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Maryland Notary Tip: When A Document Has No Notarial Certificate


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

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15 Apr 2019

Well written. Clear and to the point.

Merry Vines

17 Aug 2019

Great info and easy to understand....

Theresa Hendricks

22 Apr 2020

Ms. Elaine Harris is so thorough and to the point always with Notarial Education and Instructions. #GreatTeacher #MakesItPlainandSimple


31 Jul 2020

Good Morning, i would like to know if the Notary signature must match the Notary stamp (complete name) example: (stamp reads)Trianna Teresa Garcia , (signature line) Trianna Garcia

National Notary Association

31 Jul 2020

Hello. To help us answer your question can you please confirm what state you are commissioned in?

Trianna Garcia

31 Jul 2020


National Notary Association

31 Jul 2020

Hello. The name you write on a Notary certificate should 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.

Johanna Pridgeon

28 Sep 2020

Good morning! My name is Johanna. I have been sworn in as a notary. This is my first time. Is there a class that you offer or know of someone who does, so that I can obtain the proper training. If so, I would appreciate, if you would contact me at your earliest convenience.

National Notary Association

02 Oct 2020

Hello. You can find more information about NNA Notary training and educational resources here:

Tymika Savoy

04 Jan 2021

Hi, guys What steps do I need to take to become a Notary in Maryland?

National Notary Association

04 Jan 2021

Hello. You can find more information here:

Ann Fox

27 Jan 2021

In Maryland, can a person who witness a signature also to a Will also notarized said Will. Also is it acceptable for the second witness to be a party that benefits from the Will? Thank you so much.

National Notary Association

29 Jan 2021

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.

Michelle Urbanski

26 Apr 2022

If you are commissioned in Harford County and frequently notarize in Baltimore County, do you put Harford county or Baltimore county in the line where it state in the county of.

National Notary Association

28 Apr 2022

Hello. If you are referring to the venue portion of a Notary certificate, you would always write the county where the notarization is taking place. Please see here for more information:


30 Jun 2022

Since my commission this is the simplest and precise explanation to my concern about notarizing no certificate wording documents or letters. Thank you Elaine for this explanation.

Christinia Daniels Johns

18 Aug 2022

Can a (witness) person write a statement about an incident and have it notarized instead of going to Court and testifying

National Notary Association

18 Aug 2022

Hello. Notarization does not automatically make a document legal or acceptable in a court of law. You would need to consult with a qualified attorney or contact the court directly to ask any questions about acceptable alternatives to in-person testimony. For more information, please see here:

Tiango Johnson

03 Feb 2023

Hi, I have a client who lives in Florida. She wants to get power of attorney for her grandma who lives in MD. I live in MD as well, how do I help this client? I'm a new notary

National Notary Association

07 Feb 2023

Hello. Notaries are not authorized to offer legal advice or answer legal questions about documents for signers. Your signer would need to contact a qualified attorney to request help preparing a power of attorney document.


28 Feb 2023

Is a notary in MD allowed to be the witness for a signature and then also notarize the same document? Example: A husband and wife agree to sign a deed to transfer a portion of their land for $10,000 paid to the both of them. The deed has witness lines, but no one else is there other than the notary and the couple. Can the notary sign as the witness for both of them and then notarize the deed? [Note: the notary is not a party to the transaction and has no interest at all] And the couple should not act as witnesses for each other because they're both financially incentivized correct?

National Notary Association

06 Mar 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. Any questions about the signer's ability to also serve as document witnesses would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

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