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December 30, 2018

When are you required by law to do Oaths?

As we all know, state notary laws differ from state to state. Since I live in California, it is difficult for me to know what all the Notary laws are in other states. Sometimes I create a chart as a cheat sheet to know which states require certain things and which ones don’t. However, every state I have read about (I read handbooks for all states so you will have a problem fooling me — they are all online except for NC if I remember correctly) requires Oaths and has Oaths in the handbook as an official duty of a Notary Public. So, I am going to write some quiz pointers about Oaths below.

1. Oaths are an official Notary act in all states.
If I am wrong, show me your state notary handbook and show me the omission of Oaths.

2. Affirmations are an official Notary act in almost all states…
Or perhaps, now they are in all states. Not sure…

3. If you see the words — SUBSCRIBED AND SWORN (or affirmed) TO BEFORE ME BY…
This is Oath documentation verbiage. It is NOT the Oath itself, but the documentation that you administered an Oath or perhaps Affirmation. If you sign a form stating the above verbiage and do not administer an Oath, you have just committed fraud on a Notarial certificate which is a crime. I am not sure what type of crime it is, but it might be fraud, or even perjury which is a Federal crime punishable by up to five years in jail per infraction. Gulp. Please consult an Attorney to see what type of crime he/she thinks it is as my opinion is a layperson opinion and not legal advice.

4. My state doesn’t require Oaths.
I hear this every day. Your state DOES require Oaths, however your state doesn’t require you to read the handbook that says you have Oaths as an official duty. Moreover, your state doesn’t explain how to administer an Oath or WHEN to administer an Oath. I can blame your state, but this is also your fault if you go through life engaging in criminal negligence because you did not bother to learn when and how to administer Oaths.

5. We don’t do Oaths in my state.
Some people claim that Oaths might be an official Notary act in their state, but that it is never done. This is also not true. Carmen (who does sales for 123notary) does loan signings for out of state documents all the time and every single package has at least one Oath that is part of a JURAT.

6. If you see the word AFFIDAVIT in the title of a document.
The word Affidavit customarily means that the document is to be sworn to before a state official commissioned with the capacity to administer Oaths such as a Judge, Notary Public, Justice of the Peace, etc. If you see the word Affidavit, it is possible, although unlikely that you will execute an Acknowledged signature on that form. 99% or more of the time you will execute a Jurat, and Jurats by definition require the signer to sign (subscribe) in front of you and swear under Oath as to the truthfulness of the document.

7. Are you swearing to the identity of the signer, the signature or the truthfulness of the document.
Many Notaries administer Oaths to me over the phone on quizzes and make me repeat my name several times. However, the Oath for a document is regarding whether or not the document is true or not, and NOT to my identity. However, if the document makes me specifically swear to my name or name variations then I would have to swear to my identity. Additionally, an Oath on a document does not require the Affiant (signer) to swear to whether or not they signed it or whether or not they signed it on their own free will unless their state specifically requires it or unless the cheat sheet for the Oath requires it. As a general rule, an Oath on a document must be regarding the truthfulness of the document as the primary focus. Any other considerations are secondary or perhaps not necessary or perhaps should be left out.

8. Why Oath cheat sheets are dangerous
If you do not know the legal requirements of an Oath on a document in your state, you might not administer a passable Oath if you read off the cheat sheet. In my opinion which is based on logic, but not on law, an Oath on a document must be about the truthfulness of the document. If your cheat sheet for an Oath says, “Do you solemnly swear you signed this document.” — that would lead to an incomplete notarization because you never swore to the truthfulness of the document.

9. I don’t do Oaths, I only do Refinances.
Newsflash — Every refinance I have ever seen has at least one Oath. If there is an Affidavit such as a signature affidavit, identity affidavit, or occupancy affidavit, customarily there will be an Oath. If you do Refinances, you are required to do Oaths as part of fulfilling the statements on the Jurat certificate(s).

10. Oaths on oral statements or without Jurats
You might be asked to give an Oath on an oral statement. There might not be any paperwork involved other than your journal. You need to read up on how to do this. You might also be asked to give an Oath on a document that does not have a Jurat. You would have to ad-lib to come up with verbiage so practice on random documents to get the feel of it.

11. Remote court attendance.
Florida state allows certain witnesses to appear in court by phone. A Notary must swear them in from their remote location. This type of Oath requires the Notary to look at their ID, read it to the judge and do the TV court Oath of how you swear to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

12. Penalties for wrong or omitted Oaths.
Notaries rarely get in trouble for omitting a required Oath or refusing to administer an Oath. But, there are times when they do. Here are the things that could happen to you. Why take chances? It is like leaving your door unlocked.

(a.) REVOKED COMMISSION — Your commission could be revoked. I heard of several Notaries in Oklahoma who did not administer Oaths on loan documents.

(b.) OVERTURNED LOANS — The loan that had documents with required Oaths could be overturned by a Judge if they find out that the Notary did not administer an Oath.

(c.) GETTING SUED — The Notary could get sued by the Lender because there will be serious financial damages for the Lender because the Notary omitted a legally required Oath. Damages might be $20,000 or more if you get caught. People don’t get caught often — but when they do…

(d.) FINES — Certain states fine Notaries for misconduct and omissions. Failing to administer a required Oath in California used to have a $750 fine per incident. Now, it might be $1500. I am not sure of the exact fine, but it should be in that neighborhood.

(e.) JAIL — I have heard, and this may or may not be true, that making a false statement about an Oath on a certificate is perjury. The penalty for perjury is a jail sentence of up to five years per incident. So, you could end up in jail if the Feds or your state start checking up on Notaries to see if they are administering Oaths. They are not checking up now, but they could start any time.

(f.) LOSE LISTING — 123notary sometimes removes people for disciplinary reasons. If we find out that you do not obey Notary laws, we normally steer you to some educational materials. But, if you have a complete disregard for law, order, and common decency, you could lose your listing. We normally as a handful of Notary questions and will accept a very low average since most Notaries do not know their stuff. However, if you score under 50% on our quiz whether oral or written, you will most likely be in trouble with us. Although we are not commissioned to enforce laws, I do enforce who I list and that is my right and authority as owner of this site.

Although Notaries only get in trouble for not administering an Oath once in a blue moon, it is illegal not to fulfill your duties as a Notary Public, and it only takes minutes to read up on when and how to administer Oaths. There is no reason for this type of blatant negligence and criminal behavior. So, please become an expert at administering Oaths. Your first step should be to read your state handbook and see what they say about Oaths. They probably do not do a complete job of teaching it which is part of the problem. The NNA and 123notary have materials as well, and you could consult an Attorney. Although Oath procedure is not taught properly by the states (not even California) you are still legally required to give Oaths and give logical and correct sounding Oaths.


You might also like:

Should you use book wording for Oaths or improvise?

Airline meals verses Notary Oaths & Affirmations

Oaths – How Notaries completely screw them up!

Oaths and the art if improvisation

Notary Public 101 – Oaths, Affirmations, Jurats & Acknowledgments


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