Notary Best Practices Articles

Can you notarize this photograph?

by American Association of Notaries
A notary should be prepared to explain to a client that notary law does not allow notaries merely to place their official notary seal and official notary signature on a document or photo in order to make it acceptable by the receiving party. A notary is almost always required to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment and complete a notarial certificate pertaining to the notarial act he or she performed. (more...)

How Much Do You Charge for Notary Services?

by American Association of Notaries
This is a somewhat sticky question for mobile notaries. Why? Well, how much you charge depends on a number of factors. (more...)
Also listed in: Notary Fees

Legal by Notarization

by American Association of Notaries
I honestly cannot count the number of times I've been asked the question, Once you notarize my document, will it be legal? If I were to guess, I'd say I'm asked at least once a week (during a slow week). It seems people feel that a notary public can do the same thing an attorney does, but at a cheaper price. (more...)

Notarizing for Family Members and the Family Businesses

by American Association of Notaries
Our readers have undoubtedly heard the legendary story about President Calvin Coolidge being sworn into the office of President of the United States of America by his father in 1923. (more...)

Six Critical Steps to Follow if a Notary Stamp is Lost

by American Association of Notaries
If you lose your notary seal, will you react like the notary public in today's example? Of course, you won't! Everything that this notary does is wrong. Today, learn from his mistakes and make note of the six critical steps that you must follow when a notarial seal is lost. (more...)

Understanding Affidavits

by American Association of Notaries
An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed statement made before a notary public or any public official who has the authority to administer oaths. It is made under penalty of perjury, and the official must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer(s), witness the signing of the document and certify it by placing his official signature and seal and completing the notarial certificate called a jurat. (more...)

Protect Yourself: Report Stolen Notary Seals!

by American Association of Notaries
Have you recently left a job and had your seal or journal held back by your employer? Have you noticed that one or more of your seals is missing? If so, take immediate action to protect yourself. (more...)

How to Handle Documents with Pre-Printed Notarial Certificates

by American Association of Notaries
If a document has a pre-printed notarial certificate, that certificate serves two purposes: (more...)

The Contents of a Notary Journal

by American Association of Notaries
There are three primary types of notary journals. One has minimal space per entry; one has more generous space per entry but fewer entries per page; and one is designed for notary signing agents and has frequently-seen real estate documents pre-listed in it. Each of these three types can be found in paperback or hardback. Which type you choose is your decision. It is important to see a sample page of the journal before you buy it, as you will be using it for some time. (more...)

A Notary Signature is Essential on All Notarized Documents

by American Association of Notaries
The most critical of the five notary-specific elements on a notarized document is the notary signature. The lack of a notary signature is fatal to the notarization. It is essential that the notary always signs every notarial certificate that he or she notarizes. By signing the notary certificate, a notary is verifying that the venue, notary commission expiration date, and the notary certificate are true and correct. (more...)

Essential Facts about Notary Certificates

by American Association of Notaries
A notary certificate is a statement completed by the notary specifying the details of the notarization. It must contain the date of the notarization and refer to where the notarial act took place. The most commonly used notarial certificates are jurats and acknowledgments. (There is a third form in those states that allow notaries to certify copies. Please see the articles about certifying copies for information on that form.) (more...)

The Importance of the Venue on a Notarized Document

by American Association of Notaries
With a few exceptions, notarized documents contain five notary-specific elements: venue, the notary certificate, commission expiration date, notary signature, and notary seal. This article covers the venue. (more...)

A Notary Should Know How to Handle Acknowledged Statements

by American Association of Notaries
As stated in a previous article, sworn statements and acknowledged statements are the two most common types of notarized documents. The primary difference between the two types is that a sworn statement is made under penalty of perjury and requires an oath or affirmation while an acknowledged statement lacks these elements. If a document does not contain language about being duly sworn or upon oath, and if it has a notary certificate that does not mention an oath or affirmation or being sworn, then you are dealing with an acknowledged statement. (more...)

Notaries Should Know How to Handle Sworn Statements

by American Association of Notaries
Once you have confirmed the identity of the person seeking your notary services and verified that they are prepared to sign freely and willingly, the next duty of a notary public is to determine what type of document they have presented to you. The two most common types of notarized documents are sworn statements and acknowledged statements. Sworn statements are often (but not always) called affidavits. (more...)

What it Means to Sign a Document Freely and Willingly

by American Association of Notaries
A notary public is an official witness to someone signing a document freely and willingly. "Freely and willingly" is one of those phrases that people use without really considering the meaning. This expression has been in use for so long that everyone thinks they know what it covers, but most people do not actually know. (more...)

Verifying the Identity of the Signer

by American Association of Notaries
The most important duty of a notary public is to verify the identity of the person signing the document. How this is done will depend upon the law in the notary's jurisdiction, so please check the following general principles against your state's laws and rules. (more...)

Personal Appearance of the Signer Before a Notary Is Required

by American Association of Notaries
It should go without saying that the signer has to personally appear before the notary public. Unfortunately, people will test this bedrock principle, either out of ignorance or arrogance. (more...)

How long must I retain my notary journals?

by American Association of Notaries
A document signer expects a notary not only to exercise reasonable care in notarizing his or her signature on a document, but also to be able to show evidence, often years after the date of the act, that the notarization was performed in accordance with proper notarial procedures.
(more...)
Also listed in: Notary Journals

Certifying Copies of a Notary's Record Book Entries

by American Association of Notaries
On occasion, a notary public may receive a request from the public for a copy or certified copy of one or more notarial acts that the notary previously performed and recorded in his or her notary's journal (also called a record book, register, or log). For example, a family member is questioning a will that was notarized two years prior, so another family member requests a copy of the recorded notarial act to verify the reliability of the will. (more...)

Steps to Certifying a Copy of an Original Document

by American Association of Notaries
Many states allow notaries to make certified copies of documents as long as the original document is not a publicly recorded document. Documents that clients may ask to have certified by a notary include contracts, letters, settlement statements, agreements, and bills of sale. This list is certainly not all inclusive. (more...)

Notary Jurat Certificates vs. Acknowledgment Certificates

by American Association of Notaries
The two most common notarial certificates used by notaries public are jurats and acknowledgments. They are not handled the same and this confuses many notaries public. Please note the differences explained below. (more...)

Notarizing Handwritten Documents

by American Association of Notaries
Perhaps a father needs to have a statement notarized that authorizes his child to go on a trip with a friend's family. He might decide to handwrite it. The same could be true for a building tenant who needs to provide a letter to a housing authority verifying household income. Or, perhaps a separated couple facing an income tax issue may need to quickly submit a notarized declaration that they have lived apart for several months. (more...)

Notarizing Last Wills and Testaments

by American Association of Notaries
Wills are highly sensitive probate documents that determine how a person's assets will be distributed after his or her death. The person making the will is called a "testator" if male and a "testatrix" if female. (more...)

Notarizing for Blind and Illiterate Individuals

by American Association of Notaries
Most notarizations a notary will perform involve signers who are competent, understand the content in the document, and have the ability to sign freely and willingly. In rare situations you may receive a request to perform a notarization from a client who is blind or illiterate. How will you proceed? Will you refuse to perform the notarization simply because the signer is unable to read? Is it enough to ask those signers for proper identification and acknowledge they understand the contents of the document and proceed with the notarial act? What protections will you offer vulnerable signers to ensure a smooth and honest transaction? (more...)

Do I-9 Forms Require Notarization?

by American Association of Notaries
Many notaries across the nation receive requests from an employer to notarize or verify Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) forms. The completion of an I-9 Form for each employee is mandated for every employer or agricultural recruiter/referrer-for-a-fee hirer. (An agricultural referrer is any farm labor contractor or agricultural employer or association.) All such employers and recruiters are subject to periodic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspections to assure that accurately completed I-9 forms are on file for every employee; violators are subject to fines and administrative sanctions. Thus the proper completion and execution of the I-9 form is of extreme importance. (more...)

Notarizing for Family Members

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries must be impartial witnesses to transactions. They may not have an interest in the documents that they notarize. By the same token, notaries are prohibited from notarizing their own signatures, or documents in which they are named. (more...)

Notarizing Previously Signed Documents

by American Association of Notaries
There are times, as a notary, when you will be presented with a document for notarization that has been previously signed. This may occur simply because the signer thinks he is being thorough by filling in all the blanks and signing before he meets with you. At other times, a document may have been signed and submitted to the recipient before the signer was aware that notarization was required and now the document has been returned and the signer requires the services of a notary. (more...)

Is a University ID Acceptable When Notarizing Documents?

by American Association of Notaries
The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document. (more...)

Notarizing Foreign Language Documents

by American Association of Notaries
One of the keys to acceptable and accurate notarizations is clear communication between the signer and the notary. (more...)

Can a Witness to a Notarization Have a Financial Interest in the Notarized Document?

by American Association of Notaries
The role of the notary public in society is of vital importance. When a notary places his or her stamp and signature on a document, the document recipient or the receiving institution automatically assumes that the notary has executed his or her responsibility correctly. This means that the notary has maintained impartiality, has performed notarial duties according to state law, and has acted with the utmost integrity. (more...)

What If There Is No Room for the Notary Stamp or Notary Seal?

by American Association of Notaries
One of the most important steps in the notarization of any document is the placing of the notary stamp seal. This step, along with the notary's signature, is the culmination of all the preliminary steps in notarizing, such as identity checking, document scanning, and making record book entries. The notary stamp contains all the identifying information of the notary public - name, commission state and county, notary commission number, and commission expiration date. It is essential and mandatory that all of this information be placed neatly and legibly on every document that the notary executes. (more...)

Can a Notary Certify a Copy of a Passport or a Driver's License?

by American Association of Notaries
State laws vary on the acceptability and procedures for copy certifications. As with every other type of notarial procedure, notaries should study carefully their state's statutes on copy certification to see if, and how, it is administered. (more...)

Refusing to Notarize When There Is a Question of Benefit

by American Association of Notaries
A notary public should comply with every reasonable request when called upon to notarize a document. However, there are times when a request may not only be unreasonable, but may actually be unlawful. (more...)

What Does the "SS" Stand for on a Notary Certificate?

by American Association of Notaries
Every document that a notary will ever notarize must contain a notary certificate. The notary certificate is the portion of the document to be notarized that contains the notary language or notary verbiage. It is this wording that indicates to the notary the type of notarization which he or she must perform - most often, this will be either an acknowledgment or a jurat. (more...)

Having Multiple Notary Stamps - A Good Practice

by American Association of Notaries
While there are several states that do not specifically require the use of a notary stamp, most notaries find that a self-inking notary stamp is the easiest, cleanest, and most expeditious means of inscribing the mandated notary commission information onto a notarized document. (more...)
Also listed in: Notary Supplies

How to Handle Lost or Stolen Notary Supplies

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries are responsible for safeguarding their notary supplies and protecting them from fraudulent use. (more...)

How to Properly Use a Notary Stamp

by American Association of Notaries
Using a self-inking notary stamp is the easiest way to inscribe the notary commission information on a document to be notarized; it is quick, easy, and neat. (more...)

Using Notary Gold Foil Seals on Notarized Documents

by American Association of Notaries
While the self-inking or pre-inked notary stamp is the convenient tool of choice for all notaries when notarizing documents, there are times when a notary may wish to add extra enhancement to the executed document. (more...)

Using a Notary Seal Impression Inker on an Embossed Document

by American Association of Notaries
As a notary, you are not just a public servant, but you are also a professional and, as such, will want to take pride in your work. There are times when you may wish to give an added flair or enhancement to the document you are notarizing. (more...)

Notary Supplies That Every Notary Should Have!

by American Association of Notaries
The notary is a public officer and, as such, is required to comply with any reasonable request for notarization. Whether you are a notary with your own notary signing service or an employee notary, it is a good idea to keep essential notary supplies with you at all times so that you may be ready to adequately and efficiently serve the public upon request. (more...)

Employed Notaries - Your Notary Supplies Belong to the Notary

by American Association of Notaries
An employee notary is a notary who obtained a commission at the request of his or her employer. Perhaps your company transacts with clients, such as banks or insurance companies, that must have documents notarized on a regular basis. (more...)

How to Safeguard Your Notary Supplies

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries are responsible for safeguarding their notary supplies against fraudulent use. These items include the notary's original certificate or commission, the notary stamp and seal, and the notary record book of notarial acts. (more...)

How to Properly Destroy Your Expired Notary Stamps and Supplies

by American Association of Notaries
When a notary reaches the end of the notary commission term or decides to end his or her notary career, all expired and defunct notary supplies must be disposed of safely and properly. (more...)

Practicing Law without a License / Unlawful Advertising

by American Association of Notaries
The following are issues that are addressed by law in many states and may carry severe penalties. Notaries in those states that do not address these issues should heed the following: (more...)

Steps to a Proper Notarization

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries should follow proper procedures to minimize any risk of liability for an improper notarial act and reduce opportunities for fraud. With every notarization, the notary should use precise measures to: (more...)

Notaries, Avoid Conflicts of Interest!

by American Association of Notaries
Never act in a notary capacity if you have any involvement whatsoever in the transaction taking place. If you are named in the document, or if a family member or close affiliate is named, refuse to notarize. You must be a completely unbiased witness to the execution, and you are not unbiased, if for example, your spouse, your sister, or your boyfriend stands to gain financially or emotionally from the transaction taking place. (more...)

Notary Fees - How much to Charge

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries must know their state notary laws regarding all aspects of their notary commission, and this includes fees. You must NOT charge more than the law allows for any notarization. This can result in severe penalties against the notary. You may of course offer your services at no charge. Discuss fees and how you will handle them with your employer to avoid any misunderstandings. (more...)

Notaries: Maintain a Notary Journal!

by American Association of Notaries
The notary's best defense is the notary record book, or notary journal. Some states require notaries to keep a notary record book and some states do not; however, all notaries are encouraged to keep a journal of every notarial act. (more...)

Texas Notaries Are Forbidden From Recording ID Card Numbers

by American Association of Notaries
As of April 22, 2007 Texas Notaries Public Are Forbidden From Recording Identification Card Numbers in Their Notary Record Books. Section 406.014(a)(5) does not require that the personal information on the identification card be recorded in the notary record book. However, notaries public have recorded the driver's license in their notary record books. (more...)
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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.
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