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October 29, 2020

What documents can I notarize?

Filed under: Other Guest Bloggers — admin @ 8:52 am

What documents should I NOT notarize? (better idea for a title)

This is written about frequently but it does require repetition given the penalties associated with it and the # of requests received for unauthorized notarizations.

WILLS – Unless prepared or directed by an attorney, wills are generally witnessed by two disinterested independent third parties.

VITAL DOCUMENTS – Birth and Death Certificates and Marriage Certificates. The Secretary of State has specific laws preventing public Notaries from notarizing vital documents primarily because the Notary cannot verify the validity or authenticity of such a document. In cases such as this, the Notary needs to refer the client over to the agency who issued the document which in many cases is the County Recorder.

INCOMPLETE DOCUMENTS – A notary should not complete any documents that are fully completed at the time of notarization.

DOCUMENTS WHERE NOTARY IS AWARE THERE IS FALSE INFORMATION IN THE DOCUMENT – If you overhear conversation between people talking about the false information contained in the document they are signing, don’t notarize it. If you suspect that the person signing appears to be overly nervous or if it looks like someone else with a beneficial interest is forcing the person to sign the document, don’t notarize it. Always remember that the signer must sign the document willingly and present proper identification and must be able to communicate with the notary.

PERSON SIGNING CANNOT UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE IN WHICH THE NOTARY IS SPEAKING. You cannot use an interpreter because you don’t know what is being translated and if the translator has an interest in the transaction. Do not confuse this with notarizing a document in a Foreign Language. You can always notarize a foreign language document and don’t need to speak that language as long as the person signing can communicate with you in English or another common language in which both the notary and the signer can communicate.


October 13, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Identification

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.



As a Notary Public, the most important thing you do is to identify a signer. Different states have different rules for what identification document you can use and how someone is to be identified. If a Notary fails to do a good job identifying a signer, that Notary can quickly end up in court as a witness or defendant. In my opinion if you don’t do a good job identifying signers, you might as well not be a Notary Public.

Identification Documents & Characteristics
Commonly accepted ID’s include passports, driver’s licenses, state issued ID cards, military ID’s. Green cards (permanent resident cards) are not necessarily allowed, so look that one up in your handbook. As a rule, an acceptable ID must be:

Current — (there are exceptions in California, Tennessee and perhaps other states that allow the ID to be issued within five years even if it is expired.)

Government Issued — Some Notaries think that a signature affidavit or gas bill is a good secondary form of ID, but those are not government issued and you don’t know what the source of the information for the names on them are.

Photo ID — An acceptable ID should have a photo. I do not think that many states allow social security cards as secondary identifications. However, you can look that up in your handbook.

Physical Description — the ID would say your height, eye color, etc.

Serial Number — the ID should have a number such as A58362D.

Expiration Date — the ID should have an expiration date somewhere. Normally there is an issue date as well somewhere.

Signature — the signature on the ID is important because you will need to compare that to the one in your journal and on the document made by the same person.



Different states have different rules for what the name on the ID should say relative to the name on the document. Some states do not require the names to match. Others require that the Notary be reasonably sure that the person in the ID and the person on the document are the same person. Reasonably sure is a wishy-washy term. You can never be 100% sure it is the same person because ID’s can be falsified and there could be multiple people with the same name as well as multiple people who look similar to each other. Identifying humans is easier than identifying squirrels, but there can still be confusion. The name on the document’s signature must be provable to the name on the ID, otherwise it would be questionable and risky to notarize that signature.



When you do a Notary act, you ask for the signer’s identification. You record that information in your journal and you keep a journal whether your state requires it or not as that is your only evidence in court. You compare the name on the ID to the name on the document. If the name on the document is not provable based on the ID then you are advised to decline the notarization, especially if it is for a Deed. Here is a summary of the ID and acknowledgment notarization process.

(1) Ask for ID.
(2) Record ID information in journal
(3) Have signer(s) sign your journal and the document(s)
(4) Compare the name in the document to the name on the ID. Make sure the name on the document is provable based on the ID.
(5) Make sure the signature in the journal, document and ID all match.
(6) Fill out the certificate, sign and seal.

Examples of provability in ID
ID says John Smith — document says John W Smith…. name is NOT provable.
ID says John W Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable
ID says John William Smith — document says John W Smith… name is provable based on the ID.



Keep an eye out for fake ID’s. There are guide books that can yelp you identify a false identification. If there is peeling lamination or the signature is above the lamination then it is fake. You can ask the signer what his sign is or what his birthday or height is. If he does not know his sign or birthday based on the ID, then his ID is fake. If he does know his sign that is great, but does not prove the ID is real.



If you value your life, ask for journal thumbprints. They can keep you out of court. People might complain about being asked to be thumbprinted as it can seem like an invasion of privacy and a hassle — but a thumbprint is the only way an investigative agency can have a paper trail leading to an arrest of an identity thief. Thumbprints are the only unique form of identification a Notary can use at this point in time. No two thumbprints are alike, and they cannot be forged at a Notary appointment unless they wear a latex thumbprint on their thumb which would be easily detectable.


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February 17, 2013

Identification requirements for being notarized

Do you need to see a notary public sometime soon? Are you going to get some critical documents notarized? Don’t be afraid, this is easy! However, there are a few things that you must know.

(1) The notary public is required by law to check your identification. Certain types of identification are generally acceptable such as current driver’s licenses, state issued identification cards, passports,etc. As a general rule, if an identification is a current government issued photo-ID with a physical description, signature, and serial number, it should be good for a notary public to use. Make sure that your signature on the identification matches the one that you use on the document.

(2) Your name on the document must match the name on the identification. However, if your name on the document is shorter than the name on the identification, that is fine. If your ID says John J Smith, and on the document, you are named as John Smith, you are okay. If the name on the document is longer than the name in the identification, the notary public can not legally notarize that longer name variation.

(3) Some states require the notary public to thumbprint you for Deeds affecting real property and Powers of Attorney. It is painless (when I do it).

(4) The notary can not legally choose the type of notarization for you to get. Please have your decisions of whether to get an Oath, Acknowledgment, Jurat, or something else worked out before you see your notary.

(5) Most states require the document signer to sign the notary’s journal as well as signing the document. The notary should also record your identification information in their journal.

(6) Jurats require the signer to swear under oath. Please be cooperative about raising your right hand when you swear under oath.

(7) Mobile notaries charge a travel fee, and can charge waiting fees if you keep them waiting. Please be on time and respect their time and fees. specializes in mobile notaries.

(8) If the signer doesn’t have acceptable identification, please consult an attorney. Please be aware that inmates in jail do not have identification on their person other than their wristbands which is completely unacceptable as notary identification.

Good luck, and find a great notary public on!!!

(1) Your name on the document must match your name on the identification when notarized.
(2) Acceptable notary identification must be government issued, photo, serial #, exp. date, etc.

You might also like:

Notary Public 101 – Identification

Signature Name Affidavit: Not a substitute for an ID

When ID and documents have different names

What’s your sign?


December 13, 2011

Can a notary help draft documents?

Can a notary public help drafting documents?
Notaries are discouraged from engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. The definition of unauthorized practice of law differs from state to state.  However, as a general rule, assisting someone in drafting a document that will be used in court, or submitted to a judge, or used for any legal purpose would be unauthorized practice of law, or giving legal advice. A Florida notary should not draft any type of document for any client, whether the document is of a legal nature or not because rules are tighter there.  New York notaries should be on guard too as standards for unauthorized practice of law are enforced more stringently there. 
But, my client needs my help drafting this document
You need to tell the client that it is up to them and their attorney to draft their document, or to fill out their power of attorney form.  There are standardized power of attorney forms that are sold in office supply stores.  Notaries should not notarize a document with blanks in it, however, they should also not assist in filling in those blanks or even putting lines through the blanks.
What if I arrive at a job and the document hasn’t been written yet?
If you are a MOBILE NOTARY and you travel to homes, businesses, hospitals, etc., it is up to you to double check with your clients to make sure they have their documents all filled out and ready. You should make sure their identification is ready too.  Most states require identification not only for Acknowledgments, but also for Jurats too!  Don’t get in your car until the documents and identification documents are all in order. 
Can a notary witness a signature on draft documents?
A notary can witness a signature on any document if you like.  However, if you have a notary notarize a document which is going to have a new draft printed out after the fact, the NEW version of the document would have to be notarized all over again if it is to be notarized.  You can not change wording or pages in a document which has already been notarized.

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November 18, 2011

Notarizing multi-page documents

Issues with Notarizing Multipage Documents / Documents with multiple pages
Most notaries can barely function doing the simplest of simple notary jobs.  When confronted with anything harder than doing a simple Acknowledgment or Jurat signing where the signer has acceptable identification and can easily sign — will throw most notaries off guard. There are many situations where you need credible witnesses, subscribing witnesses, have a power of attorney signing, attorney in fact signing, or other issue which can become a snag to many notaries.  Multi-page documents (documents with multiple pages) seem easy to notarize, but are they really? There are issues, but is the notary you erroneously hired aware of these issues?
Page swapping after the fact
Most notaries think they are there to notarize signatures on documents, and that is it.  The bigger function of a notary is fraud deterance, and to identify the signer.  If a notary does the minimum of what their job description requires, they might be acting within the law, but are they really being helpful to their clients, or to society as a whole?  If a notary notarizes a ten page document or multiple page document, and the document custodian (whomever is in charge of the document after it is signed) decides that page four needs to be edited, then what? 
In some circumstances a corrupted signer or document custodian will substitute page four with a newly written page four.  He/she/they will unstaple the document, hopefully as cleanly as possible, remove page four, and add another very similar looking page four, and hope nobody notices.  If there are two signers to the document and both have a copy, then there is evidence of tampering, but what if you don’t have copies, or you lost your copies.  There is no way to prove that the document was tampered with other than the faulty looking stapling job which would make any judge say, “hmmmm” and raise his eyebrows (judges often have bushy eyebrows by the way).  
Should you have the notary come back?
One signer asked me to kindly give them a new notary certificate for the new page they were adding to an already notarized document. I told them that documents are notarized as a whole and that if you change even one word, that the whole thing needs to be re-notarized.  They didn’t like that since they had already paid a travel fee. I made them redraw the signature page too, since I wanted fresh signatures which reflected the fact that they were signing in agreement to the whole document.  All of my prudent behavior aroused tremendous resistance, “oh come on’s”, and other complaining. The law is the law.  If you want to screw around, you shouldn’t be hiring a notary in the first place, right?  So, I made them start all over again with a complete redraw despite their complaining, and we notarized everything, and it was kosher.
Safeguards against fraud
In the case of multipage documents, the most effective way to safeguard against fraud (page-switching) is to emboss all pages of every document notarize.  If someone protests your embossing, tell them that you don’t have TIME to go to court after they do something fraudulent with their document, therefor, you take precautions against any tampering by embossing every page.  It is hard to forge an embosser, and hard to use it in the same way a notary uses it.  It might be easy to spot a false notarization which is important to get you out of court fast.  Imagine how many hundreds you would lose every day you were hijacked by a court case!
Initialing changes?
Initialing is a technology that I don’t like much.  If someone adds a new page to a multipage document, the initials “prove” that all signers agree to it, and safeguard against page-switching after the fact.  But, initials lack the same characteristics as a well established signature.  People don’t initial that much, and it is easy to forge them without detection. I think that initialing is better than nothing, but a poor safeguard against fraud.  I feel that if a signer gives a thumbprint on all pages of a document, that is much harder to forge.  I see no harm in signing all pages of a document. That is better than initialing since a signature is usually consistant (more or less) each time you sign.  Initials might not be, and it is yet another mark with it’s own characteristics.
Notarizing multiple pages without initials?
Not all multiple page documents require initials.  It is up to the company who drew the documents if they want initials or not. There is no law requiring that documents have initials, but Deeds of Trusts and Mortgages normally have places for the borrowers to initial at the bottom of all pages.
Forging initials
It is common for Title companies to forge someone’s initials on Deeds if the signer forgets to initial.  Forged initials on date changes are common as well.  Illegally forging someone’s initials on a name change happens all the time.  It is very hard to know for sure if an initial is forged, but the people who illegally forge signatures, are usually overworked clerks in large companies who have very little time — and they are sloppy how they forge initials. The forged initials don’t look at all like the real ones.  These workers need to know that they might have to go to jail for a crime like forgery, so they should refuse to do it!

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November 10, 2011

Notary Procedure for Affidavit of Support Documents

Affidavit of Support and the Notary Procedure
Notaries who are not immigration experts are strictly forbidden from giving any type of advice regarding immigration.  However, it is common for individuals going through the immigration process to have documents that need to be notarized by a state commissioned notary public.  The Affidavit of Support is the most commonly notarized immigration document.  Any currently commissioned notary with jurisdiction in your state can notarize your signature on that document. There is no such thing as an Immigration notary, or Immigration notariation, but any notary can notarize signatures on basic immigration documents.
How do I get an Affidavit of Support notarized?
Just for the record, you get a signature notarized, not a document.  Affidavits of support typically require a Jurat certificate or the type of notarization known as a Jurat.  This requires a quick oath to be given to the signer by the notary public.  The oath only takes half a minute.  The notary would need to check the identification of the signer (this applies to most states).  The notary public would record the identification document’s information in their journal (most states require a journal). 
The ID could be a current drivers license, passport, state ID card.  The ID should be a current government issued photo ID with a physical description and signature.  Green cards are typically not allowed as identification to be notarized.  Foreign driver’s licenses are generally okay, and passports are acceptable.  Make sure to check with the notary you are going to use to see if your choice of identification will be okay.  Make sure your identification is not expired.  Some notaries will allow the use of credible witnesses as well.
The Oath
Have you ever sworn under oath before?  Its easy. Just raise your right hand and say, “I do”. It’s the notary’s job to ask you to raise your right hand, and its their job to create some wording for the oath too.  They might say, “Do you solemnly swear that the contents of this document are true and correct and that you agree to and will abide by the conditions in this document?”.  Just don’t mumble when being given the oath.  Speak clearly please.
No English? 
If the signer doesn’t speak English, most states do NOT allow the use of a translator.  The signer must be able to speak directly with the notary public.  So, for example, if the signer speaks Spanish, just find a bilingual notary public who knows enough Spanish to be able to converse with the signer about the document and the signing. The bilingual notary doesn’t have to speak the language perfectly, but enough to communicate adequantely with the signer.
Immigration Advice
Do NOT ask a notary public for immigration advice, unless they have evidence that they are an immigration professional in some official capacity. Notaries are not allowed to give any type of legal advice.  Additionally, notaries can not draft legal documents, although many states allow them to draft less formal documents.
Where do I find a notary?
You can find a mobile notary on, and there are bilingual notaries speaking almost every language on the planet from Arabic to Zulu.  Spanish is by far the most common foreign language for notaries to speak, but 123notary has many who speak all other types of languages.  If you want to find a notary office, try your local UPS store. They can be found on google.


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November 13, 2020

Penalties for Notary misconduct, fraud, and failure of duty

Filed under: Notary Mistakes — Tags: , , — admin @ 11:23 am

Originally posted in 2018

Notaries by and large do not willfully engage in any type of illegal activity or illegal notarizations. The normal types of crimes Notaries commit are due to complete ignorance of Notary procedure, Oaths, and certificates. The only serious and purposeful crime I have ever heard of a Notary associated with us committing was one that assisted someone in fraud concerning real property — and the Notary ended up in jail. Please keep in mind that Notary law is different in every state and changes all the time as well. Penalties and fines for Notary misconduct are different in each state, California being the most stringent.

Negligent vs. Willful Misconduct

In California, the penalties are much more severe for Notaries who have engaged in willful misconduct rather than just making a careless mistake or omission.

Failure to keep your seal & journal under lock and key.
In California this is very serious and is a crime. You can keep your Notary equipment in a bag with a small lock that locks the zippers together. If you are the only one with access to your car, then the trunk of your car could work as well.

Unauthorized Practice of Law
The definition of UPL differs from state to state. However, offering opinions on legal matters or offering to draft legal documents might constitute UPL. For a professional opinion — ask an Attorney!

Asking a notary to do an improper notarization.
This is a misdemeanor in California. If it involves real property, then it is much more serious. Clients might ask you to notarize their signature using a different name variation that is not documented on their identification, or put a false date. This is illegal. They would guilty for asking you to do this, and you would be guilty if you give in to their pressure. If you have driven forty minutes to a signing job, in a sense 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, to be prudent and avoid this issue, 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 signs and seals false certificates, and this could include backdated certificates would be guilty of a misdemeanor. A false Acknowledgment certificate constitutes FORGERY. Additionally, the notary public could have their commission revoked if found guilty of this crime, with an additional fine of $1500 per incident in California (fines change over time so look this up in the statues).

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. Most other states do not require thumbprints, and Texas and Florida actually recommend against thumbprinting as those states do not trust Notaries with biometric data which is the only foolproof way to identify a signer. How ironic!

Failure to administer an Oath
A fine of $750 per incident could be incurred, not to mention revocation, or suspension of a notary commission, or refusal to grant a commission. I heard that some Notaries in Oklahoma had to go to court for a loan document signing in question. The Judge found out that the Notaries had not administered Oaths on the Affidavits in the loan package. I heard that the Judge overturned the loan and had the Notaries commissions permanently revoked by their state.

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. Borrowing someone’s Notary seal and doing Notary work is a serious crime. If you are a Notary, keep your seal and journal locked up.

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 a California Notary is $1500 per incident. Additionally, such a notary’s commission could be suspended, revoked, terminated, 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 and perhaps unauthorized practice of law.

Selling personal information
It is illegal for the notary sells or misuses personal information of those he/she has notarized. 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 revoked or suspended for this type of 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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Notary Public Information


February 3, 2019

Credible Witness Notary — information & resources

Here are some links that explain the credible witness process in the Notary profession. Please keep in mind that each state has a different procedure and rules for credible witnesses and a few states don’t allow this practice at all. Please also keep in mind that a Credible Witness for Notary work is also called a Credible identifying witness as their function is to identify signers who lack proper identification.

California Credible Witness Information
There is a long list of things a California Credible Witness must swear to that go above and beyond the identity of the signer. The credible witness must also swear that the signer cannot easily obtain identification. Here are what the CW must swear to:

1. The individual appearing before the notary public as the signer of the document is the person named in the document;

2. The credible witness personally knows the signer;

3. The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification;

4. The signer does not possess any of the identification documents authorized by law to establish the signer’s identity; and general information

5. The credible witness does not have a financial interest and is not named in the document signed.

Please note that the credible witness does not have to swear that the signer has a particular legal name. Shouldn’t that be the whole point of the Oath?

Please refer to page eight and nine of the 2018 California Notary Public Handbook for details.


Information & Resources

Credible witnesses from A to Z

Glossary Entry — Credible Witness

Which states allow credible witnesses?

Credible Witnesses — the process explained

NNA’s guide to credible witnesses guide to credible witnesses

Can a notary act as a witness?


Credible Witness Notary
California Notary Credible Witness
Credible Witness for Notary
Credible witness california
Credible witness acknowledgment
Credible witness affidavit for California
2 Credible Witnesses
Affidavit of identity by credible witness
CA credible witness requirements
Ca notary 2 credible witnesses
California credible witness Notary
California notary how to acknowledge two credible witnesses
California swearing in a witness
California Notary credible witness form
California Notary Oath of credible witness


October 11, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Basic Notary Acts

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.


Each state has a different list of official Notary acts. Some state handbooks don’t make it clear if certain actions are considered “official” notary acts or not. However, all states or the vast majority have Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, and Affirmations. Many also have Protests and Proofs of Execution, while only a few have Witnessing, Attesting, immigration form filling, and depositions as acts. There are a few more acts I will not mention as they are obscure and very state specific. Let’s focus on the main acts that we will hold you responsible for knowing.



When I studied to be a Notary, my teacher said you Acknowledge a signature, Execute a Jurat and Administer an Oath. This is not true. The Notary is not the one who acknowledges a signature. The SIGNER acknowledges the signature and then the Notary CERTIFIES that the signer acknowledged the signature by virtue of filling out the Acknowledgment Certificate. Here are some basics on Acknowledgments.

1. The signer acknowledges having signed the document.

2. The signer must physically personally appear before the Notary for such an act.

3. The signer does NOT have to sign before the Notary according to most if not all states such as AK, IA, SC, SD, VT, and WV. Lenders might require the borrower to sign in the presence of the Notary, but that is a particular Lender’s standard and not necessarily a state standard or even a best practice.

4. The Notary must positively identify the signer using identification documents acceptable to their state which normally include Drivers Licenses, State issued identification photo ID’s, Passports, and Military ID’s. Other ID might be accepted on a state by state basis and you can look that up in your handbook. Also, see our section on identification.

5. The Notary should ideally keep a journal entry of all Notarial acts even if their state does not require this.

6. There should be Acknowledgment wording appropriate or acceptable to your state inscribed within the document, or you can attach a loose acknowledgment form with a staple.

7. After you fill out the certificate form, you sign and stamp the page (some states allow you to write in your seal information without a stamp.) Make sure your stamp is clear and not smudgy otherwise the county recorder has the right to reject the Notarization.

8. Note — some states require the Notary to ask the signer to attest to the fact that they signed in their own free will. Please be aware if your state has any unusual requirements or special wording on forms.

9. A California Notary faces many restrictions as to what type of out of state forms they can use. Please check the California Notary Handbook to see what you can accept and what you can’t otherwise you could get in trouble particularly if it is a recorded document.



Jurats are a Notary act where the signer or affiant by definition signs and swears (and/or sometimes affirms) before the Notary. Jurat wording differs from state to state. However, some basic verbiage includes the phrase, “Subscribed and sworn to before me.” What does this mean? This means that the document was signed in the physical presence of the Notary Public as well as sworn to before the Notary Public at the signing. In an Acknowledged signature you can sign prior to seeing the Notary, but you acknowledge before the Notary. A Jurat is completely different. Modern verbiage for Jurats sometimes says, “Subscribed and sworn or affirmed to before me.” This does not mean that you can administer an Oathfirmation and mix the Affirmation and Oath verbiage. This means that you can have the client choose if they want an Oath or Affirmation and do one or the other. Don’t mix these Notary acts unless your state specifically says you can.

Many Notaries are unaware that when executing a Jurat, you do need to administer an Oath particular to the document being signed. Please see our commentary on Oaths below. Failing to administer an Oath on a Jurat is illegal and could void the legal completeness of the document. Some states additionally will reserve the right to suspend your commission if you omit a legally required Oath.

“Subscribed and sworn to before me” is NOT Oath verbiage! That is the written documentation that you gave an Oath. When you ask the affiant to raise their right hand, do NOT utter the words, “subscribed and sworn to before me.” otherwise they will think you are an idiot and there will be no way for them to respond unless they repeat. Start an Oath with, “do you solemnly swear” after they have raised their right hand.

A good Oath for a document could be, “Do you solemnly swear under the penalty of perjury that the information in this document is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” Then the other person says, “I do.” Then you pronounce them “man and document” by the powers vested in you.



Not all Notarial acts include a written document or written certificate. Some are purely oral. Oaths and Affirmations are oral acts where most states do not have a certificate for the Oath. You should write in your journal if you administered an Oath and where it says, “Name of document” you should write that you gave an Oath about a particular topic. You do not write the actual verbiage of the Oath in your journal. You might write, “Oath regarding military duty” or “Oath of citizenship,” etc.

Oath verbiage is generally up to the Notary and few states have any actual requirements for what you should say. However, common sense and tradition dictate certain things about Oath verbiage.

Raise Your Right Hand — you traditionally have the signer raise their right hand before swearing under Oath.

Solemnly – it is traditional to ask the signer if they solemnly swear. An Oath is a solemn occassion and swearing to a Notary is as official as swearing to a judge in a court of law.

Swear — you must use the word “swear” in an Oath otherwise it is no longer an Oath.

Document or Statement — in an Oath you should make a reference to the content you are swearing to. It might be a document, or a statement you are about to me. Just make sure you reference the content in a way that makes sense. Asking someone to swear to “the information” is not as precise as asking them to swear to the truthfulness of “this document” while pointing to the document.

God — Oaths traditionally refer to God. If someone doesn’t like God, rather than remove God from the Oath, do an Affirmation INSTEAD of an Oath.


Correct Oath wording for a Notary to make for a Document
“Please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the document you signed is true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” — The answer would be, “I do.”

Wrong Oaths for a Document
“Do you solemnly swear that the statement you are about to make is true?”
“Do you solmenly swear that the information you provided is true?”

If you are swearing to a document there is no statement you are about to make. There is a document you already signed that you swear to. You cannot swear to a statement you are not going to make — that is nonsense. The information in the document might have been provided by a Lender or Attorney, so don’t make them swear to WHO provided the information. Just have them swear that it is true.

Administering an Oath
When you are a Notary and you give or supervise an Oath to someone, you are administering an Oath. When you administer an Oath there are two ways to do it. You either ask an Oath question such as the ones mentioned above, or you say, “Repeat after me.” Repeating after me is really tenous as every three words the affiant has to repeat those words and it is like being six years old doing the pledge of allegience. How annoying!



An Affirmation is similar to an Oath. The are equal in their significance and used during the same situations. Affirmations are legal in most states. Check your state’s handbook to see if they are used in yours and if there is any state specific wording that you must use. However, you cannot mix and match the wording in an Affirmation. If your client wants to do an Affirmation, you use the word Affirm or State rather than swear, and you do not mention God. Leave God out of it! Other than that, the verbiage is the same as an Oath, so help you nobody!

To better understand choosing Oaths vs. Affirmations or mixing them up together read this fun article about Airline Meals versus Oaths and Affirmations.

To administer an Affirmation for a document just say, “Do you solemnly affirm or state that the information in this document is correct?” or for a purely oral statement just say, “Do you solemnly affirm or state that the statement you are about to give is true and correct?”



Not all states allow proofs of execution, but it is a traditional Notary act that I would like you to know about. In a proof of execution, the principal who is the one who signs the document signs when a subscribing witness is witnessing his signature. The definition of a subscribing witness is one who watches someone else sign. Then the subscribing witness appears before a Notary and swears under Oath that he/she witnessed so and so signing the document. I have never heard of this act being done, but for less formal documents, it is often allowed and it is interesting to read about as it is so unusual.



Not all states have protests. Protests are normally done by people working in banking to protest the non-payment of a bill or bounced check. We do not hold our Notaries responsible to understand this act although it is good to know what it is.



November 15, 2016

How to spot fake ID at a notarization

Most Notaries study Notary law. But, do we keep handbooks that are up to date about spotting fake ID’s? Perhaps we should . Our primary task as a Notary is not to make people feel good, and is not to get the job done either. It is to identify signers and make sure that fraud doesn’t take place. It is better to say “no” rather than to get a Notary job done wrong — hence the name “no”–tary. Otherwise we would be yestaries and the world would go down the tubes.

ID Handbooks
The NNA and other vendors have books going over every state’s identification documents. They can tell you about distinguishing features, new watermarks, and other telltale signs that the ID is genuine.

Jeremy’s Solution — an online ID database
Personally, I think there should be a computer system to let the Notary look you up on a Federal or state database — but, that’s just me.


Things to look for one the ID

(1) Physical Description
Sometimes the physical description doesn’t match the signer. With ladies changing their hairstyle frequently, it is hard to tell their identity.

(2) Mispellings
Then, there could be misspellings in the name or a wrong name variation.

(3) Tampering
Obvious signs of tampering are almost a guarantee of a fake ID. I saw one of those once and only once.

(4) Watermarks
Finally watermarks are used in identification documents and currency to prove authenticity. It is possible, but hard for a fraud to replicate an authentic watermark. In China I’m sure they’ll figure it out as faking things is their specialty. But, for the rest of us it would not be so easy.

(5) Lack of raised lettering
Many of the newer ID’s have raised lettering. However, without a guidebook, you won’t know which states and which identification years of issue have raised letters.

(6) What’s your sign?
Ask the signer their sign. If they are using a fake ID with wrong DOB it will be very difficult for them to immediately recite their sign. You can also ask for their zip code to spot a fraud.


Most Notaries do not inspect ID’s carefully. They just record the information in their journal. Unless something fake is jumping out at them, they will not notice that something is wrong. It pays to get a handbook and become and expert. After all, the whole point of being a Notary is to deter fraud. In my opinion, each state’s Notary division should require all Notaries to be experts at spotting fake ID’s in addition to other critical related skills. Maybe one day technology and training will improve.

Smokey bear says — say no to forest fires. Notary Jer says — say no to fake notary identifications — if you can spot them.

You might also like:

Seven error free ways to identify a signer

Notarized document expired identification

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