Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

The Most Common Questions Notaries Ask

The National Notary Association offers advice for the 4 most commonly asked Notary questions.

(Originally published in the December 2015 issue of The National Notary.)

The NNA Hotline gets nearly 130,000 calls a year, and our counselors have become adept at answering all kinds of questions. But some questions come up more than others, so we thought we would share the four most common queries along with some general advice offered for each.

Keep in mind that each state has its own Notary laws and guidelines, so it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the requirements of the state where you are commissioned.

Number 1: What Is Acceptable ID?
 

This clearly takes the top spot. One of the key reasons it comes up so often is that Notaries are confronted with a growing array of identity cards. Consider that every state and U.S. territory issues driver’s licenses and ID cards. On top of that, there are inmate IDs, tribal IDs and identity cards issued by federal government agencies. Then there are the identity cards and passports issued by every country in the world. Given the mobile nature of our society and the fact that there are 43 million foreign-born residents living in the U.S., there’s a good chance most Notaries will encounter an unfamiliar ID. Deciding whether an ID is acceptable depends on where you are commissioned, so you will need to know the requirements and guidelines of your state. Some states — such as California, Florida and Tennessee — provide specific lists of acceptable IDs. In these states, if the ID is not on the list, it is not acceptable.

Other jurisdictions — such as Kansas, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia — “recommend” types of ID or offer guidance about the elements of an acceptable ID. Still other states, including New York, do not offer any guidance. For these states, the NNA recommends that an acceptable ID be issued by a government agency and include the bearer’s recent photograph, signature and physical description.

Number 2: Can I Notarize This Document?
 

This is a frequent question asked by both new and experienced Notaries. It can come up if you’re used to notarizing certain types of documents in your day-to-day work and someone brings you a document you’ve never seen before. Often the document comes from another state or country. Sometimes it’s handwritten. While there are exceptions, generally speaking the type of document doesn’t matter. As the Notary, you are not responsible for the contents of the document. You are only responsible for performing the notarial act and completing the notarial certificate. As long as the type of notarization you’re asked to perform is permitted in your state, it is okay to proceed. You should be familiar with the notarial acts you’re authorized to perform, and then follow your state’s requirements for them. Another exception is a proof of life certificate. This document — typically from a foreign government or company — asks you to verify that a U.S. resident is still alive in order to collect a pension. No state authorizes Notaries to certify whether a signer is alive.

Number 3: What Kind of Notarization Is Required?
 

Most clients who come to you simply say, “I need this notarized.” They have no idea that there are different notarial acts. Before you ask them what type of notarization they want, quickly peruse the document to see if it includes notarial wording, which is generally found after the signature line. If it does, look it over to see what it is asking you to do. For an acknowledgment, it will generally have some variation of “acknowledged before me.” Jurat wording typically will include a version of “subscribed and sworn” language. If you recognize the wording and it meets the requirements of your state, proceed. If the wording is not clear, or the document doesn’t contain a notarial certificate, you will have to ask your client what type of notarization is needed. Your client often will ask you what to do. You may describe an acknowledgment and a jurat (or signature witnessing, if the act is allowed in some states), but never recommend or suggest which one should be used. That would be the unauthorized practice of law, unless you are a licensed attorney.

Number 4: How Do I Complete the Notarial Certificate?
 

It doesn’t matter if you’re a new or experienced Notary, sometimes you’ll encounter certificate wording that is confusing. Out-of-state certificates, for example, may be formatted differently than the wording you normally use. However, every certificate should have certain common elements:

  • The venue: A proper venue clause indicates where the document was notarized (usually the county and state but in some places, the city and the state, or simply “District of Columbia” in Washington, D.C.).
  • The body: Sometimes called the “statement of particulars”, this contains the name of the signer, the date of notarization and wording to indicate the type of notarization — plus facts surrounding the notarization that are important to record.
  • The Notary’s official signature.
  • The Notary’s official seal: This last element is not always included because not all states require Notaries to use a seal.If your state requires you to use a seal but the certificate does not contain space for it, you may need to attach a separate or loose certificate.

As mentioned above, you are responsible for the notarial certificate. So take your time to make sure you complete every element of it according to the requirements of your state. Here are a few questions that did not make the cut but are frequently asked:

How do I handle a credible identifying witness?

Can I notarize for only one person if there are several names in the certificate?

Can I certify a copy of this document?

Michael Lewis is Managing Editor of member publications for the National Notary Association.

98 Comments

Add your comment

Phyllis Coyle

04 Jan 2016

why is this article being blocked for my viewing?

National Notary Association

06 Jan 2016

Hello. All articles are open for public viewing. If you're having a problem viewing an article, please email us at social@nationalnotary.org with details of what device you're using and a description of the issue, and we'll try to help you resolve it.

Jo Mottis

04 Jan 2016

Although we learned this information in class it is always good to be reminded. Thanks

Cindy

09 Jan 2016

Can a sister notarize anything for her brother?

National Notary Association

13 Jan 2016

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

Lori Longhurst

11 May 2016

If I am a Notary in Utah can I preform notary services in another state? In Nevada?

National Notary Association

11 May 2016

Hello. No, you may only notarize within the state of Utah.

Karen Kaul

29 Jul 2016

Am I allowed to notarize a document for a friend?

National Notary Association

29 Jul 2016

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us the following: 1. What state are you commissioned in? 2. Are you named in the document, or will you receive a benefit from the document other than your Notary fee?

Shauna Chaffin

29 Jul 2016

I recently got married and changed my last name. All records have been updated but I am still waiting for my Stamp can I use my old stamp under my previous last name?

National Notary Association

29 Jul 2016

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

Julie

04 Nov 2016

Hello, I'm an Oregon notary, and I went to Washington State (a few miles away) to meet with my client, who owns the subject property in Oregon, and lives in Washington (common happenstance). Which State and County do I use for the acknowledgement certificate? Thanks

National Notary Association

09 Nov 2016

Hello Julie. Oregon Notaries may only notarize within the borders of the state, not outside Oregon. (ORS 194.255)

loraf0721@gmail.com

15 Nov 2016

Hi, I'm a new notary commissioned in Los Angeles, California. I'm looking for a mentor. Is there anyone out there that might have the time to give me some guidance? Thanks!

Jamia Capehart

27 Nov 2016

I have a question regarding an affidavit for employment before I notarize it. Is there someone in my state that can answer a few questions for me?

National Notary Association

28 Nov 2016

Hi Jamia. If you are an NNA member, you can contact our Hotline team for assistance at Hotline@NationalNotary.org or by phone at 1-888-876-0827.

Yvette

10 Feb 2017

The company I work for wants me to renew my notary that they paid for. I really do not want to renew, however, I have to. If I paid for my own renewal notary, I wouldn't be able to renew with the company correct? I'm in the state of Florida.

Lonny Simms

14 Mar 2017

Can document still be notarized if name is spelled wrong? I spell it Lonny on document spelled Lonnie

National Notary Association

17 Mar 2017

Hello. Can you please clarify if you were the person signing the document, or were you the Notary notarizing another person's signature on the document?

Joanne Reiser

27 Mar 2017

Hello, I am a Notary commissioned in Ohio. My stepson lives in Ohio but bought a car in Pennsylvania. He needs me to notarize the Motor Vehicle Title for him, however, the Seller's deceased father's name is on the title (who is the original owner of the vehicle). The son has Power of Attorney to handle his deceased father's property and produced a copy of his POA paperwork to my stepson, along with the vehicle's title. Does the Seller's son sign the title on behalf of his deceased father? Do I need to attach the copy of the POA paperwork to the title since the names will not match?

National Notary Association

28 Mar 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't provide instructions regarding who needs to sign a motor vehicle title or how the document should be completed. Those questions would need to be answered by the agency that issued the document or that will be receiving the document.

Marian Rollins

12 May 2017

Can I notarize a document such as a distribution form for my husband. I am a Notary for the state of Tennessee.

National Notary Association

12 May 2017

Hello. According to a opinion issued by the TN Attorney General on Sept. 13, 2010 (Opinion No. 10-97), Tennessee Notaries may not notarize the signatures of their spouses.

Brandon

20 Jul 2017

Can you read a document to the principle upon request

National Notary Association

20 Jul 2017

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

Sheila Winingham

25 Jul 2017

When it says ...it has been acknowledged to me on this day...by_(_who's name goes here)? Notary's or client's?

National Notary Association

26 Jul 2017

Hello. To help us answer your question, what state are you commissioned in, and what state is the document/notarial wording from?

Carrie Mays

12 Aug 2017

I was a Texas notary 24 years ago and apparently forgot to stamp a will I notarized. I recently received a letter from an attorney asking for an "Affidavit of Fact" so the will can be probated. I don't remember the circumstances of the transaction, but it is my signature on the will. Am I at any risk personally?

National Notary Association

14 Aug 2017

Hello. You should contact a qualified attorney to answer any legal questions about your potential liability in this situation.

Leah

20 Sep 2017

My Grandma is very ill and unable to leave the home. The water company asked for me and her to get a notarized letter from her to change the water bill in my name. Are we able to do this without her having to leave her home?

National Notary Association

21 Sep 2017

Hi Leah. Many Notaries offer mobile services where they are willing to come to a person's home to perform notarizations. We would suggest searching for "Mobile Notary" in your area on Google or other search engines to see if there is a Notary offering mobile services nearby.

Luis A

05 Oct 2017

How much it's the cost for renew the tax id number or (ITIN)

National Notary Association

06 Oct 2017

Hello. Renewing an ITIN is not a notarial act and must be handled through the IRS. Please see this link for more information: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-now-accepting-renewal-applications-for-itins-set-to-expire-by-end-of-2017

N. Ross

13 Oct 2017

I am trying to write the shortest wedding script possible. What wording is legally required to include in solemnizing a Florida wedding, and is the joining of right hands required?

National Notary Association

13 Oct 2017

Hello. According to the Florida Governor's website, the marriage ceremony may be personalized by the couple. Additional information and a sample ceremony can be found here: http://www.flgov.com/marriage_ceremonies/

Cathy Frasher

28 Oct 2017

Is there a form needed to give power of attorney to grandparents while parents vacation? Also, I am that grandparent and a notary in FL, can I notarize my daughter in law’s signature?

National Notary Association

30 Oct 2017

Hello. We are sorry, but we cannot give advice or answer questions on the preparation of legal documents. Those questions would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Julie

06 Nov 2017

Hello. My daughter needs a simple letter/statement notarized. With me as her mom, can I notarize the letter for her? we reside in Wisconsin. Just want to be sure it is acceptable. Thank you

National Notary Association

06 Nov 2017

Hello. Wisconsin Notaries are not prohibited from notarizing for relatives, as long as you do not derive a benefit from the document.

Linda Clark

06 Dec 2017

I am a notary commissioned in the State of Florida. My granddaughter is getting married in Florida in March of 2019 and we would love for me to be able to perform the ceremony. Can I do this and it be legal and binding?

National Notary Association

08 Dec 2017

Hello. Yes, Florida authorizes its Notaries to officiate weddings, and a Notary may officiate a wedding for a family member.

National Notary Association

08 Dec 2017

Hello. Yes, Florida authorizes its Notaries to officiate weddings, and a Notary may officiate a wedding for a family member.

Yasmin

04 Jan 2018

Hi, I am commissioned in California through my employer. Do they have the right to prohibit me to notarize anything after hours? Or to Notarize certain documents during business hours (Ex: hand written documents)?

National Notary Association

05 Jan 2018

Hello. California allows employers who pay for a Notary’s commission and supplies to limit the Notary’s transactions to work-related notarizations during business hours — but only if the Notary agrees to do so. (GC 8202.8).

Shellie

06 Jan 2018

On the Deed of Trust notary acknowledgment, the names of the borrowers AND the manner in which they hold title has been prepopullated on the form (i.e. John Doe and Jane Doe, husband and wife as joint tennants). Is this acceptable?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2018

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

NewNotary

21 Jan 2018

Do I have to include a statement ("signed and attested before me") on a document provided by the city and only has a signature line for the notary public? Specifically I'm looking at how I would notarize: https://www.seattle.gov/DPD/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/p2081602.pdf

National Notary Association

22 Jan 2018

Hello. If you are being asked to notarize a signature on the document, the appropriate certificate wording for the notarial act must be included and completed. "“(1) A notarial act by a notary public must be evidenced by a certificate signed and dated by a notary public." (RCW 42.44.090)

Alyssa

10 Feb 2018

Hi! I’m not a notary, but I have a question about the notarizing we just had done..... The notary’s stamp is not yet expired and she just recently did her recertification but doesn’t have the new stamp. We noticed that when she stamped, she lightly crossed out 2018 and put 2024, along with her initials. Are the documents valid? Thank you in advance!

National Notary Association

12 Feb 2018

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't offer a judgment whether the documents are legally valid or not after the notarization-that's a question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney. But if you need more information on whether the Notary correctly notarized the document or not, please contact our Hotline at 1-888-876-0827, let the counselor know your state and the details of the notarization, and the counselor should be able to answer questions whether the Notary followed proper procedure during the notarization.

Shelley

10 Feb 2018

I’m a notary commissioned in California. A customer is purchasing property in India and wants a copy of his passport notarized, a copy of his drivers license notarized, a bank statement, and power of attorney notarized. How would I proceed? He is wanting my signature and stamp on the copy of the documents.

National Notary Association

12 Feb 2018

Hello. Is the customer requesting copy certification for all the documents you listed? If so, we're sorry, but you may only certify a copy of the power of attorney-you cannot certify copies of the other documents. California only authorizes Notaries to certify copies of powers of attorney, or copies of their own journal entries if requested by a court or the Secretary of State's office.

Frank Nordby

15 Feb 2018

I have a notary as a private business.. I am also a clerk typist for a top executive of a company. Is it a conflict of interest for me to notarize documents for this company executive where I am also employed?

Frank Nordby

16 Feb 2018

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

carol

22 Feb 2018

I have a person that wants me to notarize a power of attorney for his brother who is mentally retarded and cannot sign anything, the mother just passed and she was the power of attorney. Since the brother cannot sign any document can I notarize this without his signature and only that of the son being given the power of attorney now? Commissioned in Maryland. And if not how can this be done as the disabled person cannot leave the home he is in nor does he have any accounts or anyone that would be able to do this

National Notary Association

23 Feb 2018

Hi Carol. We'd like to clarify some additional details about the situation you're describing. Please contact our Hotline Team at 1-888-876-6827 and ask to speak to one of our Hotline Counselors for guidance in this scenario.

Frank Nordby

24 Feb 2018

The state of California

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2018

Thank you, Frank. California does not consider employees notarizing for an employer to be a conflict of interest, as long as the Notary is not named as a party in the document, and does not receive a benefit from the document other than the Notary's normal salary and/or Notary feee. “A notary public has no direct financial or beneficial interest in a transaction where the notary public acts in the capacity of an agent, employee, insurer, attorney, escrow, or lender for a person having a direct financial or beneficial interest in the transaction” (GC 8224).

Becki

26 Mar 2018

Can I notarize a bill of sale on a vehicle that my husband is selling. We are in Mississippi

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2018

Hello. No, Mississippi Notaries are not allowed to notarize for their spouses. (1 MAC Pt. 5, R. 050.5.2)

Brandy

03 Apr 2018

Can a company have multiple notaries?

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2018

Hello. Yes, it is common for businesses to employ more than one individual who is commissioned as a Notary.

Sam

10 Apr 2018

If a notary resigns from his or her commission, can they later be involved in a legal matter over something they notarized even though they are no longer in commission? This is in the state of Pennsylvania.

National Notary Association

10 Apr 2018

Hello. If you have concerns about potential liability for a past notarization, you should contact an attorney for assistance.

devraj

26 Apr 2018

For temporary electricity connection elec. officer told me to bring guarrantee on 100rs stamp paper do i need to notorized it?

National Notary Association

26 Apr 2018

Hello. You would need to ask the officer if he requires a notarization on the document.

Lisa

08 May 2018

I am a notary in the state of Ca.Can I sign a document for work if I am listed on the document for applying for city permits?

National Notary Association

08 May 2018

Hello. No, California Notaries are considered to have a disqualifying interest from notarizing if the Notary is named as a party to the document. (GC 8224)

Sridevi Ramalingam

24 May 2018

I am an aspiring notary in the state of California. Is is allowed for notary to take long vacation?

National Notary Association

25 May 2018

Hello. There are no requirements in CA Notary law regarding taking vacations as a Notary Public. As a Notary, it is up to you when you are available to perform notarizations. However, if you are employed by a business, your vacation time would depend on your employer's time-off policies.

Wanda elledge

27 May 2018

I live in NC. My vehicle is in my husband and my name's. He has been deceased for several years. Can the title be notarized with just my signature?

National Notary Association

29 May 2018

Hello. You would need to contact your state motor vehicle department to ask for instructions.

Elma Maldonado

18 Jul 2018

When notarizing a affidavit, the affidavit is for example The State of Florida, Orange County, but the office where I am located is in a different county. When filling out the Notary Paragraph, where it says The State of Florida, __________ county, do I put Orange County when I am actually signing it in Osceola County? Please advise, thanks.

National Notary Association

19 Jul 2018

Hello. The venue (location) on Notary certificate wording always indicates the location where the notarization occurred. You should write in the state and county where the notarization is taking place in the venue section of the certificate

Lorie

27 Jul 2018

hello i am a notary in NC.. my boss bought a truck in mississippi...the seller signed it..however there is no place for a notary. im guessing they do not require one. does my boss just need to take it to NC dmv

National Notary Association

27 Jul 2018

Hello. Any questions about purchasing a vehicle should be directed to the appropriate state motor vehicle department.

Ellen Coulton

09 Aug 2018

Is it ethical for a wife to notarize her husband's signature on any document? This is in Miami, Florida.

National Notary Association

09 Aug 2018

Hello. Florida Notaries may not notarize the signatures of their own spouses, sons, daughters, mothers or fathers (FS 117.107[11]).

Gene Evans

12 Aug 2018

In California, can Initials be notarized...? And can Notary notarize a Trust document for mother-in-law in which which his wife will be a beneficiary to the trust..?

National Notary Association

21 Aug 2018

Hello. If the initials do not represent the signer's legal signature, they should not be notarized. California prohibits a Notary has a direct financial or beneficial interest in a transaction from notarizing. A Notary should always avoid notarizing if there is the possible appearance of a conflict of interest. If you are not sure whether or not you have an interest in a document, the safest course is always to find another Notary with no connection to the transaction.

Darrell W. Hunt

16 Aug 2018

I have been ask by a mutual friend to marry him and his wife to be. He is an American citizen however she is from north Vietnam and not an American citizen. As a notary can I marry them?

National Notary Association

16 Aug 2018

Hello. Only Notaries commissioned in certain states can perform marriages. What state are you commissioned in, please?

Mary Barna

06 Oct 2018

I'm a notary in New Jersey. I plan on becoming a permanent resident of Florida. Do I need to reapply to become a notary in Florida or is the notary transferable?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2018

Hello. New Jersey commissions are not transferable to other states. You will need to resign your NJ commission and apply for a new commission in Florida when you move.

Rachel Jackson

19 Oct 2018

I am a Notary in North Carolina. If a person is deceased and they have the car in their name, how does the living spouse go about selling the vehicle? What type of forms am I suppose to receive in order to notarize the title?

National Notary Association

19 Oct 2018

Hello. We're sorry, but the National Notary Association cannot answer questions about how to purchase a vehicle, sell a vehicle, process a vehicle title or transfer a vehicle title between persons in different states. If you have questions related to processing a vehicle sale, purchase or title paperwork, please contact the appropriate state motor vehicle department for assistance.

Dalis Alvarez

27 Nov 2018

Have a client that wants to do a POA he wants his father to be his POA in another country. I wouldn’t need his father to be present correct?

National Notary Association

27 Nov 2018

Hello. Anyone whose signature you are asked to notarize on the document must physically appear in person before you.

Richard Hart

13 Dec 2018

I own a piece of land in Mississippi it's presently going through probate and waiting for the lawyer to file so the deed goes in my name what kind of paper can me and the new owner get from a notary so I can get paid while waiting for the deed to go through the courts

National Notary Association

17 Dec 2018

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

Mirna O Garcia

06 Feb 2019

I completed my first Notary Journal. Do I keep it or turn in to the clerk's office?

National Notary Association

07 Feb 2019

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

Ailyn Sosa

22 Feb 2019

Hello, I live in florida , already have my stamp, journal and certification of notary public by state of florida . My question is : when can i start notarizing documents ?? Do i need to present other documents besides my stamp? Thanks in advance !

National Notary Association

22 Feb 2019

“If your application is approved, you will receive your commission certificate and notary seal from your bonding agency. Please confirm that the information on the seal and certificate are correct; if so, you may proceed to perform your duties as notary public” (Florida Governor’s website, “How to Become a Notary”).

Ailyn Sosa

23 Feb 2019

Hello, I live in florida , already have my stamp, journal and certification of notary public by state of florida . My question is : when can i start notarizing documents ?? Do i need to present other documents besides my stamp? Thanks in advance !

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2019

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.

Jazmin

21 Mar 2019

My mother is giving me permission to take her kids to see my sister their aunt in prison can i notarize that letter or no?

National Notary Association

22 Mar 2019

Hello. While rules for disqualifying interest vary in different states, as a general rule a Notary may not notarize signatures on a document the Notary is named in or receives a benefit from.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.