The Verbal Ceremony of a Notarial Act

The most important step in the notarization process is the performance of the notarial act itself. When notarizing a signature on a paper document, a notary is typically taking an acknowledgment or administering an oath/affirmation.

The wording of the notarial certificate is an indication of the type of notarial act being requested. If no certificate is provided on the document, or if the notary is unable to determine by the wording of the certificate which act is being requested, the notary should explain both types of acts to the signer and let the signer select a notarial certificate from your sample forms.

You may then either stamp the proper notarial wording below the signer’s signature or attach it to the document as a loose notarial certificate. The preferred method is to stamp the notarial certificate wording directly on the document

Do not instruct the signer to choose a particular notarial act. If a notary advises the signer as to which type of notarial act is required, then the notary is engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. (Two exceptions to this rule are when a notary is also an attorney or when a notary is commissioned in Louisiana.) Once you have determined the type of act required, and before completing the certificate, you will perform the notarial act.

The typical verbal ceremonies for each act are as follows:

For an acknowledgment—  “Do you acknowledge that this is your genuine signature and that you have executed this document voluntarily?”

For an oath or affirmation— “Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that the contents of this document are true and correct?”

The notary public and signer must be able to communicate with each other without any language barriers. If there are communication barriers, a notary should not proceed with the notarization of the document. In some states, a signer may not use an interpreter to communicate with the notary when the notarial act is performed. Encourage the signer to have his or her document notarized by a notary public who speaks the same language. A notary public cannot act as an interpreter and a notary at the same time.

The verbal notarial act is the most important part of the notarization. Without this verbal ceremony, the notarization essentially does not mean anything, and courts have dismissed documents when the notary failed to perform the notarial act.

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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