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November 7, 2013

California Acknowledgment Wording Explained

California Acknowledgment Wording Explained

The most common notary act in the United States is the Acknowledgment. Acknowledged signatures represent roughly 80% of notary acts; with Jurats comprising of most of the remainder.

Here is some sample California Acknowledgment Wording.

State of _____________
County of ____________

On _________ before me, ________________________________________,
(name of notary public )
personally appeared _____________________________________________
who proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the person(s)
whose name(s) is/are subscribed to the within instrument and who acknowledged
to me that he/she/they executed the same in their authorized capacity(ies),
and by his/her/their signature(s) on the instrument the person(s), or entity
upon behalf of which the person(s) acted, executed the instrument.

I certify under PENALTY of PERJURY under the laws of the state of California
that the foregoing paragraph is true and correct.

WITNESS my hand and official seal.

(Signature of Notary)

Please note that the top section of the certificate wording is called the venue which consists of a documentation of the state and the county. Next comes the body of the acknowledgment certification which documents the date, the name of the notary, the name of the signer who personally appeared before the notary, the fact that the signer was identified properly (they use the term satisfactory evidence to mean that the signer had ID, or was identified through the use of credible witnesses).

The most critical part of the California Acknowledgment Verbiage is that the signer acknowledges subscribing to the within instrument. This simply means that the signer claims that they signed the document. They could have signed hours, months, or years before seeing the notary — and it doesn’t matter so long as they appear before the notary to “acknowledge” that they signed the document. Additionally, the signer must sign the California Notary Journal as well.

Witness my hand and official seal is confusing California Acknowledgment verbiage. A seal, in notary verbiage, could refer to a signature or an official notary stamp (confusing). The notary must sign and affix his/her/its notary seal to the California Acknowledgment Certificate. Please note that the stamp may not be placed over any signatures or wording otherwise it voids the seal.

Please also note that there are lots of (s), is/are, he/she/they, within the text. The notary is expected (many do not do this though) to cross out the inappropriate text near the forward slashes. If you are doing a notarization for a single man, then cross out the she and they and (s) in name, unless he has more than one name being used in the notarization (which would be an interesting case).


November 4, 2013

How much can a California Notary Public Charge?

Notary Public California: What does a California Notary Cost?

Looking for notary service in California? The price for notary work in California is based on state government set maximum notary fees. The exact fee might depend on the particular act. Please remember that a California Notary Public charges you for each notarized signature. If you have one document where you are being notarized twice, then you pay two notary fees. Additionally, many California Notaries are in the mobile notary business and might offer you the convenience of coming to your office, hospital, home, or jail cell for an additional travel fee on top of the California notary fees.

You can visit
For detailed information about California Notary Fees as well as California Notary Public search functions.

CA Notary — maximum notary fees
Acknowledgments – $10
Oath or Affirmation for a Jurat – $10
Certified copy of a Power of Attorney – $10
Proof of Execution – $10
Administering an Oath for a Witness – $5
Taking a Deposition – $20
Protest – $10, plus $5 for recording it
Apostilles & Authentications – $20

Please note that a notary is not required to charge the maximum allowed notary fees. They are welcome to notarize your signature for free, or for a nominal fee if they like. Find a great California mobile notary on!

(1) A California Notary can charge $10 per signature for Acknowledgments & Jurats. But, what about other acts?

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August 17, 2013

A California Notary Acknowledgment Goes to Taiwan!

A California Notary was asked to notarize a document from Taiwan. The document didn’t have California Notary Acknowledgment Wording or California Notary Acknowledgment Verbiage. So, the notary said, “No problem, I’ll just add a California Acknowledgment Certificate”. That was easy. The notary followed legal procedure for California notarizations. The document was sent to its custodian in Taiwan who rejected the document. The message was that the stamp needs to be on the document.

So, the California Notary Public informed his client that he cannot legally stamp the document without the corresponding Notary Verbiage which must be California Acknowledgment Verbiage or California Acknowledgment Wording. The client said, “Is it really necessary? People do this all the time!” The notary stated that the law was the law and that he wasn’t going to break it for another person’s convenience or why bother having notaries at all?

So, the California Notary emailed the Acknowledgment boiler plate wording template to his client who emailed it to his contact in Taiwan. The document came back with the wording at the bottom of the page. The notary notarized it, and all was well!


June 17, 2013

California Notary laws that you need to know

CA Notary Laws that You Need to Know

There are lots of reasons to want to become a California notary. The fact that it is a resume booster is just one of them.

Notary Public California: Basics

By now you know just how easy it is to become a California notary public. Because the process (though lengthy) is so easy, a lot of notary hopefuls believe that the job itself is going to be easy. For the most part this is actually true…provided, of course, that you follow the letter of the law. The laws surrounding California notaries are strict, and it is important that you know them inside and out.

California Notary Laws

Here are just some of the laws that you need to follow when you are a notary in California.

Proper Identification Required

It used to be that if you personally knew the person whose documents you were notarizing, that person wouldn’t have to present any ID. That law is gone. Now—even if you’ve known them since preschool, they have to show you ID.

Your Journal Is Important

You know that journal the Secretary of State says you have to keep? You really have to keep it. It must be perfectly updated, and you really do have to know where it is at all times. More importantly, you have to know that it is safe at all times.

If you fail to keep the journal updated, secured, and protected, you could get charged with a misdemeanor!

NOTE: The same rules apply to your seal!

To this end, if anything happens to your journal or notary seal — if you lose them or they get stolen or damaged, you need to notify the Secretary of State immediately. Do not simply hope that it will turn up! You don’t want your seal to be used on fraudulent actions without your knowledge and without the Secretary of State knowing that it was not actually you who performed those actions!

To Thumbprint or Not to Thumbprint

As of January 1st, the state requires every notary in California to get a journal thumbprint for any notarizing involving “real property.” What does that mean? There is a partial list of what constitutes “real property” in the California Notary Law Primer.

Webcams Are a No-No

Notarizing something via webcam is not the same thing as being there in person. This means if someone wants you to perform a notarial action through a webcam, you could get in big trouble if you say yes!

Double-Check the Wording

There are some situations (like jurats) in which the wording in the document must exactly match the wording required by the Secretary of State. Make sure you know which situations require exact wording and which will let a “close enough” slide through.

Every year, the Secretary of State makes changes and tweaks to the laws for what California notaries can do, can’t do, and how they are required to do things. It’s okay to have questions and to feel unsure. When you aren’t sure what you can or can’t do, ask!

The 2013 Notary Public Handbook is available for free online. If you don’t find what you need there, contact someone in the Secretary of State’s office in Sacramento and ask.

Erin Steiner writes full time in Portland, Oregon, and has covered a wide range of topics from gutters to personal finance.


August 27, 2012

Notarizing Documents for the Elderly

Notarizing for the elderly: Making a difference

Notarizing documents for the elderly can sometimes be a precarious task. At best, it can also be very rewarding, a chance to save senior citizens from poor medical or financial decisions. Some of our notaries have recently done a great service by scrupulously looking out for this fragile population and speaking out in order to protect them.

A California notary tells us, “I was going to a signing, and I really didn’t have any information about the borrower. The caregiver for the elderly man answered the door, and said ‘Are you aware that Mr. Jones has Alzheimer’s? He thinks you are here to give him $3000. He was cleaning the house all night to impress you.’ Apparently, someone had called him from an Internet company and had gotten him to do the loan. The care attendant said she would have to call the man’s son. I left the loan documents with the man, and immediately called the loan officer. I said, ‘This man’s son has a power of attorney. If I hear of this man signing these documents himself, I will turn you in.’ I never heard from them again,” sighs the California notary, who knows to this day she provided an unanticipated service for Mr. Jones.

Another California notary from Oakland tells a similar story: he came to notarize a refinance, but the woman who owned the home did not want to sign. It turned out that the ‘relative’ who was claiming to have a valid power of attorney was not even related to the homeowner…but had somehow persuaded the lender that she had a POA–and was planning to drain $20,000 from the home and then put the woman in a nursing home. The notary got a bad feeling about all this when he first called to confirm the signing. The old woman confided in the notary her unwillingness to sign, and the notary, on a hunch, called the authorities. They arrested the “relative”…and an actual relative was called upon to assist. Luckily, the equity in the home remained intact, and our notary was very pleased. “It was just lucky that I realized what was going on,” he says, “and made the call. Some people might say it wasn’t any of my business. A notary actually is taken quite seriously as a ‘reporter’ in cases like this. I was glad I did what I did,” says our California notary.

“One man thought he was getting back $400 more on his loan than he actually did. When we went over the paperwork, he actually started crying. I was able to explain things to him, but he chose to call the lender and delay the closing…although he did end up closing that week. The lender did something for him, made some deal with him that made him feel better. Many elderly people feel they are being taken advantage of, and many are in a position of weakness. I see a lot of happy, wealthy elderly, some who own several houses in several parts of the country. I also see a lot of poor people who are elderly and who never recovered from 2008,” says one Hawaii notary with relatives in California. “We are trying to do more to protect them.”

A Hawaii notary in Honolulu who does a lot of notary work with the elderly tells us, “Sometimes at a hospital signing I have to determine whether or not the person knows what he or she is signing. I ask the person’s name and I keep asking questions. If the person does not know what he or she is signing, I leave.” Our astute young Hawaii notary adds, “There are lots of times there is a doubt as to the competence of the person, and you really have to be very sure. Your have to protect their interests. That is why it is good that California, for instance, just passed a new law regarding notarizing a power of attorney.” [see blog June 3 2012 “A New California Notary Law”]

(1) Notarizing documents for the elderly can sometimes be a precarious task; at best very rewarding
(2) “Are you aware that Mr. Jones (the signer) has Alzeimers? He thinks ur here to give him $3000!”
(3) Many elderly signers feel they are being taken advantage of, and that they have a weakness.

You might also like:

Power of Attorney at a nursing home

Dragging the person’s arm: A signing for an elderly woman


August 18, 2012

California Notary Issues

What more can we say about being a notary in California? Its reasonable policies make sense; in order to become a California notary, you are required to take a course, take an exam, and keep a journal. The fee for the California notary exam and the application is $20 for each, as described on the website of the California Secretary of State—despite the fact that elsewhere the California notary exam is listed as costing $40. Also, the term of appointment for a California notary is 4 years, which is cost-effective and sensible. The surety bond required is $15,000 for a 4-year bond, which is reasonable in such a big state.

It is also possible to make money as a notary in California: the notary’s fee for an acknowledgment in California is $10, for instance, and $20 for a deposition. In addition, the California notary can charge for travel as long as the fee is agreed upon ahead of time, whereas in Arizona, for example, the maximum charge for travel allowed by law is 44.5 cents a mile.

Finally, the California statutes and rules regarding notaries are clear, and all information is clearly updated on the website of the California Secretary of State. Regarding provisions for e-notarization, for example—a sticky wicket in some states—the languagemakes it absolutely clear what is intended and what is allowed. If a California statute means that in California, documents may be filed electronically but not notarized electronically, it clearly states “When a document is filed with the electronic recording delivery system, a notary seal or stamp requirement is met if the electronic signature of the notary contains the notary’s name, title, jurisdiction, the notary’s sequential identification number (if any), and seal vendor’s sequential identification number (if any).” California Govt. Code Ann. § 27391 (2010). The wording “filed with” makes it clear what a California notary can and cannot do over the web. The website of the California Secretary of State makes it clear: “Online notarization services are not legal in California.” Despite what some sites may claim, an acknowledgment in California cannot be taken by webcam.

So many clients, so many interesting people for the California notary to travel to and assist—in person!

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A New California Notary Law

California Acknowledgment and Jurat Information


June 3, 2012

A New California Notary Law

A New California Notary Law

A new law regarding California notaries went into effect on January 1, 2012. One of three main changes to California notary law in 2012 is that a subscribing witness may not sign a Power of Attorney in California in a case where a signer is too frail or unwell to appear before a notary. In other words, it is now clearly mandated that a person giving someone else Power of Attorney in California must be well enough to appear personally before a California notary. There are situations in which an actual signer can’t appear before the notary and a subscribing witness may be used, but this is not as strong as having a California notary take an acknowledgement, and ought not to be allowed in most situations. In matters involving finance and property, California previously made clear that important documents such as mortgages and securities may not be signed by a subscribing witness; instead, the acknowledgment must be taken by the notary with the proper signer present. In 2012, California has now wisely added POA to the list of documents that may not be signed by a subscribing witness.

The second of the changes to California notary law in 2012 setsforth the rule that only California notaries who work for the financial institution concerned may demand payment or accept payment on “foreign bills of exchange” for the institution –and only these California notaries may protest for nonpayment. The third change in the law makes clear that these notaries who work for financial institutions will of course no longer be paid a fee for such services—as an independent notary would have been. The world of banking has its own notaries for all occasions, California notary law reminds us.

(1) A new 2012 California notary law – subscribing witnesses may no longer sign Power of Attorney in certain cases.
(2) Important documents such as Mortgages & Securities may not be signed by subscribing witnesses.

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May 8, 2012

California notaries with complaints

Notary Public California – complaints against local notaries 

It is easy to hire a notary public in California that you found online. But, how do you know they are reputable, or any good?  You don’t.  You take your chances. However, some notaries on have reviews about them.  You can read who has good reviews or bad reviews.  It is not always safe picking a random notary. As far as horror cases go, we have only had a handful of serious nightmarish notaries over the last decade, and we remove them once we have determined that they are a source of endless trouble!
The Kinko’s story
We had a California notary public fail to print out documents and have the borrower’s pick her up, drive her to Kinko’s where she could print the documents and then driver her to their home.  Borrowers are not chauffers, and this notary got dropped off once the borrowers got a hold of the lender.  A year later — the drama continues.  The California notary public in question is operating under a business name, and hiring other notaries to do tasks for her such as obtaining apostilles in Sacramento.  The problem is, that when checks come, they all have an elastic characteristic.  Notaries have complained on the forum about this company several times, and this particular California notary is one of the worst notary nightmares we have ever experienced and goes down in history as a legend.
Stories of notaries that fail and what they did wrong –
Affordable Notary Service –
24 hour service?
Another California notary public advertised 24 hour service.  An individual calls them at 6am with an emergency.  The notary hangs up on the individual claiming that it is “too early”.  If you are not offering 24 hour service, don’t CLAIM that you do.  It is a requirement that if you want the 24 hour icon, you have to be willing to answer the phone after midnight whether you feel like it or not.
The white out story
A notary in California goes to a signing. She forgets to have the wife sign the Mortgage (oops), and then uses white out to change some information in the loan documents.  The worst possible thing you can do during a loan signing is to use white out which voids the usability of the document.  It gets better — then, the notary blames the Title company for not hilighting the signature areas in the documents where the wife was supposed to sign.  When she was requested to return to the borrower’s house to finish the incomplete signing, the notary recommended that they find someone else.  The notary replied to this complaint against her by stating that she used the mother-in-law as a required witness to the signing. Then, the Title company asked her to use someone else at which point she used white out to remove the mother-in-law’s signature and go and get a neighbor. 
123notary’s opinion: There is no crime in having an additional witness.  The problem is using white out, and cross outs also look unprofessional in a loan signing and can cause a loan not to fund. Additionally, a witness should be a party who doesn’t have a beneficial interest in the transaction — they should be uninvolved like a neighbor or stranger.
The four hour rule
Another California notary accepts a job for a signing.  Then she cancels at the last minute because she learns that the company who hired her doesn’t pay their bills.  There were a few forum posts about the company stating that the company didn’t pay their notaries.  In any case, the notary could have researched the company simultaneously while talking to them by using and would have learned that they didn’t pay BEFORE accepting a job from them. Or, the notary could have researched them soon after the phone call and then cancelled.  The last minute cancellations cause a lot of grief to many parties and are not acceptable. The Lender emails me stating that the notary cancelled 2 hours after the signing and said that she was, “not able to help”.  Then, the notary replies to me stating that she EMAILED the borrower 45 minutes before the signing (that is considerably sooner than 2 hours after like the lender stated).  The notary claimed they called the borrowers but couldn’t get an answer or a voice mail. I’m not sure I believe all of this story, do you?  How many people do you know who don’t have an answering machine or a disfunctional one?  I think that the notary should have given four hours notice in a case like this and should have kept trying the borrowers every 30 minutes until she got them. You can’t just leave people high and dry!

(1) A notary had the borrowers pick her up, take her to Kinkos where she printed the docs & made them pay for it!
(2) 1 Notary claimed 24 hour service & hung up on a client who called at 6am saying it was “too early”
(3) The Notary forgot that the wife had to sign & then used white out to modify the documents!
(4) A Notary accepted a job, then cancelled right before the signing when she learned the signing co. had a bad payment record.


December 17, 2011

Penalties for notary misdeeds & misconduct!

Penalties for notary misconduct, crimes, and misdeeds 

I very rarely hear about notaries engaging in any type of illegal activity or illegal notarizations. The normal problem with notaries is lack of skill, neglegence, or bad tempers in a few cases.  I have only heard of one notary that engaged in a serious crime, and he went to jail.  This blog entry will discuss various types of notary misconduct and types of penalties for this misconduct in California. Please keep in mind that the notary rules are different in each of the 50 states, and that notary rules are also always changing.  However, if something is illegal in one state, there is a high chance that it will also be illegal in your state — although the penalties might be different. The information here is time sensitive and could change at any time. These are listed in the order of which I feel they are important to mobile notaries.
Asking a notary to do an improper notarization.
This is a misdemeanor.  If it involves real property, then it is much more serious.  Clients might ask you to notarize them using a different name variation that is not documented, or put a false date.  This is illegal. They are guilty for asking you to do this, and you will be guilty if you give in to their pressure. If you have driven thirty minutes to a job, you have a beneficial interest in notarizing their document unless you have gotten your travel fee up front when you walk in the door.  So, legally, you MUST get your travel fee BEFORE you see the document, or are informed who the signers are, or see their ID, because a conflict of interest can easily happen.  If someone asks you to do something illegal, you can threaten to report them to the Secretary of State’s office. This is a serious crime and you should treat it as such.
Issuing a false certificate
A notary who issues false certificates, and this could include backdated certificates would be guilty of a misdemeanor.  A false Acknowledgment certificate constitutes FORGERY.   Additionaly, the notary could have their commission revoked if found guilty of this crime, with an additional fine of $1500 per incident.
Failure to Identify a Credible Witness
A fine of $10,000 per incident could occur if a notary fails to check a credible witness’s identification documents and see that they have acceptable identification.
Failure to get a thumbprint!!!
This is my favorite.  Thumbprints are critical for identifying a signer if fraud is suspected.  Powers of Attorney and Deeds require a journal thumbprint in California.  A fine of up to $2500 per incident would be the penalty.
Failure to administer an Oath
A fine of $750 per incident could be incurred, not to mention revocation, or suspention of a notary commission, or refusal to grant a commission.
Felony Convictions
If you have a felony conviction or have been convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or moral turpitude, you will most likely not be allowed to get a notary commission in the first place.  If you already had a notary commission, it would be suspended or revoked the minute your state’s ntoary division finds out about it!
Professional Misconduct
This refers to dishonesty in your professional activities.  The penalty would once again be suspension, revocation, or refusal to grant a notary commission.
Failure of Duty
This means that you refuse to serve a member of the public who has a legitimate request for a notarization.  However, if the signer doesn’t have proper identification, or doesn’t have a properly filled out document, or seems very questionable, you have the right to refuse service to such a client.  The penalty would be refusal to grant a notary commission, suspension, or revocation of a notary commission. Additionally a fine of $750 could be imposed on the California notary public.
Falsely Acting as a Notary
This is a misdemeanor
Making false statements to a notary
Anyone who induces a notary to make an improper notarization with regards to real property can be found guilty of a FELONY.  This is the most serious type of fraud possible in the notary profession.
False or misleading notary advertising
Making false statements in notary advertising is illegal, and the penalty for California notaries is $1500 per incident.  Additionally, such a notary’s commission could be suspended, revoked, or there could be a refusal to issue a commission.  Claiming to be an immigration expert, or be able to give legal advice could be a serious example of false advertising. 
Selling personal information
If the notary sells or misuses personal information of those he/she has notarized, that is illegal as well.  Remember to keep your journals locked up, so that nobody can have access to that information. When making copies of journal entries, make sure that the neighboring journal entries are covered, so that their information is not shared with the public.  Once again, your application could be denied, or your commission could be suspended or revoked for such a crime.
Misstatements on a notary application (Application misstatement)
Your notary commission could be suspended, revoked, or refused if you are guilty of this misconduct
Here are some other crimes… I will just list them here, but may or may  not describe the penalties.
Failure to deliver a journal to the county clerk at the end of your commission. – misdemeanor
Failure to safeguard seal and journal – revoke/suspend/refuse
Failure to report a lost or damaged seal – $1500 fine
Nonpayment of judgement / Refusal to pay child support – refusal to issue a commission
Failure to keep a journal – such notaries will be prosecuted
There are a few others laws that I am not going to mention, but these were the interesting ones…

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How to complain about a notary public


California e-notary rules

Current 2011 / 2012 California e-notary rules
California requires the signer to appear before the notary public for all notary acts — electronic or not.  Documents that can be electronically notarized in California include: substitution of trustee, assignments of a deed of trust, and reconveyance deeds.  These must be submitted to the county clerk via a trusted submitter. An electronic seal may be used for these transactions online.  California Civil code 1633.11 states that an electronic signature carries the same legal effect as a physical signature made by a pen. 
Purely online notarization services are not legal in California.  You may not notarize someone using a web-cam, etc.  That doesn’t constitute personal appearance. The signer must be within several feet of the notary and clearly visable to the notary.
§ 1633.11. Notarization and signature under penalty of perjury requirements
(a) If a law requires that a signature be notarized, the requirement is satisfied with respect to an electronic signature if an electronic record includes, in addition to the electronic signature to be notarized, the electronic signature of a notary public together with all other information required to be included in a notarization by other applicable law.

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The pros and cons of eNotarizations

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e-notarization definition

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