Importance of the Personal Appearance of the Signer

The very foundation of notarization rests upon the personal appearance of the person requiring a notarial service. Since colonial times, it has been one of the basic requirements of notarial acts that the signatory personally appear before a notary. Even in states where remote notarization has been legalized, personal appearance is still king.

In notarizing a signature, a notary is required to determine that the person appearing before him or her is voluntarily executing the presented document. Without personal presence, it is almost impossible to make this determination.

Notarization relies upon the personal appearance of the signer. This interaction between the notary and the signer allows a notary to instill upon the signer the importance of the oath the signer is taking. It allows the notary to speak with the signer to make sure that he or she is acting willingly.

It is no coincidence that a notary's failure to require the personal appearance of the signer is the basis for the majority of complaints filed against notaries across the country. In fact, this constitutes a felony in some states and malfeasance in office in most states. Consequences for failing to require the personal appearance of a signer might include the revocation of the notary’s commission, lawsuits by effected parties (which could result in financial liability), civil penalties (including fines), or even criminal penalties.

Remember, when you are completing a notarial certificate, you are attesting in the certificate that the signer personally appeared before you and that you verified the identity of the signer through satisfactory methods. Being untruthful when completing notarial certificates is fraud, which is considered a criminal act. 

The best way to protect yourself and minimize your exposure to liability is to require the personal appearance of the signer on every notarial act you perform. Never bend this rule for a friend, a co-worker, or an employer. 

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. 

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.