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FAQ: Notarizing Proof Of Life Documents

new-proof-life-resized.jpgUpdated 8-5-19. Many Notaries have asked what to do with foreign "Proof of Life" documents that require notarizations not allowed in many U.S. jurisdictions. Here are answers to frequently asked questions that come up with these documents.

What Is A Proof Of Life Document? 

A "Proof of Life" document or "Life Certificate" is a form used by foreign governments and institutions to qualify pensioners and other beneficiaries living abroad for financial benefits. These forms often include instructions that the document must be presented to a Notary, and sometimes ask the Notary to certify that the person named in the document is currently living.

Can I Notarize A Proof Of Life Document? 

Not always. It depends on what it’s asking you to do and the state you are commissioned in. Some proof of life documents simply require the individual named in the document to have their signature notarized with a standard act such as a jurat. If this is the case, you may notarize the signature on the document.

However, if the document asks you to certify that the signer is currently alive, chances are your state law doesn't permit Notaries to do that. Washington state is an exception, because Washington Notaries are permitted to certify that an event has occurred or an act has been performed — the "event" in this case being that the pensioner is alive on a certain day. Notaries in Louisiana and Puerto Rico, who have broader authority and legal powers than Notaries in other jurisdictions, also may certify a signer’s status on a life certificate.

Alabama and Florida civil law Notaries, who are also attorneys, are authorized to certify a signer's living status on proof of life documents, but Notaries with regular Notary commissions in these states may not do so.

Other proof of life forms may ask for a "signature witnessing" where the Notary certifies the document was signed by an identified individual in the Notary's presence. The following jurisdictions authorize Notaries to perform signature witnessings: ColoradoDelaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Recently, Notaries have contacted the NNA Hotline asking about proof of life documents in which the signer simply asks the Notary to sign and affix a seal to a document lacking any certificate wording. Except in the states of Maryland and Michigan, Notaries should not accept these requests. A Notary cannot just stamp and sign a document without a notarial certificate, though many people mistakenly make this request. California prohibits Notaries from affixing their seals and signatures to a document without completing a certificate. Texas permits its Notaries to refuse a request if the Notary is not familiar with the type of notarization requested. 

Alternatives For Proof Of Life Documents 

If you are unable to perform a notarization for a proof of life document, the signer may be able to have the document notarized at an embassy or consulate of the issuing nation instead. Consular officers are normally authorized to notarize documents related to their home nation.

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

 

 

18 Comments

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James

14 Aug 2017

Interesting read. I cam across a quitclaim deed the other day where the notary certificate on the document was asking the notary to certify certain provisions in the document. To be on the safe side, I chose simply to cross that part out and only notarize the signatures. The person said that they had the form drawn up by their attorney, but I didn't believe them. I figured if that was the case, then the attorney would just notarize it (since attorneys can also act as notaries). Glad I listened to my gut!

Wendy Anderson

15 Aug 2017

Can the state of California attach an Acknowledgement? Or only a Jurat if it states it?

National Notary Association

16 Aug 2017

Hello. A California Notary may complete and attach a separate notarial certificate if the document lacks the correct pre-printed notarial wording. However, some agencies do not always accept attached notarial certificates. You should ask the signer if there are any special instructions from the receiving agency regarding attaching a notarial certificate to the document. If they will not accept an attached certificate, the signer should ask what alternative procedure the receiving agency will accept that is legal under CA Notary law.

Dale Michelson

15 Aug 2017

Good article

Dale Michelson

15 Aug 2017

Why are you covering the text in this article?

National Notary Association

16 Aug 2017

Hi Dale. We're sorry, we're not clear what issue is you are experiencing from your question. If you're having technical problems viewing an article, please contact us at social@nationalnotary.org with the type of device you're using, the name of the article and a description of the problem you're having and we'll try to help you resolve the issue.

Jodith Allen

14 Dec 2017

One thing you didn't mention, since these are usually going to a foreign country, is the need for an Apostille. I do these certificates on a regular basis and always help with the Apostille side of it as well.

dharani

17 Apr 2018

I want to know that what all are the documents to be submitted to family pensioners once a year .

National Notary Association

18 Apr 2018

Hello. We're sorry, but we do not have that information. You may wish to contact a consulate or embassy of the appropriate country to see if they can answer your questions.

Ronald D. Hall

13 Aug 2018

Does Arkansas address this situation?

National Notary Association

15 Aug 2018

Hello. Arkansas does not authorize its Notaries to certify whether or not a signer is alive. However, if presented with a document that simply requires an acknowledgment or jurat, an Arkansas Notary may perform the notarization as long as the request meets all requirements of state law.

Shain Nelson

13 Aug 2018

Great article I come across these foreign documents regularly pension verifications to proof if person is alive but it's the wording is a bit vague such as to certify and complete the whole document with specific ID information I know as notaries we don't complete documents except notarize a completed document I refer clients to their consulate office. I had clients tell some odd things such as how they got these documents few times they had stated they just printed online or they just typed themselves and what would appear like they made additional copies of previous documents sometimes it's also written it foreign language that's hard to differentiate clients do not always provide correct information just to be on the safe side follow the state laws and check with NNA

Dayna

14 Aug 2018

Is an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida who is also a Florida Notary Public authorized to notarize a proof of life document?

National Notary Association

15 Aug 2018

Hello. Florida civil law Notaries, who are also attorneys, are authorized to certify a signer's living status on proof of life documents, but Notaries with regular Notary commissions in Florida may not do so.

Tanjida Islam

31 May 2019

I came across a Life certificate that requires a bank seal, will that be the same as notarizing?

National Notary Association

31 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.

Vadim Khazin

12 Aug 2019

I've already asked this question but have not received a clear response; trying again: Being a translator (and also a notary), I encounter a situation when I ask another notary to notarize my translation from English, and they refuse to do this because they "do not understand what is written in the document". Do they really need to understand it? Aren't they/we just confirm the identity of the signer who presents his/her ID - my ID in this case?

National Notary Association

12 Aug 2019

Hello. A Notary cannot certify the accuracy of a translation. However, if you (acting in your role as a translator) wrote a statement attesting that the translation is accurate and signed it, the Notary could notarize your signature on your statement.

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