Tips to Avoid Rejection of Your Notarized Documents


In most states, notarization is a pretty straightforward process. Nevertheless, notarized documents get rejected every day -- usually for simple errors. The following tips will help reduce the chances of your notarized document being rejected.


Incomplete Notarial Certificate: When performing notarizations, part of your job as a notary public is to complete the notarial certificate. The notarial certificate is the wording, usually at the end of a document, which identifies what type of notarial act you perform and states whose signature was witnessed and in what capacity the signer signed the document.  Leaving some blanks incomplete in the notarial certificate or inserting the notary’s name instead of the signer’s name on some of the blanks can result in the rejection of the document.  

Incorrect Venue/ Signer’s Name: The notarial certificate consists of a venue (State of___; County of___) describing the location where the notarial act took place. Pay attention to preprinted venues and the signer’s name on the notarial certificate. Simply make a correction by crossing out incorrect information with a single line, printing or typing the correct language, and initialing the change. Document in your record book all alterations made by the customer or by you. Only you, as the notary, may make corrections to the notary certificate.

Illegible/ Expired Notary Seal:  Stamp impressions that are too dark, too light, incomplete, smudged, or in any way unreadable may cause an otherwise acceptable document to be rejected for its intended use. If you affix the stamp impression and then realize that the wording is illegible, place one line through the unclear impression, initial it, and then re-stamp the document. Never attempt to re-stamp over an illegible stamp impression. This invariably makes it worse.

Stamping Over Text: Never place your notary seal over any wording or signatures on the document or notarial certificate. Your signature and notary seal should always be in close proximity to each other. The two elements taken together indicate your authority, that you have identified the signers, and that you have executed the document properly according to notary law and the established standards of sound notary practices. If the area for the notary seal is too small, you may have to attach a loose notarial certificate.

Using correction fluid:  As a notary, you should never ”erase” or blacken-out incorrect information on a notarial certificate that you are notarizing. Changes made to notarial certificates using correction products are not likely to be accepted in a court of law. The recommended correction method is to draw a single line through the incorrect information and enter the correction right above it. Place your initials by the correction to indicate that you made the correction. This method is simple, clear, and unlikely to be challenged. Make a note of the correction in your record book. 

Decline Unfamiliar Notarization:  Use reasonable care and common sense to handle situations that are not addressed in the notary statutes. For example, decline to notarize a document written in a language that you cannot understand, or if you are unable to communicate directly with the signer. If you are unfamiliar with performing a certain notarial act, refer the client to another notary who can handle the request. It is best to decline performing a notarial act that may be unlawful or invalid. 

Notary Training: The best way to avoid getting your notarized documents rejected and to avoid liability is to participate in as much training as possible and to know your state notary law requirements. Even though laws are somewhat similar from state to state, the American Association of Notaries recommends that you participate in state-specific notary training. 

Seven Steps to a Proper Notarization: The American Association of Notaries (AAN) has a free publication, “Seven Steps to a Proper Notarization,” that can be used as a tool to help prevent  documents from being rejected. This 21-page publication provides a detailed explanation for every step used to complete the notarization of a document. Following each of the steps could definitely help you avoid problems.

Susan Jimenez  is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries, Inc. 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.

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