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 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.

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