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Can I notarize a document with blank spaces?

Notary examining document for blank spaces

Updated 3-20-23. 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.

Should I notarize a document that has blank spaces?

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 2023 Notary Public Handbook instructs Notaries to refuse to notarize if the Notary knows a document is incomplete. Colorado also prohibits notarizing a document with blank spaces. Colorado Revised Statutes 12-55-107 says, “The secretary of state or the secretary of state’s designee may deny the application of any person for appointment or reappointment or take disciplinary or nondisciplinary action against a notary public if the notary public: …(g) Notarizes any blank document;…”

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 a signature on any document that is blank or incomplete."

Are some blank spaces okay for notarization?

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. 

Never leave blanks in a Notary certificate

Never leave blanks or omit information when you are completing the notarial certificate 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.

Notaries cannot fill in blank spaces in the main body of a document

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 the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

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Additional Resources:

Determine If Blank Spaces Acceptable

View All: Best Practices

30 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.

Baker

18 Feb 2020

Hi. What about the sections requiring to specify he/she; it/they; him/her? I am in California where genders are confused...

National Notary Association

18 Feb 2020

Hello. If there is a concern about possible document rejection, we recommend leaving the 'he/she/they' section as is without crossing out any pronouns.

LISA STALTER

27 Feb 2020

I am in CA. can we have them put a slash or NA in the blank spaces?

National Notary Association

27 Feb 2020

Hello. While you as a Notary should not notarize if there are incomplete sections of the document, the decision how to complete those sections would have to be made by the signer, the agency that prepared the document or the agency receiving the document. As the Notary, you may not instruct anyone how to fill in blank spaces in the main part of the document.

Raymond Lunde

29 Jul 2020

I appreciate this article "How To Deal With Blank Spaces On Documents"

National Notary Association

29 Jul 2020

Thank you! We're glad you found it helpful.

Katheryn Brown

13 Apr 2021

Great information, Thank you

Joy

14 Apr 2021

Thank you for these informative articles! l am trying to sign up for notary signing agent in Maine. any advise would be very helpful. Thank you!

National Notary Association

15 Apr 2021

Hello. You can find more information for Signing Agents here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/signing-agent-resources

Rita Wahlstedt

03 Apr 2023

Thank you for your information. It is always helpful.

Suzanne Feinberg

03 Apr 2023

Arizona has a law about Jurat's not having blanks. But if you call the AZSOS office, they recommend no blanks on acknowlegements as well. And, further, they recommend no blanks on RON documents. That being said - remember that a notary cannot add to or change a document or it could be considered the unauthorized practice of law. The AZSOS said that to be safe - be sure to do mandatory fields if something is blank on a RON and have the signer fill in the text. The office further stated, the only fields a notary can add themselves are on the notary certificate. If you have Arizona questions, the AZSOS office is really a great tool for both traditional and RON notarizations.

judith a Vencill

03 Apr 2023

What if a signer's name is misspelled but I am sure that it is the right person? Also, do I need to write something separate to notarize a witness signature on the same document?

National Notary Association

04 Apr 2023

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.

Madeline

06 Apr 2023

What about for documents that have various options in them? Such as documents containing language that states "leave this space blank if" or "sign here if"? I have notarized documents in the past that have multiple sections, such as documentation of someone's choice on their end-of-life care. Do the sections they are not checking off need to be marked as N/A in some way?

National Notary Association

14 Apr 2023

Hello. Please see the section of the article above under "Are some blank spaces okay for notarization?" for examples of blank spaces that are permissible.

Chad

24 Apr 2023

I understand that the notary can not advise what information to put into a blank space, but If there is a blank space that the signer is going to fill in but hasn't yet, can the notary ask the signer to complete the blank spaces before s/he can proceed to notarize, or can the notary only say something like "I can not notarize this document, and I can not indicate to you why. Please seek legal counsel"

National Notary Association

26 Apr 2023

Hello. If you cannot complete a notarization due to the document being incomplete, you may inform the signer why you are unable to complete the notarization.

Harry Otto

03 Jul 2023

These statutes are the “Wild West”. We live is a world where Fidelity will send you to a signers home and have you notarize an acknowledgement page that basically says “yes I saw this guy sign a few pages and I recorded his ID” while it’s a 300 page trust and account agreement. The “blank spaces” or “missing pages” rule is a powerful tool that lets me walk away from arrangements that raise a red flag that I’m not comfortable with. Great topic though. Similar to “what about pages I can’t read because they’re in another language” - which is basically analogous to a page that’s not even there. 👍

Katherine Hanson

25 Jul 2023

What if the first page, first line of the document says “as of __day of __2019”, all left blank, no way for the notary to miss it - yet the last page is just the notary and the Grantor/trustee signature? This is a trust agreement in California. Is it okay to leave a date open like that?

National Notary Association

25 Jul 2023

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.

james@nmltco.com

03 Jan 2024

Does the notary Acknowledgment in NM have to have the persons name that was acknowledged? Right now I am reading a Deed that reads "This instrument was acknowledged before me on this date of September 9, 2023" usually it says "By John Doe" but this one does not have it.. Is it valid?

National Notary Association

19 Jan 2024

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.

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