Personal Appearance of the Signer Before a Notary Is Required

It should go without saying that the signer has to personally appear before the notary public. Unfortunately, people will test this bedrock principle, either out of ignorance or arrogance.

A tenant cannot bring a letter from her landlord, nor can a husband bring a power of attorney from his wife, to be notarized. Likewise, an employee cannot have his girlfriend pick up a letter from his boss and bring it to the notary. A boss is not permitted to bring a document signed by a client to be notarized. Indeed, no one can have a document notarized except the person whose signature is on it.

When the signer personally appears before the notary, he must present the entire document that he is signing. The signature page alone will not be good enough, as the notary cannot determine that the signer is signing freely and willingly if she doesn't have the entire document. The notary has the duty to review the document briefly to be sure there are no blank lines or missing pages and that any attachments referred to in the document are present. If the notary keeps a notary journal or other official record, he must enter certain details about the document into that record. It does not matter if the signer is a spouse who is only signing one section to give spousal consent; the signer still has to present the entire document. Otherwise, how can the notary be certain the spouse knows what she is consenting to?

The signer MUST personally appear before the notary because there is no other way to confirm the identity of the signer and that she is signing freely and willingly. One of the elements of the notary certificate, whether an acknowledgment or a jurat, is the signed and sealed statement of the notary that the signer did appear before him. (We will cover the elements of notary certificates in another article.) To sign a notary certificate that you know to be a lie is to commit a crime. Even if you are in Georgia, where there are few, if any, notary certificates on documents and you are signing as an official witness instead of as a notary public, you must require the presence of the signer. After all, how can you witness someone signing or acknowledging if you don't see them do it?

If you know of any notary who does not require the personal appearance of the signer, please report him to the proper authority for his jurisdiction, as he is breaking the law, defrauding the public, and helping to devalue the office of notary public.

If you are pressured to notarize without a personal appearance, just explain that it would be against the law for you to do so. The liability for such an act will fall upon you as the notary.

If you need a notary journal or notary stamp, please visit the American Association of Notaries store at

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

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