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Steps to a Proper Notarization Tips


Notarizing Absentee (or Vote-by-Mail) Ballots


An absentee or vote-by-mail ballot is a ballot cast in a United States election by mail, rather than at an official polling station. There are various reasons why a voter may choose to vote by mail rather than in person. Some states require that the voter have a good reason for requesting an absentee ballot, such as being stationed overseas in the military, or being homebound due to a disability. Other states allow any voter to use an absentee ballot. Each state also has different requirements on whether such a ballot requires notarization

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Can I notarize a document dated in the future?


Typically, when a customer requests a notary public to notarize a document, the document has not yet been signed. Thus, when a notarization occurs, the signer executes the document in the notary's presence, and the notary completes a notarial certificate. Almost always, the date of the signature is the same as the date of the notarization. ... Continue Reading

Depositions and Affidavits - The Basics


While notaries are familiar with taking acknowledgments and administering oaths, they often lack the necessary skills to handle depositions or affidavits. ... Continue Reading

Handling Incompetent Signers


Unfortunately, many families wait until tragedy strikes to get their state of affairs in order. Depending on the severity of the tragedy, it could be too late to use the services of a notary public. ... Continue Reading

Notaries and the Unauthorized Practice of Law


Unless a notary is also a licensed attorney, he or she may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. In civil-law jurisdictions, and in most common-law jurisdictions outside the United States, notaries are essentially lawyers who have extensive training in the drafting of documents. However, American common-law notaries do not have any legal authority unless they happen to also be a licensed attorney. As a result, it would be considered unauthorized practice of law for a non-attorney notary to give legal advice. ... Continue Reading

Employer Liability for Notary's Negligence


Is a notary's employer liable for the notary's mistakes? The answer is usually yes. Many state's laws do not provide any limit to the liability of a notary, and when a notary is acting in the course of his or her employment, that liability often extends to the notary's employer. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Notarize a Handwritten Document?


Many notaries ask whether it is acceptable to notarize a document that is handwritten by the client. In general, it is not up to the notary to decide whether a document presented for notarization is valid. Notarization does not make an illegal document legal and does not make an invalid document valid. ... Continue Reading

Can I notarize a document that is already signed?


Many notaries are presented with a document that is already signed and aren't sure whether or not they can proceed. This question can be answered by reviewing the two basic notarial acts: acknowledgments and oaths. ... Continue Reading

Top Five Notary Signing Agent Mistakes


Humans make mistakes. We just can't be right 100% of the time. With repetition and sound practices, however, most mistakes made can be eliminated. Here are the top mistakes notary signing agents make so you can be on the lookout. ... Continue Reading

Is it a good idea to place a signer thumbprint impression in a notary journal?


Most notary journals contain a space for placing an impression of the signer's thumbprint, but is taking a thumbprint a good idea? ... Continue Reading

Handling Missing Notarial Certificates


Most experienced notaries know that they should always keep a stack of acknowledgement and jurat notarial certificates on hand in case a client presents them with a document that does not include a notarial certificate. Unfortunately, not all notaries are experienced. There are a good number of notaries who have been working for a while and yet are not aware that a document cannot be notarized without a notarial certificate printed on or attached to the document. ... Continue Reading

What is a Notario Publico?


In its simplest form, the term notario publico translates to notary public. On a deeper level, however, the difference between a notario publico and a U.S. notary public is vast, and therefore it can be problematic for notaries to use this particular terminology in the United States. While a notary public in the United States is authorized to perform specific notarial acts and practice limited discretion, a notario publico in many Latin American countries is an individual who has received the equivalent of a law license and who is authorized to represent others before the government. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Documents in Foreign Languages


I've had this question come up twice in the past couple of weeks, so I thought it would probably make for an interesting article. As notaries, we are approached to notarize documents for a number of different reasons. ... Continue Reading

Everything a Notary Must Know about an Apostille


According to the Hague Conference on Private International Law, An apostille is a certificate that authenticates the origin of a public document. In order for the apostille to be used, both the issuing and receiving countries must be party to the Apostille Convention. Additional information about the Apostille Convention can be found in the publication ABCs of Apostilles. In addition, the following link provides a list of countries belonging to the Apostille Convention. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Sign for a Disabled Person


I've had several appointments during which the signer was unable to physically sign his name to a document. I can see the family members are really worried about this when it happens. Many want to know if they can sign for the signer. I have to explain that unless they've been given a power of attorney by the signer, I am unable to notarize a document signed by them for the signer. ... Continue Reading

Can you notarize this photograph?


A notary should be prepared to explain to a client that notary law does not allow notaries merely to place their official notary seal and official notary signature on a document or photo in order to make it acceptable by the receiving party. A notary is almost always required to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment and complete a notarial certificate pertaining to the notarial act he or she performed. ... Continue Reading

New! Online Notary Courses for AZ, CO, and TX - ONLY $25.00


Notaries in Arizona, Colorado, and Texas now have the option to get the notary education they need from the comfort of their own homes or offices 24/7. These courses will provide you with the skills and knowledge necessary to perform your notarial duties according to your state's notary laws and the established standards of sound notary practices. ... Continue Reading

Unauthorized Practice of Law -- Why ONLY Attorneys May Give Legal Advice


If you spend any time reading about notary duties, you will see many statements that a notary must avoid giving legal advice. What is legal advice? ... Continue Reading

Hospital Notary Work


When a notary public is asked to travel to a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation facility, this is referred to as hospital notary work. It is a type of mobile notary work that can be very rewarding or very frustrating, depending on the circumstances. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Family Members and the Family Businesses


Our readers have undoubtedly heard the legendary story about President Calvin Coolidge being sworn into the office of President of the United States of America by his father in 1923. ... Continue Reading

Six Critical Steps to Follow if a Notary Stamp is Lost


If you lose your notary seal, will you react like the notary public in today's example? Of course, you won't! Everything that this notary does is wrong. Today, learn from his mistakes and make note of the six critical steps that you must follow when a notarial seal is lost. ... Continue Reading

Space too Small for your Notary Stamp?


Most of us have been in this predicament--a client hands over a document and it is filled to its edges with text. You visually scan the document and see it includes a pre-printed notarial certificate that is barely the size of a business card. Even worse, you note that the area intended for your notary seal would be the perfect size, but only if you were a Notary Ken or Notary Barbie doll! ... Continue Reading

Understanding Affidavits


An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed statement made before a notary public or any public official who has the authority to administer oaths. It is made under penalty of perjury, and the official must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer(s), witness the signing of the document and certify it by placing his official signature and seal and completing the notarial certificate called a jurat. ... Continue Reading

How to Handle Documents with Pre-Printed Notarial Certificates


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

The Contents of a Notary Journal


There are three primary types of notary journals. One has minimal space per entry; one has more generous space per entry but fewer entries per page; and one is designed for notary signing agents and has frequently-seen real estate documents pre-listed in it. Each of these three types can be found in paperback or hardback. Which type you choose is your decision. It is important to see a sample page of the journal before you buy it, as you will be using it for some time. ... Continue Reading

Why a Notary Journal Is Required


Almost no one likes to do paperwork, especially if they don't have to do it. So, if you tell them that paperwork is not required, most people will be happy to believe you and skip it. When it comes to the notary journal, skipping the paperwork is not an option. Keeping a notary journal is required for the following reasons: ... Continue Reading

Notary Public Seals or Stamps


The need for a trusted and impartial witness who can write down commercial and other agreements has been recognized since the time of the ancient Romans, who created the office of notarius or scribii to fulfill this need. If the parties to the agreement could not write, they used a metal or clay disk with a distinctive design or coat of arms (a private seal) pressed into melted wax in place of a signature. In the following centuries, as paper making became more widespread and written agreements became longer, the pages of a document were bound together by making holes in the margins, tying the pages together with a ribbon, and pouring wax over the ribbon's knot. If the document were to be notarized, the notary would press his official seal into the wax, thereby sealing the pages of the document together. ... Continue Reading

A Notary Signature is Essential on All Notarized Documents


The most critical of the five notary-specific elements 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 always signs every notarial certificate that he or she notarizes. By signing the notary certificate, a notary is verifying that the venue, notary commission expiration date, and the notary certificate are true and correct. ... Continue Reading

The Importance of Including Your Notary's Commission Expiration Date on Notarized Documents


A notarial certificate indicates what actions the document's preparer wants the notary to perform. The venue states that the notarization took place in a particular location that lies within the jurisdiction of the notary public. The presence of a notary commission expiration date shows that the document was notarized at a time when the notary held authority to notarize. ... Continue Reading

Essential Facts about Notary Certificates


A notary certificate is a statement completed by the notary specifying the details of the notarization. It must contain the date of the notarization and refer to where the notarial act took place. The most commonly used notarial certificates are jurats and acknowledgments. (There is a third form in those states that allow notaries to certify copies. Please see the articles about certifying copies for information on that form.) ... Continue Reading

The Importance of the Venue on a Notarized Document


With a few exceptions, notarized documents contain five notary-specific elements: venue, the notary certificate, commission expiration date, notary signature, and notary seal. This article covers the venue. ... Continue Reading

A Notary Should Know How to Handle Acknowledged Statements


As stated in a previous article, sworn statements and acknowledged statements are the two most common types of notarized documents. The primary difference between the two types is that a sworn statement is made under penalty of perjury and requires an oath or affirmation while an acknowledged statement lacks these elements. If a document does not contain language about being duly sworn or upon oath, and if it has a notary certificate that does not mention an oath or affirmation or being sworn, then you are dealing with an acknowledged statement. ... Continue Reading

Notaries Should Know How to Handle Sworn Statements


Once you have confirmed the identity of the person seeking your notary services and verified that they are prepared to sign freely and willingly, the next duty of a notary public is to determine what type of document they have presented to you. The two most common types of notarized documents are sworn statements and acknowledged statements. Sworn statements are often (but not always) called affidavits. ... Continue Reading

What it Means to Sign a Document Freely and Willingly


A notary public is an official witness to someone signing a document freely and willingly. "Freely and willingly" is one of those phrases that people use without really considering the meaning. This expression has been in use for so long that everyone thinks they know what it covers, but most people do not actually know. ... Continue Reading

Verifying the Identity of the Signer


The most important duty of a notary public is to verify the identity of the person signing the document. How this is done will depend upon the law in the notary's jurisdiction, so please check the following general principles against your state's laws and rules. ... Continue Reading

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. ... Continue Reading

Certifying Copies of a Notary's Record Book Entries


On occasion, a notary public may receive a request from the public for a copy or certified copy of one or more notarial acts that the notary previously performed and recorded in his or her notary's journal (also called a record book, register, or log). For example, a family member is questioning a will that was notarized two years prior, so another family member requests a copy of the recorded notarial act to verify the reliability of the will. ... Continue Reading

Steps to Certifying a Copy of an Original Document


Many states allow notaries to make certified copies of documents as long as the original document is not a publicly recorded document. Documents that clients may ask to have certified by a notary include contracts, letters, settlement statements, agreements, and bills of sale. This list is certainly not all inclusive. ... Continue Reading

Notary Jurat Certificates vs. Acknowledgment Certificates


The two most common notarial certificates used by notaries public are jurats and acknowledgments. They are not handled the same and this confuses many notaries public. Please note the differences explained below. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Handwritten Documents


Perhaps a father needs to have a statement notarized that authorizes his child to go on a trip with a friend's family. He might decide to handwrite it. The same could be true for a building tenant who needs to provide a letter to a housing authority verifying household income. Or, perhaps a separated couple facing an income tax issue may need to quickly submit a notarized declaration that they have lived apart for several months. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Last Wills and Testaments


Wills are highly sensitive probate documents that determine how a person's assets will be distributed after his or her death. The person making the will is called a "testator" if male and a "testatrix" if female. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Blind and Illiterate Individuals


Most notarizations a notary will perform involve signers who are competent, understand the content in the document, and have the ability to sign freely and willingly. In rare situations you may receive a request to perform a notarization from a client who is blind or illiterate. How will you proceed? Will you refuse to perform the notarization simply because the signer is unable to read? Is it enough to ask those signers for proper identification and acknowledge they understand the contents of the document and proceed with the notarial act? What protections will you offer vulnerable signers to ensure a smooth and honest transaction? ... Continue Reading

Do I-9 Forms Require Notarization?


Many notaries across the nation receive requests from an employer to notarize or verify Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) forms. The completion of an I-9 Form for each employee is mandated for every employer or agricultural recruiter/referrer-for-a-fee hirer. (An agricultural referrer is any farm labor contractor or agricultural employer or association.) All such employers and recruiters are subject to periodic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspections to assure that accurately completed I-9 forms are on file for every employee; violators are subject to fines and administrative sanctions. Thus the proper completion and execution of the I-9 form is of extreme importance. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Family Members


Notaries must be impartial witnesses to transactions. They may not have an interest in the documents that they notarize. By the same token, notaries are prohibited from notarizing their own signatures, or documents in which they are named. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Previously Signed Documents


There are times, as a notary, when you will be presented with a document for notarization that has been previously signed. This may occur simply because the signer thinks he is being thorough by filling in all the blanks and signing before he meets with you. At other times, a document may have been signed and submitted to the recipient before the signer was aware that notarization was required and now the document has been returned and the signer requires the services of a notary. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Offer Non-Notarial Services to their Notary Clients?


Most notaries acquire a notary commission as an additional credential. Very often, offering notarial services is not the notary's only, or primary, occupation. Many individuals become notaries at the request of their employers, while others wish to offer services to their local communities and neighborhoods. ... Continue Reading

Is a University ID Acceptable When Notarizing Documents?


The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Foreign Language Documents


One of the keys to acceptable and accurate notarizations is clear communication between the signer and the notary. ... Continue Reading

Can a Witness to a Notarization Have a Financial Interest in the Notarized Document?


The role of the notary public in society is of vital importance. When a notary places his or her stamp and signature on a document, the document recipient or the receiving institution automatically assumes that the notary has executed his or her responsibility correctly. This means that the notary has maintained impartiality, has performed notarial duties according to state law, and has acted with the utmost integrity. ... Continue Reading

What If There Is No Room for the Notary Stamp or Notary Seal?


One of the most important steps in the notarization of any document is the placing of the notary stamp seal. This step, along with the notary's signature, is the culmination of all the preliminary steps in notarizing, such as identity checking, document scanning, and making record book entries. The notary stamp contains all the identifying information of the notary public - name, commission state and county, notary commission number, and commission expiration date. It is essential and mandatory that all of this information be placed neatly and legibly on every document that the notary executes. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Certify a Copy of a Passport or a Driver's License?


State laws vary on the acceptability and procedures for copy certifications. As with every other type of notarial procedure, notaries should study carefully their state's statutes on copy certification to see if, and how, it is administered. ... Continue Reading

Refusing to Notarize When There Is a Question of Benefit


A notary public should comply with every reasonable request when called upon to notarize a document. However, there are times when a request may not only be unreasonable, but may actually be unlawful. ... Continue Reading

What Does the "SS" Stand for on a Notary Certificate?


Every document that a notary will ever notarize must contain a notary certificate. The notary certificate is the portion of the document to be notarized that contains the notary language or notary verbiage. It is this wording that indicates to the notary the type of notarization which he or she must perform - most often, this will be either an acknowledgment or a jurat. ... Continue Reading

Understanding the Importance of Your Notary Commission Name


Once you have received your notary commission from the state, you are ready to embark on your new career as a notary public. ... Continue Reading

How to Properly Use a Notary Stamp


Using a self-inking notary stamp is the easiest way to inscribe the notary commission information on a document to be notarized; it is quick, easy, and neat. ... Continue Reading

Using Notary Gold Foil Seals on Notarized Documents


While the self-inking or pre-inked notary stamp is the convenient tool of choice for all notaries when notarizing documents, there are times when a notary may wish to add extra enhancement to the executed document. ... Continue Reading

Using a Notary Seal Impression Inker on an Embossed Document


As a notary, you are not just a public servant, but you are also a professional and, as such, will want to take pride in your work. There are times when you may wish to give an added flair or enhancement to the document you are notarizing. ... Continue Reading

Notary Supplies That Every Notary Should Have!


The notary is a public officer and, as such, is required to comply with any reasonable request for notarization. Whether you are a notary with your own notary signing service or an employee notary, it is a good idea to keep essential notary supplies with you at all times so that you may be ready to adequately and efficiently serve the public upon request. ... Continue Reading

Employed Notaries - Your Notary Supplies Belong to the Notary


An employee notary is a notary who obtained a commission at the request of his or her employer. Perhaps your company transacts with clients, such as banks or insurance companies, that must have documents notarized on a regular basis. ... Continue Reading

How to Safeguard Your Notary Supplies


Notaries are responsible for safeguarding their notary supplies against fraudulent use. These items include the notary's original certificate or commission, the notary stamp and seal, and the notary record book of notarial acts. ... Continue Reading

Steps to a Proper Notarization


Notaries should follow proper procedures to minimize any risk of liability for an improper notarial act and reduce opportunities for fraud. With every notarization, the notary should use precise measures to: ... Continue Reading

Notaries, Avoid Conflicts of Interest!


Never act in a notary capacity if you have any involvement whatsoever in the transaction taking place. If you are named in the document, or if a family member or close affiliate is named, refuse to notarize. You must be a completely unbiased witness to the execution, and you are not unbiased, if for example, your spouse, your sister, or your boyfriend stands to gain financially or emotionally from the transaction taking place. ... Continue Reading
Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . 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 federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.

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.