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Notary Tip: How To Deal With Blank Spaces On Documents

New-blank-doc-resized.jpgUpdated 2-19-19. You've just been handed a document to notarize. The signer's ID checks out, but then you spot several blank spaces in the main part of the document. Do you proceed, or do you have to stop? Here are some helpful guidelines for notarizations involving blank spaces.

Notarizing Incomplete Documents
 

You should not notarize an incomplete document because of the risk of potential fraud. For example, if a document selling a vehicle to someone else for an agreed amount was signed and notarized with the selling price left blank, a dishonest person could fill in a different amount later and claim that was the agreed sum of money.

Because of this, many states prohibit notarizing a document that is incomplete or contains blank spaces. In California, the Secretary of State's 2018 Notary Public Handbook instructs Notaries to refuse to notarize if the Notary knows a document is incomplete. 

If you are presented with an incomplete document, you should refuse to notarize citing the missing pages or blank spaces. Even if you are commissioned in a state that does not provide specific guidance regarding blank document spaces, such as Texas, Article IV-D-1 of The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility recommends: "The Notary shall refuse to notarize any document whose text is blank or incomplete."

Are Some Blank Spaces Okay?
 

There are some limited situations where it is permissible to leave a space blank, such as the following:

Spaces for additional signatures. Documents often need to be signed by multiple individuals at different times in different locations. You may be asked to notarize one signature on a document that includes additional, blank signature spaces. In such a case, the document is not considered incomplete, and you may complete the notarization for any signers who are physically present and properly identified. However, you should record in the journal entry that the document included additional signature spaces and why they were not used.

Spaces reserved for use by government officials. Some documents include a boxed-off section or separate area of blank spaces marked with a title such as “For Official Use Only,” “Reserved For Recorder Use Only” or some other label indicating it may only be completed by an authorized official. If you are asked to notarize such a document, it is OK to proceed without filling in the blanks in a section reserved for official use.

Exceptions in state law. Some states permit certain documents that include blanks to still be notarized. For example, Florida prohibits notarizing most documents that include blank spaces, but FS 117.107(10) allows exceptions for an endorsement or assignment in blank of a negotiable or nonnegotiable note and the assignment in blank of any instrument given as security for such a note. 

Fill Out Notarial Wording Completely
 

Never leave blanks or omit information when you are completing the notarial wording. Missing information in the notarial wording was listed by county recorders in California as one of the top reasons notarized documents are rejected by recording offices.

Inapplicable Blanks Or Spaces To Be Filled In Later
 

Sometimes a blank space on a document will not be used. In such cases, you should refuse to notarize, citing the blank space as a reason. Remember that you may only complete information in the notarial certificate wording. Any blanks in the main text must be completed by the signer or another individual authorized to do so before the notarization may proceed.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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Unsure how to perform a notarization? Want to brush up on your skills? Notary Essentials can give you the expertise you need to perform the most common notarial acts in your state with ease and accuracy.

Additional Resources:

Determine If Blank Spaces Acceptable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

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Joseph W. Berning

23 Jan 2017

WHY are you requiring a "comment" in order to read the Notary Bulletin?

National Notary Association

23 Jan 2017

Hello. We're sorry you're having problems viewing an article. We don't require you to comment to read-all Bulletin articles should be open to the public for viewing without special requirements. If you are being prevented from viewing an article, please contact us at social@nationalnotary.org, let us know what article you are having problems with and what device you are using to view the article, and we'll see if we can help you resolve the issue.

Beverly McCarrell

23 Jan 2017

I guess I have to inquire as to what exactly the blank spaces are for (other than the Notarial wording) because we are actually notarizing the signatures, not the document per se'.

Diane

23 Jan 2017

I am presented with documents to notarize that almost always have blanks on them. These are agreements or deeds of some sort that are being recorded concurrently with other documents. There are blanks in the document I am notarizing because the blank is for filling in the recording number of the other doc because the other doc is recording first. The blanks aren't noted "for official use only" or anything like that. Maybe this isn't in complete conformance with the law, but it is a reality that I'm presented with all the time. I would be out of a job if I refused to notarize these documents.

CJ Wilkins

25 Jan 2017

I notarize Advance Health Care Directives in the law firm where I work. There are lines next to certain choices that the client has regarding prolonging life, relief from pain, and donation of organs. They are to initial next to their choices. Often they are not sure of their choice so the attorney tells them they can leave it blank and leave the decision up to the agent. This has always been a concern of mine. Ultimately I do notarize the client's signature anyway. What would you do?

National Notary Association

25 Jan 2017

Hi, C.J. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in? If you need an answer urgently, you can also contact our Hotline Team directly at hotline@nationalnotary.org.

Julie barnes

25 Feb 2019

Then why do CA acknowledgements and jurats state : the official is only to identify signer. We are not responsible for truth accuracy or validity of document?

Liz Hudson

07 Aug 2019

It makes sense that incomplete documents should not be notarized due to the risk of fraud. I am selling my car soon, and I wasn't sure how to go about the process properly. Thank you for explaining what can and cannot be notarized, this will be helpful as I gather the right documents.

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