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Notary Bulletin

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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Add your comment


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.

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