How to Handle Documents with Pre-Printed Notarial Certificates

If a document has a pre-printed notarial certificate, that certificate serves two purposes:

1) It tells the notary what type of notarial act(s) the document preparer (or the company or agency for whom they work) wants the notary to perform and what facts they want the notary to verify; and

2) It serves as the notary's written, signed, and sealed statement of what he or she did and witnessed the signer do, as well as when and where the notarization took place.

Of these two purposes, the second is the more important, as only the notary is responsible for the correct completion of the acts mentioned in the notarial certificate and for the accurate statement of what acts were performed and what the facts of the notarization were.

(Another article will cover how to proceed when there is no pre-printed notarial certificate.)

While the notary only needs to scan the body of the document to gather a few pertinent pieces of information for his journal, he needs to read the entire notarial certificate closely to see what acts are requested and what facts are stated in that certificate. Perhaps the signers are simply being asked to acknowledge they signed the document freely and willingly. They could be required to swear that the statements made in the document are true or that they will do what the statement says they will do. Maybe they are signing as a corporate officer or an attorney-in-fact and the notarial certificate says they acknowledged signing and swore they did so in such a capacity. The notary must be sure that each signer of the document does what he or she is reported to have done in the notarial certificate before signing and sealing the document.

Pay particular attention to whether the notarial certificate says how you verified the identity of the signer. Some notarial certificates do not say anything about this; others are very specific. Check the laws and rules in your state to see how they define the phrase "proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence", "personally known" and the word "knowledge" so that you can be sure to verify the identity of the signer properly.

Next, the notary must briefly review (scan) the document for particulars to enter in his journal, verify the identity of the signer, and record the document in his journal. At this time, the notary should have the signer of the document sign the journal and compare that signature to the one on the signer's I.D. If the two signatures are not at least reasonably close to the same, that is a red flag, and the signer may not be who he or she claims to be.

Having completed the journal entry, the notary then makes any necessary corrections to the notarial certificate. Be sure that the venue and the date within the notarial certificate are complete and accurate, as well as the wording of the certificate. Make any needed corrections by the usual method (strike one line through the incorrect information, write in the correct information, and then initial). Make the corrections as neatly as possible.

If a significant portion of the notarial certificate has to be corrected due to factual errors or state-specific requirements, it is best practice to substitute a new notarial certificate with the correct wording, as long as this certificate is for the same notarial act(s) and includes the same capacity for the signer. This can be done through a handwritten, rubber stamped, or attached loose certificate. If you find that you need to add a new notarial certificate, write "see notarial certificate below" or "see the notarial certificate attached," whichever the case may be, below the flawed, pre-printed notarial certificate.

Next, the notary will administer any verbal ceremonies called for as part of the acts reported in the certificate.

Finally, the notary will sign and seal the notarial certificate and hand the now properly notarized document to the signer for his or her review.

The American Association of Notaries supplies rubber stamps containing the standard short form jurat and acknowledgment notarial certificates.

This article is part of the series that began with What Does a Notary Public Do?

-- Tim Gatewood is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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.

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