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Maryland Notary Tip: When A Document Has No Notarial Certificate

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Elaine Wright Harris

Occasionally, a document is presented for notarization that does not contain notarial certificate wording for an oath or affirmation or acknowledgment. Maryland has a unique law that allows a Notary to notarize the signature in the capacity as an “official witness” without completing a notarial certificate.

Here’s an example. A Notary is presented with a parent permission letter authorizing the parent’s child to attend a field trip at school. The letter does not contain a notarial certificate. In order to notarize the letter as an official witness, a Notary must follow these steps:

  1. Obtain satisfactory proof of the identity of the parent signing the letter;
  2. Record the notarization in the Notary’s register of official acts;
  3. Observe the signing of the letter;
  4. Date, sign and apply the Notary’s seal or stamp to the letter; and
  5. Write on the letter the date on which the Notary’s commission expires.

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Essentially, the steps for officially witnessing a signature require four informational elements to be added to the document. Here’s a practical tip for satisfying these requirements. Draw four lines on the document for the following information:

Line 1: The signer’s signature

Line 2: The date of the notarization

Line 3: The Notary’s signature

Line 4: The Notary’s commission expiration date

If the document includes a line for the signer’s signature, draw three lines. If the document already contains a line for the signer’s signature and the Notary’s seal contains the Notary’s commission expiration date, draw two lines.

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 Two additional scenarios may arise when you are asked to notarize a signature on a document that does not contain notarial certificate wording. First, if multiple signers must sign the same document without certificate wording, follow the steps outlined above for each signer as illustrated at left. This helps to prevent fraud.

Second, if a signer presents a document that does not contain certificate wording and provides the Notary with a certificate form to complete, the Notary may witness the signing and complete the certificate form. Maryland guidelines do not allow a Notary to suggest to a signer that a certificate form can be added to their document. However, if the signer provides the certificate form or asks the Notary to provide the certificate form, then the Notary may do so.

Notarizing a document as an official witness may seem like a puzzling task. However, it can be simple by if you follow the steps and tips outlined above.

Elaine Wright Harris of Bowie, Maryland, is the NNA’s 2009 Notary of the Year. She is a mobile Notary and long-time Notary educator and mentor. Questions or comments can be forwarded to thedeskofelainewright@comcast.net.

1 Comment

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Bernard

15 Apr 2019

Well written. Clear and to the point.

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