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The Most Common Types Of Notarizations

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Updated 7-13-17. “I need this notarized,” is a universal refrain Notaries nationwide hear from their signers. But in many cases, signer's don't realize there is more than one kind of notarization. You need to know the difference between the most common notarial acts in order to perform your duties properly.

Acknowledgments
 

The purpose of an acknowledgment is to ensure that the signer of a document is who they claim to be and has voluntarily signed the document. Acknowledgments often are needed for documents concerning valuable assets, such as deeds, mortgages and deeds of trust.

To perform an acknowledgment, the signer must personally appear before you at the time of notarization to be positively identified and to declare — or “acknowledge” — that the signature on the document is their own and that they signed willingly.

While it is common practice for your client to sign the document in front of you at the time of the notarization, it is not necessary. Your client may sign the document before bringing it to you and declare — or acknowledge — to you that the signature on the document is theirs.

Jurats
 

The purpose of a jurat is for a signer to swear or affirm that the contents of a document are true. Depending on the jurisdiction, it also can be known as an affidavit or a verification on oath or affirmation.

For a jurat, the signer must personally appear before you and sign the document in your presence. You must then administer an oath or affirmation and have the signer speak aloud his or her promise that the statements in the document are true. The choice between an oath or affirmation should be made by the signer.

Administering the oath or affirmation is a vital part of performing a jurat or verification because the signer is affirming that the contents of the document are true, and he or she may be prosecuted for perjury if the contents are not true.

Oaths/Affirmations
 

In some cases, a client may simply need you to administer an oath or affirmation orally, rather than as part of a jurat​, affidavit or other written document. The purpose of administering a verbal oath or affirmation is, again, to compel a client to truthfulness.

An oath is a solemn pledge to a supreme being. An affirmation is a solemn pledge on the individual’s personal honor. Again, the choice should be made by the signer.

Copy Certification
 

copy certification confirms that a reproduction of an original document is a “full, true, and accurate transcription or reproduction” of the original.

Documents requiring copy certification may include: diplomas, driver’s licenses, leases, contracts, vehicle titles, Social Security cards, medical records and bills of sale.

To perform a copy certification, the person in possession of an original document (known also as the “document custodian”) takes the original document to a Notary. The Notary typically will make a photocopy of the document and complete a certificate for the copy certification to confirm that the photocopy is a true, accurate and complete copy of the original.

While copy certifications are considered a common notarial act, nearly half of the U.S. states bar Notaries from performing this type of notarization. Make sure to check your state’s guidelines to see if you may certify copies.

Of the states that do authorize this act, some stipulate that you may only certify copies of documents, not images, or other items. Other states allow Notaries to certify copies of both “records” and “items,” such as graphs, maps or images.

Many states also forbid the copy certification of vital, public documents, such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and deeds. And as a general practice, the Model Notary Act (section 2-4) recommends against certifying copies of these types of documents. Certified copies of these documents may be obtained from the agency that holds the originals.

Signature Witnessing
 

A number of states authorize Notaries to perform a signature witnessing. With this notarial act, you certify that the individual appearing before you is who he or she claims to be, and the signature on the record is the signature of the individual before you.

The main difference between a signature witnessing and an acknowledgment is that you witness the document being signed. The main difference between a signature witnessing and a jurat, affidavit, or verification upon oath or affirmation is that, with a signature witnessing, you do not administer an oath.

Want to brush up on your knowledge of notarizations and what is expected of you as a Notary Public? Check out the NNA’s Notary Essentials course.

Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.

32 Comments

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Carole Pateman

17 Aug 2015

So when you say the choice of oath should be left to the signer...How should that conversation go?? I have only ever done one Jurat, so not sure as to choice of words to the signer?????

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2015

Hello Carole. For example, you could ask the signer, "Do you prefer to take an oath to a higher power, or an affirmation based on your personal honor?" and let the signer choose which he or she prefers. Either choice is acceptable for a jurat.

Melanie

17 Aug 2015

I have never asked this question-I wasn't aware that I had to ask. The wording I use covers both: "Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of perjury that the contents of this document are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?" This wording was taken from an example in the Sample Workbook, Functions and Duties of a California Notary Public produced by the CA Secretary of State's Business Programs Division Notary Public & Special Filings Section, 2014.

Tara

18 Aug 2015

Melanie, I believe that wording is correct, the alternative would be ".....truth, so help you God?"

Darlyn

20 Jul 2016

I drew up a document to allow my parents to take my 3 children on vacation and to seek medical advice should the need arise. I was refused notarization on the grounds that I did not have any notary wording in the document. What wording is necessary for the document to be notarized?

National Notary Association

21 Jul 2016

Hello. You would need to ask an attorney or the agency that this permission form will be submitted to what type of notarization they require for the document.

Bill Sudol

08 Aug 2016

The following is Nebraska's policy on copying documents: "As a notary you may not Copy Certify any documents, someone else can make a statement they are copies, and appear before you and sign the document. You will want to watch for the Attestation Clause required per Notary Law."

lisaj@mst.edu

25 Oct 2016

Can you tell me what type of notarization an absentee ballot would be

National Notary Association

25 Oct 2016

Hello. If no instructions are provided on the document, and you cannot determine the type of notarial act from preprinted notarial certificate wording on the document, we would recommend contacting your Secretary of State's office for additional instructions.

Marie

25 Feb 2017

I'm buying a car, bill of sale. No title. What would that be categorized as?

National Notary Association

28 Feb 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but because this question doesn't relate to notarization we can't answer it.

joaquin

17 Mar 2017

Is it advisable to have a separate stamp with just the notary's name on it to stamp the document the notary is attaching the certificate to...since the certificate and the document will be staple together it can easily be in staple, just a precautionary measure to avoid the certificate to be attached to a different document.

Tina

22 Jul 2017

I was asked to notorize a written document which was agreement between two people. Would I need a signature witness or acknowledgement?

National Notary Association

24 Jul 2017

Hello. The signers would need to tell you what type of notarization they want. You may not choose on their behalf.

Sylvia Perez

31 Jul 2017

Wow, I wasn't aware of this: "While it is common practice for your client to sign the document in front of you at the time of the notarization, it is not necessary. Your client may sign the document before bringing it to you and declare — or acknowledge — to you that the signature on the document is theirs." I have always turned folks away when they arrive with their paperwork already signed thinking all they need is a notary stamp.

Julie Hoskins

31 Jul 2017

I was asked to notorize a handwritten will for a gentleman that was going in for major surgery the next morning. What type of notorization would be correct to use? When I asked the gentleman he was not sure. I told him I could do an acknowledgement notorization, but he should check with his attorney. Was that correct?

National Notary Association

31 Jul 2017

Hello. A nonattorney Notary should never select a notarial act on behalf of a signer. If the signer does not know what type of notarial act is needed the signer should contact the document receiving agency or a qualified attorney for instructions.

Robyn Donohue

09 Aug 2017

Is there somewhere or some how to print this? Would love to carry it with me.

Brandy

12 Aug 2017

I just became a notary for work. My very first notary, I was asked to notarized a document for a co-worker. He told me is was an acknowledgment, but the wording on the certificate said "sworn before me". Wouldn't that be an oath/affirmation?

National Notary Association

14 Aug 2017

Hello Brandy. You should confirm with the signer that he wishes an acknowledgment. You may describe the difference between an acknowledgment and a jurat to the signer, but be sure to let him choose which one he wants--you may not select the notarial act on his behalf. If he confirms an acknowledgment is what he wants but the certificate wording on the document is not correct, you may complete and attach the correct acknoweldgment wording for your state instead of using the preprinted wording on the document. If the signer is unsure which notarial act he requires, he should contact the agency that issued the document for additional instructions.

Mildred

23 Aug 2017

I was asked to notarized a document that states that he is the owner of a safe box and verify with his signature that he is the same person. What type of certification would that be?

National Notary Association

25 Aug 2017

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

Carol

03 Sep 2017

Can a notary notarize a lease/rent agreement?

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2017

Yes, provided the notarial act requested meets all requirements of your state's laws.

Ruth

01 Nov 2017

I am wanting to allow my ex to stand in my place when I am not around in the showing and/or signing for a piece of land I'm trying to sell... can I draw up a letter and have it notarized that I am giving him permission to do so?

National Notary Association

02 Nov 2017

Hello. If you are asking us if such a document would be legally binding, we're sorry but we are not authorized to give legal advice. You would need to speak with a qualified attorney to answer your questions.

Tracy

19 Nov 2017

If some one has marked there a name and did not intial in the state of pa is that legal? also where the notary puts her stamp does she have to sign the affidavit, and anything written below that seal is it valaid?

National Notary Association

21 Nov 2017

Hi Tracy. We would need more information before we can answer your question. If you can contact our Hotline Team at 888-876-0827 and provide more details, one of our counselors should be able to assist you.

Delia Clifford

11 Jan 2018

what goes in these blanks "known to me (or proved to me on the oath of ____________ or through ______________ to be the person whose name is subscribed

National Notary Association

12 Jan 2018

Hello. Please contact our Hotline Team at 1-888-876-0827 for assistance with this question.

Mickie

13 Jan 2018

What title should you include with your acknowledge and signature? Is Notary Public the official title vs. your job title?

National Notary Association

16 Jan 2018

Hello. "Notary Public" is the official title of a person who has been issued a Notary commission.

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