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When And How To Use A Loose Certificate

staple-loose-certificate-re.jpgUpdated 3-20-18. A core part of notarization is filling out information on the notarial certificate — details such as the date, location and signer for the notarial act taking place. While this wording is often printed on the document, sometimes you may need to attach a separate certificate form — referred to by some as a “loose certificate" — to the document. These are some guidelines on when to use or not to use separate certificate wording for a notarization.

When To Attach A Certificate Form
 

You may need to attach a certificate form to a document in the following circumstances:

When the document contains no certificate wording: This is the most obvious case, since the requirement for Notaries to complete a certificate for each notarization is virtually universal. However, there are exceptions. Maryland, for example, does not allow Notaries to add wording to the document if it doesn’t already exist. Michigan repealed its statutory certificates and instead requires that the Notary add certain specified information after signing a document.

When the certificate does not comply with state requirements: Some states, such as California, have laws prescribing exact certificate wording. In Hawaii, a 2009 rule states that Notaries must include a ‘certification statement’ that is either part of the certificate wording or added to the certificate. In these states, Notaries must ensure the certificate complies with the law and add the correct form or certificate statement if it doesn’t.

When the certificate calls for an act the Notary can’t perform: One example is the act of “signature witnessing,” which Notaries can perform in approximately 20 states. Notaries in states that don’t permit signature witnessing, such as Arizona and Texas, would have to perform an acknowledgment or oath (or verification) instead, which would require an acknowledgment or jurat certificate be added to the document.

When there is no room for the Notary’s seal: Many states have laws requiring a Notary’s seal to be legible, and yet some documents provide insufficient space to affix a legible seal. If the seal will be placed over text or signatures in the document, it’s time to complete and attach a separate certificate form.

When there are multiple signers appearing at different times: In this case, a document may be signed in one place and notarized either by the same or a different Notary, and then presented to signers appearing at a different time and place before a Notary. In these cases, a separate certificate must be completed and added to the document because the signers appear separately.

When a Notary makes a mistake: In Florida and California, changes or amendments to a notarial certificate may not be made after the notarization is complete or the signer and Notary have left each other’s presence. Florida Notaries are also required to use photographically reproducible black ink when affixing the seal impression. A Notary who mistakenly places the wrong date in a certificate, for example, may be asked to correct the error by attaching a new certificate to the original document when the signer and Notary meet again.

When there isn’t enough room for the names of all signers: Most certificates have ample space to write in the names of one or two signers having their signatures notarized at the same time. But what if there are several signers and you run out of room? In this case, you’ll have to add a separate certificate to accommodate the names of any signers whose names won’t fit into the original certificate.

Always Comply With Your State’s Notary Requirements
 

Notaries must follow certain required practices when it comes to using separate certificate forms. This ensures the notarization will be performed correctly and helps prevent someone from fraudulently attaching a “loose certificate” to another document.

While most states allow Notaries to complete and attach separate certificate forms, Maryland does not. In Maryland, if the document doesn’t contain notarial wording, for example, the Notary must perform a “signature witnessing,” in which they verify the signer’s ID and observe the signing of the document. The Notary then dates, signs and stamps the document; notes their commission expiration date; and records it all in the journal.

Michigan does not prohibit Notaries from attaching a separate certificate form to a document when directed by a client or customer, but it’s not required for the notarization to be performed. The statute simply says that a Notary must sign and date the document, and add the words "Notary Public, State of Michigan, County of (name of county of commissioning)," or if performing the notarization outside of the county of commissioning, "Acting in the County of (name of county where the notarization is performed)."

If you live in a state that allows the use of separate certificate forms, but doesn’t offer specific guidelines as to how to use them, we recommend the following:

1. Always have the signer determine type of notarization: If there is no certificate wording, ask the signer what type of notarization they need because Notaries are not authorized to make this determination. You may describe an acknowledgment, jurat or signature witnessing (if your state allows you to perform signature witnessings), but the signer must ultimately choose.

2. Completely fill out the certificate: Fill out the separate certificate form as you would any notarial wording appearing preprinted on a document, making sure all of the necessary elements are present, all information is accurate and every space is filled.

If the certificate provides a space for optional information, use this space to describe the document being notarized. The description can read something like this:

"This certificate is attached to a ___________ (title or type of document), dated _____________, of ___ (number) pages, also signed by _____________________ (name[s] of other signer[s] if any)."

This makes it harder for the certificate to be used fraudulently on another document.

3. Staple the certificate to the document: Once the certificate is completed, the Notary should be the one to attach it to the document. Generally, the certificate should be stapled to the document’s left margin, behind the signature page.

Other Fine Points Regarding ‘Loose Certificates’
 

Unless you are a Maryland or Michigan Notary, you may not place your official seal on a document if notarial wording is missing. If you’re a California Notary, you may not place your seal on a document if the certificate wording doesn’t comply with the law. If you’re a Florida Notary, you may not complete a certificate that doesn’t contain all of the information required by the law.

While this article has been about when and how to use separate certificate forms, use a separate certificate as a last resort. If at all possible you should make every effort to use the notarial certificate appearing on the document. This will ensure that receiving agencies will accept the notarization without issue.

While some agencies may request it, Notaries should never mail a loose certificate nor rely on someone else to attach it to the document.

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35 Comments

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Joan A. Baffa

20 Apr 2015

Very informative and excellent advice, as usual. Especially paragraph 2 above since, at our firm, the best practice is to never carry over a notarization or acknowledgement as a stand-alone document. If it becomes necessary to do so, however, following the instructions in paragraph 2 above is crucial; preventing fraud is of the utmost importance. Many thanks!

Kurt Gross

20 Apr 2015

Good article. The only thing better would be if these issues were addressed to my state specifically. It would be nice to have a link to my state that would address my situation. Thanks for the article though. It starts the conversation. Now if I can just figure out how to finish it.

John Clark

12 May 2015

I was presented with a document where the notarial wording appeared typed on the last (signature) page. The signer demanded it be acknowledged there also, and said it was my problem if I also wanted to attach a certificate with the proper (California) wording. He would not let me put the words "see attached" and line out his wording. I walked away. How should I have handled this?

National Notary Association

12 May 2015

Hello John. If the notarial wording pre-printed on the document didn't match the required wording for your state, you were correct to offer a loose certificate with the correct wording as an alternative. Crossing out unused certificate or writing "see attached" when using a loose certificate isn't specifically required under CA Notary law. If you are asked not to do so by a signer, we suggest that you make a note in your journal entry that there was unused pre-printed notarial wording on the document, a loose certificate was completed and attached instead, and the signer specifically asked you not to line out the pre-printed wording or write anything on the document.

Dawn Beigel

12 May 2015

To John Clark: I think you did the right thing. If the notarial wording on the last page wasn't correct for your state or there wasn't room for your seal, then you would need to attach a certificate. If the signer won't allow you to do that, and won't allow you to line out the improper wording and write "see attached certificate" with your initials and date, then you would be out of compliance and liable if fraud should occur. I would have refused the notarization if I were confronted with that situation.

Angela Varvi

18 May 2015

John, as long as it was not an out-of-state acknowledgment form, which California does allow some exceptions for, you were correct in not using a form that did not have the proper wording. Variations in our forms are not permitted. Instead of "see attached" which is also perfectly fine, I offer a stamp that states "Please see attached for CA Civil Code Section 1189 compliant acknowledgment." Once I explain that the notarization would not be legal otherwise, and that my stamp shows them where to look up the code, I have never had a problem. I let them know by law I must attach my certificate to their signature page and I staple it. Also, I agree with the NNA on using your notes section for writing down any unusual circumstances.

Shelley Swezey

04 Apr 2016

Thank you for this helpful information. I am so frustrated by one thing. In my state (PA), when I am presented with documents to be notarized that were created by an attorney (in PA) or even by a State Govt office, why wouldn't they know and provide the proper notarial certificate wording for our state???

National Notary Association

04 Apr 2016

Hi Shelley. We're sorry that you encountered this frustrating situation. Unfortunately, sometimes attorneys and even state officials are not always aware of current state Notary laws or recent law changes. That's why it's so important for Notaries to stay up to date on state regulations. To help, we have a searchable database of state Notary laws available here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/law-updates. We hope the information in this database will be helpful to you if you encounter this type of situation in the future.

Sherryl Kellogg

04 Apr 2016

I was recently asked to notarize a document pre-printed by the State of California that provided only a signature line for the notary to sign. No acknowledgement or jurat language was included in the document nor even enough room for my stamp. I wound up attaching a loose leaf jurat and explained to the client why I was doing what I was doing. The client was very understanding. I was extremely disappointed that my own state prepared a document that set me as a notary up for failure and possible liability. It pays to know the rules yourself.

Ada Narain

11 May 2016

This has never happened to me but the question did cross my mind. Thank you for this valuable information.

Mark Baker

03 Apr 2017

I understand title companies don't want staples to be used because it makes the document package thicker at one corner. I rarely staple the loose certificate to the signature page, but I use the NNA's pre-printed certs with the mentioned additional info filled out. Should I be stapling them anyway?

National Notary Association

05 Apr 2017

Hello Mark. If you are not using staples, how are you attaching the certificate to the document?

Roland Paquette

10 Apr 2017

Very good article but I find an error with regards multiple signers. I am in charge of a due diligence project that reviews notorial certificates. I have over 1600 documents where the signer was in one location and the bank or other entities were elsewhere. Different signers on different different days and locations. But they were all given a Jurat to sign on the same page. If it were an Acknowledgment then I agree because each state is slightly different in the accepted wording.

Gloria Armstrong

07 Aug 2017

I recently attached a loose acknowledgment certificate to a Texas originated mortgage document being signed in California, leaving the signer very apprehensive that it would be rejected. The issuing agency had printed the signer's name on a CA specific form, however, adding "an unmarried woman". Therefore, I refused to use the provided certificate. Did I do the wrong thing? I could not certify under penalty of perjury that signet was an unmarried woman.

National Notary Association

08 Aug 2017

Hello. You are correct that CA Notaries are not authorized to certify the marital status of as signer as part of their notarial duties.

Shelly Young

07 Aug 2017

Hawaii: Notarial certification - I did my very first notary public acknowledgement today. I attached the notary certification and stapled it at the left hand corner behind the letter (no certification wording on letter). Was I suppose to also use my notary certification stamp on the letter? I didn't think so because it was the same information on my attached certificate. Or was I suppose to put any other wording on the letter re: attached certificate? Thanks for your help!

National Notary Association

08 Aug 2017

Hello. Please see questions 9 and 10 in this FAQ: https://ag.hawaii.gov/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/FAQS.pdf

Mel

05 Sep 2017

In CA, if there is an error and I am asked to correct the error by attaching a new certificate to the original document when the signer and Notary meet again, do I keep the FIRST acknowledgement attached to the document, or remove it and replace it with the NEW acknowledgment?

National Notary Association

06 Sep 2017

Whether or not the certificate is removed is not your decision. When a notarization is done for a document, the proof of notarization (certificate) becomes part of the document. Your responsibility is to complete it with the new date of appearance and to create another journal entry, making note that it was a new notarization to correct a previous one.

Masee

27 Oct 2017

I am a new notary and completed my first notarial acts yesterday. It did not go how I imagined. The signers (husband and wife) had 15 identical Medical Guardianship letters describing who would take care of their children while they were out of the country. The letter did not have any notarial wording. So, I accessed the NNA website to obtain the loose certificate for the state of TN to attach to the letters. In the case that I attach a loose certificate in the future, am I supposed to write anything on the signed page?

National Notary Association

30 Oct 2017

Hello. No, all information should be completed on the certificate and attached to the document.

Christina

02 Nov 2017

Hi there, Maryland notary here. For my first notarial act, the document lacked a spot for me to place my signature and my stamp. Whomever prepared it was not an attorney. Since I am not able to attach a certificate, what is the correct answer for this? Is this a case where I cannot notarize the document?

National Notary Association

03 Nov 2017

Hello. A Maryland Notary must authenticate all official acts with a seal of office (ACM St. Gov. 18-108). If you are unable to affix a seal or attach a certificate, you should not proceed with notarizing the document.

Ruben Mkrtichyan

16 Nov 2017

Hello. I am a CA notary.I am notarizing a letter to court.I am attaching an aknlowedgemnt.do O still need to stamp the letter or just acknowledgment is enough?

National Notary Association

16 Nov 2017

Hello. You would need to affix your seal to the acknowledgment certificate wording.

Juanita Fong

19 Feb 2018

Can you please provide me, a Texas. New Notary several samples of an acknowledgement letter and a Jurat letter that need notarization. I am sincerely confused. Thank you for your help.

Juanita Fong

20 Feb 2018

Hello. If you are an NNA member, you can download sample certificates from our website by logging in to your membership account at https://www.nationalnotary.org/my-nna/member-benefits/downloadable-notary-certificate-forms and selecting "Texas" from the drop-down menu.

JanieFong

19 Feb 2018

Distinguishing notarial language in documents that are brought in for notarization. Can you provide me several examples for both a jurat and an acknowledgement. And can you provide me a sample Oath for the jurat document. I am slightly confused. Thank you.

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2018

Hello. To help us provide you with the correct information, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

vortiz@marcusmillichap.com

24 May 2018

I have a question on affixing the loose certificate to the document. It states to staple it, but is there any other way? most of the notarizations I make are going to be scanned in, and obviously stapling is not an option.

National Notary Association

25 May 2018

Hello. The certificate needs to be secured in such a way that it cannot be removed and attached to another document. Unsecure attachments such as paper clips should not be used. If you cannot staple or otherwise securely attach the certificate, it would not be advisable to use a separate Notary certificate due to the risk of possible fraud.

Margaret Mold

13 Jul 2018

I am a notary in Minnesota. In 1997 I notarized a document with a metal embosser. The client wanted to record the document, he did not until just recently. The county recorder stated they could not record as the seal had not left enough indentation. as he had stored it in a tight condition. Does Minnesota allow a Loose Certificate, also is there a statute number to attach to this? Thank you.

National Notary Association

16 Jul 2018

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

Diane SooHoo

11 Oct 2018

CA Public Notary. Can two acknowledgement certificates be on the same page? The certificate presented that they want me to use is printed on the first half of the page above another certificate. Since my signer is first and the other signer is the next day, I'd be using the top page certificate for the notary for the one signature and at a later date the other signer would sign and have another Public Notary use the bottom page certificate of the page (that I've already attached to the signature page) that I left blank for the 2nd later signature. I

National Notary Association

11 Oct 2018

Hello. Yes, a document can include more than one notarial certificate.

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