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 is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, 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 on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

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