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When I perform an acknowledgment, does the document have to be signed in my presence?

No. If the notary public is executing an acknowledgment certificate, the notary does not have to witness the signer sign the document being notarized. However, at the time of the execution of the notarization, the signer must personally appear before the notary and acknowledge to the notary that he signed the document for the reasons stated therein as an act of his own free will and deed.

Which acknowledgment certificate is used when signing for an LLC?

State law imposes statutory requirements in order for a certain instrument to be considered valid. A notary public may be accused of practicing law without a license if he or she selects a notarial certificate for a document that does not include one.

What verbiage must I use in the notarial ceremony for taking an acknowledgment?

When taking an acknowledgment, the notary must ask the signer in a verbal ceremony the following questions: (1) Are you acknowledging to me that this is your signature?; (2) Are you acknowledging to me that you signed this document for the purposes stated therein?; (3) Are you acknowledging to me that you signed this document willingly as your own free act and deed? The signer must answer in the affirmative by saying, “Yes” to all of the above questions.

Do I notarize a document that has two certificates—one is a jurat and the other is an acknowledgment?

If the document contains two different notarial certificates, the notary public must perform two notarial ceremonies:
1) The notary public must take the acknowledgment of the signer that he signed the instrument for the purposes stated therein as his own free act.
2) The signer must swear to the truthfulness of the statements of the affidavit under the penalties of perjury by invoking a deity.

The date of the execution of the document and the date of the acknowledgment are not the same date. Don’t both dates have to match?

The date of the execution of the document and the date of the notarization do not have to match on a document that contains an acknowledgment certificate.

May I take an acknowledgment over the telephone?

No. The person whose signature is being notarized must personally appear before the notary at the time of the execution of the notarization.

Is the notarial act valid if I don’t perform the verbal ceremony?

No. It is extremely important for a notary public to ask the appropriate questions of the signer, and the signer must respond appropriately. This is a critical part of the duties and responsibilities of the office of notary public. A notary public may not notarize a document for a signer who cannot directly acknowledge his signature or swear to the truthfulness of the statements in the notarial ceremony. Without the notarial ceremony, the notarial act is not officially executed. Merely signing your name and affixing your notary seal on a document does not constitute a valid notarization.

What is meant by “character of the officer” in an acknowledgment certificate?

The term “character” in an acknowledgment certificate means that the “officer” performing the notarial act must indicate in the acknowledgment certificate the title that gives him the legal authority to take an acknowledgment.

What does it mean when you see the words “natural person” in an acknowledgment certificate?

The acknowledgment statute in most states do not define “natural person.” Some states refer to a person in an individual capacity as a “natural person” or “individual.”

I have a document with two acknowledgment certificates. Which one do I notarize?

Sometimes, the person creating the document may not know whether the signer is having his or her signature notarized in an individual capacity or whether the signer is going to act on behalf of a corporation. The preparer of the document adds both acknowledgment certificates for the notary public to decide and execute the acknowledgment certificate most appropriate to the situation. However, most documents that name two principal signers will generally include two notarial certificates—one for each signer.

Who, besides a notary public, is authorized to take an acknowledgment?

In most states, the acknowledgment statute includes the list of officers who may take an acknowledgment that will be recognized within the territories of the United States.

I refused to notarize a document because the only acknowledgment certificate was already signed and notarized by another notary. Was I correct?

Yes. A notary public may not merely affix his or her official signature and seal to any document that does not contain a notarial certificate.

The venue on the acknowledgment certificate has incorrect information. Can I make corrections to the certificate?

Yes. If a notarial certificate contains incorrect information, the notary public marks a line through the incorrect information, initials it, and writes-in the correct information at the time of the notarization. The alternations must only be made at the time of the performance of the notarial act when the signer is present. A notary must never white-out any mistakes, errors, or missing information in the notarial certificate. A notary public should never amend a notarial certificate at a later date.

The document presented to me today had an acknowledgment certificate handwritten with an ink pen. Can I notarize it?

Yes. A notary public may notarize an acknowledgment certificate that has been handwritten with an ink pen.

Can I notarize an acknowledgment certificate written in pencil on a document?

No. A notary public must never execute a notarial certificate in pencil because the certificate may be altered after it leaves the notary public.

The document was handwritten in pencil, and the signer wanted me to execute the acknowledgment certificate in pencil. I declined the notarization. Was I correct?

Yes. A notary public must never complete a notarial certificate in pencil because another individual could then make fraudulent alterations to the certificate.

How should the signer indicate his acknowledgement?

The signer should acknowledge to the notary public that he or she signed the document for the purposes stated therein as his own free act and deed.

How do I notarize a document that does not have a notarial certificate?

The office of notary public is in principle a ministerial office that does not involve legal judgment or judicial discretion. When presented with a document that does not have a proper notarial certificate attached to it, a notary may decline to perform the notarial act or the notary may give the signer the option to select a loose notarial certificate from the notary’s inventory and then firmly staple it to the document after the notarial act is completed. Keep in mind that, unless the notary is an attorney, it is considered an unauthorized practice of law for the notary to advise the signer which type of notarial certificate is required.

What documents require an acknowledgment certificate?

Only an attorney can decide which notarial certificate to use on a document.  A non-attorney notary is not allowed to help in drafting documents or choosing what type of notarial certificate to use on a document.

What are the required elements of an acknowledgment certificate?

Each state has different requirements for the wording on a notarial certificate. In most states, the notarial certificate must contain the venue, the words “acknowledged before me,” a statement that the signer “executed the instrument for the purposes stated therein,” and the notary’s signature and seal.

Does an acknowledgment certificate require a venue?

Absolutely. Every notarial certificate must contain a venue.

I have a document that only contains one acknowledgment certificate, but it requires two signatures and only one signer is present? What should I do?

The acknowledgment certificate is instructing the notary public to perform one notarial ceremony involving both principal signers. Tell the one signer that if you execute the acknowledgment certificate, you will clearly state in the certificate that only one signer appeared for the notarization.

I have a document from out of state. Can I take the acknowledgment?

Yes. A notary public must be sure to correct the notarial certificate to reflect the facts of the notarization, especially the venue.

Can I take an acknowledgment from an attorney-in-fact who has a power of attorney for the principal signer?

Yes. Check your state’s notary laws to determine if you are required to view the original power of attorney that clearly names the individual as the attorney-in-fact for the principal signer named in the document.

Legal disclaimer: The information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and we do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, 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 on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions.