY, if that matters.

National Notary Association

18 Aug 2016

Hello Michelle. Though sometimes a signature guarantee is confused with a notarial act, in fact a signature guarantee is not a notarization. You would need to contact the bank or financial institution issuing the signature guarantee to find out what proof of identity would be acceptable to them.


19 Aug 2016

Aloha! I have a question, I am a registered nurse and come May of 2016 I will be getting my MSN with my psychiatric nurse practitioner license. (Once I pass the boards). I would like to add my maiden name to my married name. Since I already have my RN license and will be getting my NP license to practice and will have prescribing rights, will I have to change every document that has my married name? Mahalo!

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2016

Hello Sharilyn. If you legally change your name before applying for a Hawaii Notary commission, there is nothing prohibiting you from applying for the commission under your new name. You would need to be sure that the name on your seal and bond matches the name on your commission application. We're sorry, but we can't advise you regarding requirements to change your name on your RN license or other documents.


26 Aug 2016

California- I recently applied for a passport. The documents I submitted where a copy of DL, citizenship certificate and marriage certificate since I just got married and wanted my passport to reflect my married name. My DL is under my previous divorce last name and my citizenship paper is under my maiden since I obtained it in my teens. The accepting office said it shouldn't be a problem but I got notice that there was a delay due to the different last names. Is a marriage certificate not an acceptable document?

National Notary Association

29 Aug 2016

Hello. We're sorry, but this isn't a notarization question we can answer, but a question relating to the office's passport application policies. You would need to contact them directly to find out if there was an issue related to your application documents.

Florencio Corona

21 Sep 2016

What if the signer's last name on the acceptable ID is only different by one letter on the document. All other secondary identification matches the name on the document.

National Notary Association

22 Sep 2016

Hello. Please see the information under "No Alternate ID" in the article above for guidance.


10 Aug 2017

Hello what if the name on the document is in hebrew and the name on ID is in english. Customer also showed had credit cards with the english name

National Notary Association

14 Aug 2017

Hello Ericka. Because different states have different rules for this situation, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?


13 Aug 2017

I was issued a nys driver's license in 1994 and it does not have my first name on it. It has my middle name as my first name. My birth certificate has my legal first, middle and last name. Now DMV won't correct the mistake. They say I have to get a legal name change. Is this right? Is there a remedy to this situation. Unfortunately I am in a tight spot now as I need public benefits. If the driver's license won't match the birth certificate they will not give it to me.

National Notary Association

14 Aug 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but this is not a notarial matter we can assist you with. The NY Department of Motor Vehicles has instructions for changing your name on your driver's license or correcting errors on DMV documents at the following link:

Beatriz Rivera

16 Aug 2017

I have a signing today at 12 and the husband borrower is telling me that the wife borrower's driver's license still has her maiden name. But she will bring proof of her apply for name change with social security office. Would that be enough? and would i have her sign the docs as it appears on the docs (married name) or on her ID that has her maiden name. Thanks, any feedback would be appreciated...

National Notary Association

16 Aug 2017

Hello Beatriz. Because different states have different ID requirements, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?


08 Nov 2017

Hi, I am in CT and have a similar question to the ones asked here. I am closing on a house and my current license and passport both have my maiden name and my parent’s address. I have an updated social security card, a copy of my marriage license, and my work badge all with my current name. Will this be enough?

National Notary Association

08 Nov 2017

Hello. In Connecticut, a social security card cannot be used as satisfactory evidence of identity for a notarization. Satisfactory evidence of identity in CT requires identification of an individual based on at least two current documents, one issued by a federal or state government and containing the individual’s signature and either a photograph or physical description, and the other by an institution, business entity or state government or the federal government and containing at least the individual’s signature (CGS 3-94a[10]). If you lack ID that meets these requirements, you can be identified by a credible identifying witness who is personally known by the Notary and who personally knows you.

Jessica Morris

30 Jan 2018

Hi my last name does not match on the court judgement doc it has my name as watson but my last name is morris what should I do

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2018

Hello. We're sorry, but that is a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.


24 Feb 2018

CA - I have been asked to notarize a Timeshare deed plus two other documents where the signer is shown as Jane M. Doe (M being the initial of her previous married name), Trustee of the Jane Monroe Doe Trust - and her CA ID lists her as Jane Doe. She does not have any other acceptable ID showing anything other than Jane Doe. What to do?

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2018

Hi Stan. One alternative is if the signer can provide two credible witnesses who know her personally as Jane M. Doe and can present acceptable ID for themselves. If she can provide two credible witnesses who meet state requirements, they can serve as her proof of identity.


03 Mar 2018

Notary public won't accept marriage certificate as proof of change of last name on ID presented. Document for permit still maiden name.

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