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How To Notarize A Document In California

5 Steps California Notaries Always Need To Remember

Updated 3-7-18. California has very specific requirements for notarizing documents. To help California Notaries carry out their essential task, here is a step-by-step procedure to perform a proper notarization:

Step 1: Personal appearance is required
 

Under California law, every signer must personally appear before you at the time of the notarization. This means that you and the signer must both be physically present, face to face in the same room, when the notarization takes place.

This protects your signer, your employer and others from potential fraud — and you from potential liability.

A few states permit the personal appearance requirement to be satisfied by webcam over the internet. This is not allowed for California Notaries.

Personal appearance also allows you to complete other steps in a proper notarization. 

Step 2: Check over the document before notarizing
 

Quickly look over the document to do the following:

A. Check if there is a Notary certificate. The certificate informs you what type of notarization to perform. You’ll also need to verify that the certificate complies with California law. If there is no certificate, the signer will need to tell you the type of notarization, and you’ll need to attach an appropriate certificate form. The most common certificates are acknowledgments and jurats, and each has its own requirements.

[Note: The wording on all documents being filed in California must match exactly what is mandated by the state. If you are completing an acknowledgment for a document going out of state, you may use wording that does not match California’s acknowledgment as long as the wording does not require you certify that the signer holds a particular representative capacity. If there is not pre-printed certificate wording, ask your signer what type of notarization is required and then attach the appropriate certificate. If they do not know what type of notarization they need, you may describe the various notarial acts, but you may not make the choice for the signer unless you are a licensed attorney. If your signer still cannot decide, they should contact the issuing or receiving agency.]

B. Check for blank spaces. State law requires you to make sure there are no blanks on a documents. Documents with blank spaces can be altered later in an attempt to commit fraud, so you must refuse to notarize incomplete documents.

C. Glean key information (such as the document title) for entering in your journal.

D. Check the signature date, which should never come after the date of the notarization.

Glancing over the document does not mean reading it for its details. It means perusing it enough to get the information you need.

Step 3: Carefully identify the signer
 

Properly verifying your signer’s identity is the essential duty of every Notary when executing an acknowledgment or jurat. California allows you to use one of two methods to identify signer:

  • California has a specific list of IDs you can use. It includes government-issued IDs, such as driver’s licenses, passports and such. IDs not on the list are not acceptable.
  • Credible identifying witnesses who know the signer well enough to verify their identity. However, credible identifying witnesses must present an ID from the list mentioned above.

Unlike most other states, California does not permit Notaries to rely on their personal knowledge of signers to verify their identities.

At this point, you should check that your signer is acting independently and is aware of what’s going on. This can easily be accomplished by a simple conversation with a few basic questions. While not stipulated in state law, it is a recommended standard of practice.

To determine willingness, ask your signer if he is signing of his own free will. If you have any reason to suspect that he is not, refuse to perform the notarization. To determine their awareness, the recommended practice is to make a layperson’s, commonsense judgment about the signer’s ability to understand what is happening. 

Step 4: Complete your journal entry
 

California requires you to maintain a record of all notarizations and has specific requirements for what an entry should contain:

1. The date and time of the notarization

2. The type of notarization

3. The type of document being notarized

4. The signature of each signer

5. What type of satisfactory evidence was used to identify the signer

6. The fee charged for the notarial act

7. The signer’s thumbprint if the document is a power of attorney, deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property

These details are helpful in case a document or notarization is called into question.

You should complete the journal entry before the notarization so you can get all the required elements and information, including your signer’s signature and thumbprint.

Step 5: Fill in the notarial certificate
 

When completing the certificate, make sure that all information in it is correct. For example, the venue — marked by the words “State of … County of …” — notes where you performed the notarization, not where the document was prepared or will be filed.

Finally, make sure you sign and affix your seal on the certificate properly. The certificate must be signed exactly as your name appears on your commission. Your seal should be close to your signature but should not overlap any wording. This way everything will be legible.

By always following these essential steps, you will able to perform your duties properly and without error.

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

Additional Resources:

Notary Essentials

 

 

39 Comments

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Patricia Adams

22 Jul 2017

This is an inconvenient step. I usually do not bother to read because of the time it takes to do this step.

Maria Solis

24 Jul 2017

Does address listed on drivers license have to be signers current address?

National Notary Association

27 Jul 2017

Hello. In order for a driver's license to be accepted as proof of a signer's identity in California, the license must be current or issued within the past five years, and must be issued by a U.S. state or an appropriate agency in Canada or Mexico. (CC 1185[b])

Baoxia Lim

27 Jul 2017

Two months ago, my boss came to me and signed 2 places on a page of document. Both signatures were required for notarization. However, I attached only one loose certificate to the original signed document. Now he came back to me and asked for another loose certificate for the second signature which was signed 2 months ago. How do I correct this?

National Notary Association

28 Jul 2017

Hello. You would need to perform a new notarization for the second signature. The boss would have to personally appear before you again and be properly identified. You can then complete your journal entry and the new certificate wording. The date on the certificate wording should reflect the new date of notarization, not the date of the previous notarization. You should also record the details of the boss' request in your journal entry.

Shaista Soroya

01 Sep 2017

Hi. A client is requesting a refund. I am concidering giving them a refund only for services they did not use. However, I want to be sure they do not in future request any additional money, or dispute payments already made, say that they never revived the refund, or damage my business with hearsay or poor reviews on social media or sights. My question is that can I meet with a notery as a witness and the client along with my self to sign off on such a agreement

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2017

Hello. A Notary's presence does not make an agreement legally binding-the Notary's role is simply to identify the signer on a document. If you wish to create a legally binding agreement, you should contact an attorney for advice.

Denise Onorato

01 Oct 2017

HELP! I'm confused. I've read all about notary in Calif. Then I find there's something called a proof where the person does not have to be present. Confused in Calif. PROMBLEM: My brother is the executor of my mother's trust. There was no notary present t when we signed the docs. He had it notarized after. He's been sligh about things in the past. This leads me to be suspicious and has caused problems. Please help me and explain. Appriate DeniseO

National Notary Association

03 Oct 2017

Hello. For more information about proofs of execution by subscribing witness, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2016/11/how-to-notarize-if-signer-cant-be-present Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with advice regarding your mother's documents. You would need to consult with an attorney for any legal advice.

Brad Clements

12 Mar 2018

I notarize signatures not documents.

Judith Martin

12 Mar 2018

Why do most pre-printed Notarial certificates have the word "SEAL" imprinted in the middle of the field for the seal. Since the seal cannot intrude on any space with writing or lines.

Kayleen Clements

16 May 2018

I am trying to verify whether I can notarize a signature that has already been signed. The client signed the document in 1975, but didn't realize it was supposed to be notarized. Can I notarize it here in California if she is present?

National Notary Association

17 May 2018

Hello. It depends on what type of notarization the signer is requesting. If the signer wants an acknowledgment, then you may perform the notarization, since an acknowledgment does not require signing in the Notary's presence. However, if the signer asks for a jurat, then the signer would need to re-sign the document in your presence.

Melanie Liu

07 Jul 2018

Is a document that you print up and get notarized in the state of california legal? With electronic signatures and webcam of a notary

National Notary Association

09 Jul 2018

Hello. Notarizing a document does not make it legally binding-notarization simply confirms the identity of the person signing the document. If you have questions about the legality of a document, you should contact a qualified attorney for legal advice.

Serah

04 Sep 2018

I live in Livermore, CA and I have a document that I need notarized. However, I need the actual document notarized and not an attached certificate. How do I go about doing that?

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2018

Hello. California Notaies are required by law to complete statutory Notary certificate wording for each type of notarization requested. The certificate wording would have to be pre-printed on the document for the Notary to fill in or completed on a separate sheet that is attached to the document.

mthompson@fairmontschools.com

21 Sep 2018

Hello. I reside in California and I have someone asking me to notarize the California Driver's License as a certified copy. What is the protocol for notarizing a CDL in California?

National Notary Association

24 Sep 2018

Hello. California Notaries may not certify a copy of a driver's license.

Rey

06 Oct 2018

Can a signed deed be considered void if the notary did not take the proper steps when the document was signed? 1. The notary person was not present to see the signature. Only 2 family members. A brother and mother. 2. There was no thumb print taken at the time. Is that document still valid. Or is this enough to fight in court and reverse the deed?

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2018

Hello. We're sorry, but any legal questions regarding a document's validity or basis to be challenged in court would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Anonymous

09 Nov 2018

I want sell property in India from USA during the registration they sent me 5 pages of document they told me notorized and attorney signature in that, my question is notarized person signature is enough or should I go to attorney in USA please clarify my doubt, thank you

National Notary Association

14 Nov 2018

Hello. We are sorry, but these are legal questions that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Patricia Bowen

25 Feb 2019

I notarized a Grant deed, where a signature was required in 5 places, charged $15/signature. The person said i should only charge $15 because it was a deed with one seal. Can you confirm $15/signature is correct despite one seal?

National Notary Association

26 Feb 2019

Hello. The maximum fee California Notaries may charge for an acknowledgment or jurat is $15 per each signature notarized (GC 8211[a] and [b]).

Jordan

01 Apr 2019

If a notary in California waives the notary fee, what should be indicated in the journal None or $0?

National Notary Association

03 Apr 2019

Hello. You should enter "No Fee" or "0" (GC 8206[a]).

Elizabeth

02 May 2019

Can a notary be a witness in California if they are notarizing a document?

National Notary Association

03 May 2019

Hello. California does not specifically address this issue in its Notary statutes, so the safest course would be not to serve as both a document witness and Notary. Witnessing a document may require you to sign the document — which could create a conflict of interest if you are asked to notarize other signatures on the same document. The easiest way to avoid possible conflicts is to choose to act officially as a Notary or privately as a document witness — but not both for the same transaction.For more information, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2018/05/notary-tip-requests-to-serve-as-a-document-witness

Amparo Cruz

29 May 2019

Can a California notary notarize a company form or do they HAVE to use their own document?

National Notary Association

30 May 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.

Mel

03 Aug 2019

My husband is going to travel out of the country with our children so I will need to fill out a travel consent form. If my brother-in-law is a notary would he be able to notarize the form or would it be conflict of interest for him since he will be going on the same vacation booked separately?

National Notary Association

05 Aug 2019

Hello. To help us answer your question, what state is your brother-in-law commissioned in?

Hill

22 Aug 2019

Is it a requirement for the Notary Public to write down my Retirement Account #, my Email address, my phone #, and m bank account # on her notary book along with my Driver License# on her book? I had my signature notarized to get my retirement fund out. Very suspicious ! I asked her and she said she needed them in case there is a problem. She now has my Driver License information, phone #, Email, My Retirement Account #, my Bank Account # all written down. Please advise

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2019

Hello. The entries in a California Notary’s journal for each notarial act must include (GC 8206[a]; NPH): • Date, time and type of each official act; • Character (type or title) of every document sworn to, affirmed, acknowledged or proved before the Notary; • Signature of each person whose signature is notarized, including the signature of any subscribing witness and the mark of a signer; • Statement regarding the type of satisfactory evidence relied on to identify the signer (If an identification document was presented, the journal shall contain the type of identifying document, the governmental agency issuing the document, the serial or identifying number of the document, and the date of issue or expiration of the document) • Fee charged for the notarial act or, if no fee was charged, “No Fee” or “0”; • If document is a power of attorney, deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property, the right thumbprint (or any other available print) of the signer. California Notaries are not required to record a signer's private financial information such as a bank account or retirement account. Please see this article for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2019/07/avoiding-privacy-breaches-during-and-after-a-notarization

BT

28 Aug 2019

Hi there. I became a notary through my employer. Another colleague of mine at work asked if I could notarize a personal document for her-- can I do this?

National Notary Association

29 Aug 2019

Hello. You may notarize as long as the notarization being requested is permitted under state law. If notarizing for a co-worker during business hours would conflict with any workplace policies, you may wish to schedule the notarization during your lunch break or after business hours.

Dee

18 Oct 2019

Does a notary need to complete their full name on the acknowledgment in the area that state's "before me" Can a notary ust initials and last name only when they have first second and last name on their seal? Thank you.

National Notary Association

21 Oct 2019

Hello. The name you write on a Notary certificate must exactly match the name on your official Notary commission. Also, you must sign each Notary certificate with the signature that you filed with your commissioning official. Don’t leave out or add an initial to your signature if it doesn’t match your commission name on file.

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