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A Notary's Guide To Oaths And Affirmations

witness.jpgUpdated 5-13-19. An oath or affirmation is a solemn promise with legal consequences that can be made before a Notary. If one of your customers wishes to take an oath or affirmation, here are some tips.

Difference Between An Oath And An Affirmation

While both oaths and affirmations are notarial acts that compel a person to tell the truth, an oath is a solemn, spoken pledge to God or a Supreme Being, while an affirmation is a spoken pledge made on the signer’s personal honor with no reference to a higher power. Either is considered acceptable, and the choice is left to the signer.

Administering An Oath Or Affirmation

When administering an oath or affirmation, follow these steps:

1. The person taking the oath or affirmation must be physically present before you. Oaths and affirmations may not be administered remotely by phone or email.

2. The Notary may ask the person to raise their right hand or make another ceremonial gesture before responding, to emphasize the seriousness of the process. While these ceremonial formalities are seldom required by law, they have value in impressing upon your signer the significance of their actions.The Notary then administers the oath or affirmation by asking if the person swears or affirms the truthfulness of their statement. The wording may vary depending on your state (see below).

3. The person taking the oath or affirmation then answers "Yes" or "I do." The person must speak clearly and audibly so the Notary can hear and understand the response.  

In California, state law provides the following wording for an oath or affirmation, which requires an affirmative answer to one of the two following questions: 

For an oath: "Do you solemnly state that the evidence you shall give in this issue (or matter) shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"

For an affirmation: "Do you solemnly state, under penalty of perjury, that the evidence that you shall give in this issue (or matter) shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" (CCP 2094[a]).

Also, when executing a jurat for a signature on a written document, California Notaries must ask for acceptable proof of identity as prescribed under state law (GC 8202[a]).

Texas provides the following oath or affirmation wording for a person taking public office in the state: "I _________ (affiant), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the duties of the office of ____________, of the State of Texas, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State (so help me God)." 

In states such as Florida where oath or affirmation wording is not specified in statute or other guidelines are not provided, the appropriate wording for an oath for a jurat, verification or affidavit may be something like this: "Do you solemnly swear that the statements in this document are true to the best of your knowledge and belief, so help you God?"

Administering An Affirmation

In states that do not require statutory wording, common phrasing for an affirmation for a jurat, verification or affidavit might be: "Do you affirm that the statements in this document are true to the best of your knowledge and belief?"

Tips For Conducting Oaths And Affirmations

  • Never Take Shortcuts: If the document being notarized requires an oath or affirmation, you must verbally administer it — even if the signer attempts to rush you or avoid it entirely. 
  • Ask, Don’t Advise: If a signer is unclear about the difference between an oath and affirmation, you may explain the differences but you cannot legally advise the signer which one to perform; it’s his choice.  
  • Honor Your Signers’ Beliefs: Since oaths and affirmations are equally legal and acceptable, the Notary should honor the signer’s choice and use the appropriate wording and gestures.  
  • Speak Clearly: Make sure the signer responds with a clear "Yes" when you administer the oath or affirmation. Because the signer's answer puts them under penalty of perjury, it's important that the signer's response be clearly understood by the Notary. Nodding, saying "uh-huh" or other ambiguous responses are not appropriate. 
  • Take It Seriously: Some signers — and even some Notaries — make light of the situation, but it’s clearly not the best time to crack jokes. Expect professionalism at all times by being an exacting role model.  
  • Record It In Your Journal: If you administer an oath or affirmation, note it carefully in your journal. Once you recognize the basics and have several declarations under your belt, administering them will be a cinch.   
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You can learn more from your state's Notary regulating agency website or your state's Notary handbook. Or check out the NNA's Notary Primers or U.S. Notary Reference Manual Online, which is a NNA member benefit. The NNA's Notary Essentials eLearning course guides you through all your state's requirements.

Kelle Clarke is a regular contributor to the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

NNA Hotline

 

 

30 Comments

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Calvin C Wilson

01 Jun 2015

thank you very good

patti

01 Jun 2015

top of screen is blank. have no idea what this is

Gary Halvorsen

01 Jun 2015

When notarizing a 4 page document (for example), is it legal to also put your stamp on the back side of all 4 pages (spaced out a little so the stamp is shown a little bit on each page). This then helps to ensure no additional pages have been added, or a page has been removed. When I was st sea I did this to cargo manifests and documents.

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2015

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

Doylene Plank

01 Jun 2015

This is great information. I am keeping in my file for future reference.

Regina Stevenson

01 Jun 2015

Can I return this course for a refund

National Notary Association

02 Jun 2015

Hi Regina. If you have questions regarding a refund for an NNA course or product, please contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-876-6827 or services@nationalnotary.org and they can help you.

Greg

02 Jun 2015

Very good information, and very timely. There is a civil litigation case currently ongoing in Seminole County, Florida in which the court declined to rule on judgment due to the fact that the plaintiff did not take, and the notary did not administer, an oath while executing an affidavit central to the case. A very real consequence of not having the oath/affirmation properly administered.

Memo Reyes

02 Jun 2015

So when you're doing a Jurat, do you have ask the client if they want to take an Oaths or an Affirmations?

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2015

Hello Memo. Yes, you should ask the signer if they have a preference between an oath or affirmation and let the signer choose which they prefer.

chpnita5@gmail.com

05 Jun 2015

I just became a Notary in the state of Maryland. Are affirmations and/or oaths only required for Affidavit's?

National Notary Association

09 Jun 2015

Hello. No, Notaries in Maryland are also authorized to administer oaths and affirmations for other situations that require a person to make a promise to tell the truth, such as a person giving oral testimony for a deposition.

Rebecca

15 Apr 2016

California- I've been asked to perform an oath on paperwork on a divorce decree from another country. I don't think I can perform Oaths on alternate paperwork. Do I attach a jurat?

National Notary Association

15 Apr 2016

Hello Rebecca. This article has some information that may be helpful to you: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notarizing-documents-from-other-countries. The signer must tell you what type of notarization they want-if unsure, the signer may need to contact the document's issuing agency for instructions.

John Axt

23 May 2016

It may be simpler to look at this in religious terms. If a person does not believe in god they can use an affirmation instead of swearing to a god they don't believe in. In the practical world that notaries live in, you don't ask if they want an oath or affirmation. If a person objects to swearing an oath administer an affirmation. Just that simple.

James

23 May 2016

Luckily, here in NJ, there is a law that specifically states that the "oath ceremony" that is, the uplifting of the hand and asking the signer to confirm "yes" or "no" isn't necessary to the validity of an oath or affirmation. However, I always like to ask because it gives them a sense of, "This is a serious thing. I should tell the truth here."

Joan

23 May 2016

Can anyone suggest language for dealing with the "mhmm" response? Do you advise before hand that now you will now administer the oath/affirmation and need a clear verbal answer in response?

Bernie Swanson

24 May 2016

I would include the words "Please respond with a verbal yes or no" after asking do you swear or affirm.....

Anna Marie Mastrangelo

23 Aug 2016

I am a NSA, most of my notorrial acts are with in the context of a loan closing. There are up to 20 different documents within the packet that need to be notarized. When entering the info into my journal is it necessary to note each and every document or is one entry enough for the closing?

National Notary Association

23 Aug 2016

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Glenda Rooney

29 Mar 2017

I love this information from NNA 😎

Kathleen

15 May 2017

As usual, this information is very helpful - thank you!

Jerry Lucas

16 Apr 2018

I wrote a blog article on the History of the Oath. The affirmation was created to accommodate Quakers, Mennonites and Moravians, who were religious, but believed that passages in the Bible prohibited taking an oath. In the past, oaths were also taken on sacred objects including stones, weapons, and even bear heads by Siberian hunters. Ancient oaths sometimes included a curse as a penalty for making false statements. See http://abclegaldocs.com/blog-Colorado-Notary/history-of-the-oath-930-ad/

Kerri

16 Apr 2018

I'm a little confused in the course it says you can not notarize any kind of marriage certificate but doesn't say about an application for a marriage licence

Karrie

30 Apr 2018

When is an oath or affirmation necessary? Will he paper I'm notarizing say if we need to perform this? Is it only to be done when requested by a customer? I am a notary in Greene County, Missouri. Thank you!

National Notary Association

30 Apr 2018

Hello. The Notary cannot choose what kind of notarization is needed-if the signer wishes to take an oath or affirmation, the signer must tell you that is the type of notarization they want. If the signer is unsure, the signer may need to contact the agency that issued the document to ask if an oath or affirmation is required. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/04/key-differences-acknowledgment-jurat-certificates

Cheryl Cook

07 May 2018

When completing a Jurat and Oath or Affirmation, do I need two separate journal entries or can I just include everything on the one Journal entry?

National Notary Association

07 May 2018

Hello. If you are administering the oath or affirmation as part of a jurat notarization, you only need one journal entry.

James

08 May 2018

Here in NJ, the law states that the uplifting of the hand is not required when administering the oath as part of a jurat. The only requirement is that the person who is under oath, knows they are under oath, and that they consent to it (if not in open court) and that they understand that lying while under oath is perjury.

Jaqueline M Perkins

30 Oct 2018

I need a notary at 1pm tomorrow to swear me in over the phone over a contempt of court and modification of alimony. All I need is 40 second s to a minute of your time. Please help me!!!

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