What to Do When There Is No Pre-Printed Notary Certificate

If you provide notary services long enough, you will encounter people who have letters or statements or other documents that lack a pre-printed notary certificate. These are often the result of someone being told that they need a notarized statement or release or authorization in order to accomplish some purpose they have chosen.

Many times, the party who tells the signer that they need a document notarized will not tell them what form of notarization is required. It is often difficult to contact the party to whom the document will be sent to ask them about the required type of notarization. This may leave you with a signer who has little or no clue about what they need you to do.

Many people believe that a notary public is not allowed to decide which notary certificate to apply to the document when it lacks one. Peter J. Van Alstyne, the founder of the Notary Law Institute, has written that this idea originated with Raymond Rothman and that it is not true. Van Alstyne has argued that it is an inherent power of the notary to pick the certificate because the notary certificate is a statement of and by the notary about what he or she observed and did. Some state officials have sided with Rothman and said that it would be the unauthorized practice of law if you pick the notary certificate, unless you are an attorney. (The unauthorized practice of law will be covered in future articles.)

If you are unable to reach the document recipient, it is the safest course to err on the side of caution and explain the different notary certificates to your signer so he or she can pick which notary certificate to use.

You should know enough about the differences between an acknowledgment certificate and a jurat certificate that you can discuss them with the person signing the document and allow him or her to choose one. If you do not know these differences, please see the notary certificate articles on the American Association of Notaries website at

Once the type of notarization is decided (either by the document recipient or by the signer), you can add a notary certificate by attaching a loose one, writing it by hand on the document, or, if your state allows it, using a rubber stamp. There are standard short forms of both the acknowledgment certificate and the jurat certificate that are widely used and generally acceptable in every state.

The American Association of Notaries supplies rubber stamps containing the short forms of these two notary certificates, which you can purchase from the store at

(This article is part of the series that began with What Does a Notary Public Do?)

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

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