A Notary Official Signature

The most critical element 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 sign every notarial certificate that he or she notarizes.

By signing the notarial certificate, a notary is certifying that the signer personally appeared before him or her, was properly identified, and signed the document for the purpose stated therein.

Even if the name of the notary public is spelled out in his official seal, even if he uses a rubber stamp that states his name, and even if his name appears pre-printed in the notary certificate, the lack of a notary signature is considered to be negligence that will render the notarization invalid.

One example of such a rejection occurred in Florida, where a candidate for re-election for the state legislature was denied access to the general election ballot due to one notary who failed to sign the notary certificate that accompanied the candidate's paperwork, followed by a second notary who failed to indicate in the notary certificate how he verified the signer's identity (which is a required item in Florida notary certificates). The result of these notary errors was that the candidate's district had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hold a special election.

In states where notaries are required to file a specimen of their official signatures with their notary commissioning authorities, if that signature was legible cursive writing, the notary should not use an unreadable or scribble signature when signing as a notary. If his official signature includes his full middle name, the notary should not use just a middle initial when signing as a notary.

It is vital that the notary's signature match the signature on file with the commissioning authorities. When an apostille is requested, a matching signature is one way that the state government can verify that the notarization was done by the person whose name appears as the notary on the document. Additionally, matching signatures add consistency to all documents notarized during the notary commission term, which can cut down on notary identity theft. If the signatures are always the same, when a document is presented that has a different signature, this raises a red flag.

Consistently using your official notary signature on every document that you notarize avoids the problems outlined in this article. The laws governing notaries public vary greatly from state to state. Consult your own state's laws or commissioning authority for the specific laws concerning a notary's official signature.

-- Tim Gatewood, Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries, Inc.

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. 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 notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.