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May I Notarize A Document If It Does Not Have Certificate Wording?

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One of our clients came to us after another Notary told her that she could not perform a notarization because the document did not indicate what type of notarization was needed. Are we supposed to refuse the request in this circumstance?L.M., California

It depends. You may notarize a document that does not have pre-printed notarial wording as long as the signer tells you what type of notarization is needed. You would then attach the appropriate certificate wording. If the signer can’t tell you that, and can’t find out from the issuing or receiving agency, then you’ll have to refuse the notarization. As nonattorneys, Notaries cannot decide the type of notarization to perform on a document because the choice can have important legal ramifications.

Hotline answers are based on the laws in the state where the question originated and may not reflect the laws of other states. If in doubt, always refer to your own state statutes. – The Editors

Confronted with a tricky notarization? Unsure how to proceed? NNA members have unlimited access to our expertly trained NNA Hotline counselors to help you with all of your notarial questions. Call 1-888-876-0827, Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. PST; Saturday, 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST.

Related Articles:

Notary Basics: Ensure Your Certificate Language Is Compliant

When And How To Use A Loose Certificate

How Do I Notarize A Document With No Signature Or Certificate?

Additional Resources:

NNA Webinar: Acknowledgments and Jurats — What’s the Difference?

Notary Essentials

View All: Hotline Tips

17 Comments

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Louis Jones Sr

18 Jul 2016

In one of your responses you said if the client tells you what type of notarization is needed you can then add the certificate. This is confusing!!!...I thought a notary could not add anything to a document unless he/she was an attorney.

National Notary Association

20 Jul 2016

Hello. If a document requires notarization but lacks pre-printed notarial certificate wording, once the signer tells the Notary what type of notarization is needed the Notary may attach and complete the appropriate notarial certificate wording to the document. The Notary may not choose what wording or notarial act is needed for the signer, as this would be the unauthorized practice of law unless the Notary is a qualified attorney.

pwalshnotary@gmail.com

18 Jul 2016

what am I aupposed to comment on??

scsc9494704@att.net

18 Jul 2016

cannot access text even though I am a member

National Notary Association

20 Jul 2016

Hello. Please e-mail us at social@nationalnotary.org with a description of the problem you are having viewing articles and we will try to assist you. If you can include a link to which article you are trying to view, along with what type of device you are using that would be helpful also. Thanks.

Sheila Moore

08 Sep 2016

How do you handle notarizing documents with two signers but only one notary acknowledgement box? Should I add a Certificate of Acknowledgement or do I put both names in the acknowledgement?

National Notary Association

08 Sep 2016

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

Sasha Martin

31 Mar 2021

How do you handle notarizing documents with two signers but only one notary acknowledgement box? Should I add a Certificate of Acknowledgement or do I put both names in the acknowledgement? (Georgia)

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2021

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.

Jonny Gatson

07 Nov 2021

My mother put her home into a living trust she had the property grant deed document notarized signed & legally recorded in Los Angeles county She did a declaration of trust that was a separate document and it had a place for a notary the notary signed it and dated it but didn’t put his seal on the paper would that be a legal document or not without the seal

National Notary Association

08 Nov 2021

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

Alex S

14 Dec 2021

I am a notary in Virginia and work in a bank. I constantly have clients come with handwritten or typed documents they made then say they need a notary. The doc does not have the proper notary attestation language. Most of the time it it just says they are this person and need stuff sent from other countries, or confirming who their children are (even with different last names), confirming they have accounts with us/money with us, etc. Can i notarize these? I do not feel comfortable doing it since they can't tell me what type of document it is, doesn't have proper language, and other reasons. Please let me know.

National Notary Association

17 Dec 2021

Hello. If you are asked to notarize a document that lacks Notary certificate wording, you would need to ask the signer to choose what type of notarization they wish performed. Once the signer selects what type of notarization they wish, you can fill out and attach the appropriate Notary certificate wording to the document. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/04/when-use-loose-certificate

Brian

04 Aug 2022

I am a Notary in California, and I recently had a couple come in, saying they were going on a trip, and they had a handwritten letter or not stating that if they were both to die who would receive what of their assets. They wanted a Notary Acknowledgement and stamp. I witnessed them sign their letter, and then filled out a California Acknowledgement attachment form. The husband then grew enraged and said that it was useless, because I did not apply my Notary Stamp (Seal) to the letter itself. I signed and stamped the attachment form, and simply wrote "see attachment" on the letter itself. He said it was not valid, and NO LAWYER would accept that, despite the fact that I've done thousands of Notary Attachments for people and it's perfectly legal, and I've done hundreds of Attachment forms for ACTUAL Lawyers who have never complained about this process. What should I say to someone like this, who doesn't understand that an acknowledgement or just attachment form is perfectly valid and legal - should I write - by hand - the wording on the standard notary attachment form onto his document (if there is space) and sign and stamp THAT, to appease the people, or should I just let them know that the attachment has specific language that THEIR document DOES NOT, and in order for it to be valid and possibly legal, their document NEEDS to have that language physically on it, or I have to do an attachment? Please let me know which way to go on this.

National Notary Association

09 Aug 2022

Hello. A Notary should never affix a Notary seal to a document without completing the required certificate wording. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2019/05/3-things-cant-do-as-notary

Deliah

16 Aug 2022

If a document is only missing the venue, can I myself or the signer write or type that portion on the document - or type a blank space for it to be filled in the document prior to notarizing, and then fill out the venue portion in that blank space or is a whole certificate is needed for that? (Texas)

National Notary Association

06 Sep 2022

You may correct the venue information manually, or write in if there is no venue section. Alternatively, you can use a certificate attachment which reflects the venue information.

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