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December 23, 2014

Do you notarize loose certificates as a notary?

… Are we both on the same page here?

Staple it please…
I was reading a discussion on one of the notary forums. They were talking about whether or not you can notarize loose certificates as a notary. The answer is that a notary certificate needs to be either embedded in a document (meaning that the wording is typed in a document below the body of the document,) or attached to the document with a staple.

What is a certificate?
Just to clarify, a notary certificate is a piece of paper with notarial wording on it. It might be an Acknowledgment Certificate or a Jurat. There are other types too such as Copy Certification by Document Custodian in California and other particular states. These certificates are commonly referred to as Jurats, although they are technically not necessarily Jurats as most of them are Acknowledgments.

What can happen if you don’t?
A loose certificate can easily be attached to a different document by accident or on purpose. Imagine that you notarize a Power of Attorney for someone who had several powers of attorney notaries. The wrong certificate could be added to a different Power of Attorney. In a more serious case, they might be attached to a document signed by a completely different person. Such a mistake can be easily caught, but imagine the trouble that might ensue if nobody saw the mistake!

Additional notes & thumbprints are prudent
Just to be on the safe side, it is prudent to put additional information in the certificate such as how many pages the document has, the document name and document date (if any; and which might differ from the signature date,) the capacity of the signer (not allowed to be verified by the notary in particular states,) and more! Some certificate forms even allow a designated spot for a thumbprint which I always used for international documents just to keep people out of trouble — and the foreign government workers told my clients that they appreciated the extra effort!

“…. see attached”

Illegal requests
Many companies in the loan signing business will be in a hurry to get a new “Jurat” for a notarized document if the seal was smudgy, or if they needed to have a new version of the document drafted and signed. They will commonly ask you to mail it to them which is completely illegal. You will be pressured to do so or the loan might not fund. Don’t cave into the pressure. It is your job to uphold the law no matter what horrible consequences come to your clients. Ask for the original document back, and then staple the new certificate form to the document and send it back after destroying the original certificate form. There is nothing illegal about doing a second certificate for a legitimately notarized document providing that the initial one isn’t left hanging around! Additionally, you might inform these Title company workers that their request was illegal and if they make any other illegal requests, you will report them to their state’s secretary of state! Maybe better wait until the second offense so you don’t lose the client. But, if you tolerate illegal requests, you will be encouraging the perpetrators to do it to other unsuspecting notaries who might cave in and get themselves in hot water with the state! (gulp)


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February 8, 2012

Can a notary notarize a birth certificate?

Can a notary notarize a copy of a birth certificate? 

Notaries are advised to stay away from notarizing copies of vital records including birth certificates, marriage certificates, and death certificates.  The state and/or county clerks are in charge of vital records.  Just politely decline when asked to notarize a signature on a birth certificate.  These types of vital records must be certified by the county clerk in the corresponding county.
No place to sign!
Additionally, there is no place for a signer to sign on a birth certificate, so how can you notarize a document without a signature?  Conceivably, you could draw up an Affidavit that claims that the copy is a true and complete copy of the original birth certificate.  The signer could sign that affidavit, and you could notarize the signature on the affidavit and give them a quick oath. But, this is not legal in many states in conjunction with a birth certificate.

 What should a notary do?
As a notary, you should know the name of the document that is to be notarized BEFORE you get in your car.  Imagine driving 45 minutes in traffic only to find out that you are going to be asked to notarize a birth certificate. Have fun getting your travel fee in that case when you tell the client, “no can do”. 
Fetal Death Certificates?
I never knew this existed until I read someone’s reply to a forum post about notarizing (or not notarizing) birth certificates.  I never knew there was such thing as a fetal death certificate.  How can you give a certificate to someone who has not yet been named?  Do souls have an SKU number?  Was the fetus mature enough to have been infused with a soul yet?  When you study spirituality, you start asking questions like this!  On a brighter note, the fetus will be reincarnated, and won’t suffer much according to a colleague who specializes in past life regression!
Refer them to an Attorney
When asked to do questionable or illegal acts, just refer your client to an Attorney so that they can get a professional answer.
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February 2, 2024

Common Notary Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Filed under: Notary Mistakes — Tags: — Tom Wilkins @ 12:00 am

In the realm of legal transactions, the role of a notary is paramount. Whether you’re a homeowner finalizing the purchase of your dream home or a business owner executing critical contracts, the presence of a notary ensures the legality and integrity of these important moments. However, notaries are human and, like anyone, can make mistakes. Recognizing and avoiding common notary mistakes is key to ensuring that your transactions proceed without a hitch. Let’s dive into some of these pitfalls and how to avoid them.

1. Failing to Identify Signatories Properly

One of the most critical roles of a notary is to verify the parties’ identity in a transaction. Common mistakes include not checking identification thoroughly or accepting expired IDs. To avoid this, always insist on current, government-issued identification with a photo, signature, and physical description.

2. Neglecting to Record Entries in the Notary Journal

A notary’s journal is an official record of notarial acts and protects the notary and the signatories. Skipping entries or not detailing the transaction accurately is a mistake that can lead to legal complications. Ensure every act is recorded promptly and in detail.

3. Improper Use of Notary Seals

The misuse or improper storage of notary seals can lead to unauthorized use and fraud. Notaries must secure their seals and only use them when performing an official act. Remember, your seal is your responsibility.

4. Overstepping Notarial Boundaries

Notaries are not legal advisors. Offering legal advice or explaining the contents of a document oversteps the boundaries of the notary’s role and can lead to legal repercussions. If asked for advice, the best practice is to direct the individual to seek legal counsel.

5. Incomplete or Incorrect Notarization

Missing information, such as the date, location of notarization, or signatory details, can invalidate a document. Likewise, using the wrong notarial certificate or wording can lead to a document being challenged. Always double-check your work for completeness and accuracy.

6. Not Understanding State-Specific Laws

Notary laws vary from state to state, and not being up-to-date with your state’s requirements can lead to mistakes. Continuous education and reference to state notary manuals are essential to stay compliant.

7. Ignoring the Signer’s Willingness and Awareness

A notary must ensure that signers are willing and aware of what they are signing, free from coercion or impairment. Ignoring signs of reluctance or confusion can question the validity of the notarization.

How to Avoid These Mistakes

Avoiding these common notary mistakes starts with education and diligence. Stay informed about your state’s notary laws, attend refresher courses, and always adhere to the best practices of your profession. Furthermore, utilize resources like the FedEx drop-off service for secure document handling, ensuring that your notarial acts are completed with legal integrity and efficiency.

Ensuring Legal Integrity in Every Transaction

Elevating your notarial expertise involves being vigilant about common notary mistakes and taking proactive steps to avoid them. By thoroughly verifying identities, meticulously maintaining your notary journal, correctly using your notary seal, staying within your legal boundaries, ensuring the completeness and accuracy of every notarization, understanding state-specific laws, and respecting the signer’s willingness and awareness, you safeguard the legal integrity of every transaction. Homeowners and business owners alike depend on this diligence for the seamless execution of their most critical documents. Remember, knowledge and attentiveness are your best tools for avoiding these pitfalls and upholding the trust placed in you as a notary.


January 16, 2022

Quiz: You know you’re a good Notary when you…

What type of Notary are you? A good one or a bad one? I’m not sure who created the questions for, “You know you’re a redneck if you…”
So, I’ll create my own version of this satirical banter, and come up with my own version for Notaries that will have some technical merit.

You know you’re a bad Notary when you…

(1) Do you fail to call the borrower to confirm the appointment that signing company set, and just show up?
If you don’t call and make sure that all parties involved (watch out for spousal signatures) will be there and on time, with a current ID with matching names — you might be in for some wasted time. If you don’t get the documents signed, you might not get paid. You might waste two hours for nothing because you don’t think you “need” to call the borrowers, or because you were asked not to. It is your appointment and your responsibility!

(2) Do you send loose certificates in the mail?
Lenders and Title companies are notorious for asking notaries to break the law and send loose certiifcates. In some states it is a Misdemeanor if you ask a Notary to do something illegal. Report all illegal requests to your State Notary Division immediately. No second chances!

(3) Do you fail to get certified by all agencies that you purchase “effective” advertising from? Or do you say, I don’t “need” your certification because I’m already “certified” without even disclosing the name of the organization who certified you? There is no such thing as just being “certified” as notary certification is not regulated by any government.

(4) Do you say, “I have my Notary” when you really mean you have your Notary Commission?

(5) Do you fail to use a Notary Journal or Seal simply because your state doesn’t require it? What happens if an investigator asks about a potentially fraudulent transaction you were involved in and you have no evidence for the court? The court case might be really long and you might get in really big trouble.

(6) Do you fail to keep thumbprints of signers in your journal because your state doesn’t require it?
Guess what? You might end up in court if you don’t take thumbprints, especially on transactions affecting high dollar figures such as properties.

(7) Do you fail to administer Oaths to credible witnesses or for Jurats because you are not well enough trained to know how, or even to know that you are required? Or, perhaps you don’t even know what a credible witness even is. Better look this up in your state Notary handbook.

You know you’re a good Notary when…

(1) The hair on your neck stand up straight when you see someone try to sign with a middle initial that doesn’t exist on their identification.

(2) You use an inked seal and an embosser with a raised non-inked seal to make it detectable if pages are swapped or photocopied.

(3) You take copious notes in your journal about the signers, what went on in the signing, and the building / neighborhood where the signing took place to job your memory should you ever be summoned into court.

(4) You sell your car, and buy a few top spots on!

There are many other technical points and best practices that we could address, but for this hopefully entertaining blog entry — that’s all folks!


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January 1, 2022

Who is the authority at a Notary Loan Signing?

Originally published several years ago.

Notary Public Authority

We often ask questions about authority to signing agents, and the results are horrifying. Most Notaries do not know who is in charge of what. So, this article will sum it up clearly.

Notary Public
A Notary Public is a state appointed state official who is paid by customers, but whose “boss” or authority is the state Notary division. Many Notaries Public seem to be confused as to who their boss is, the one paying them or the one commissioning them. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the ones paying them often pay them for more than just Notary services as travel, pick up, drop off, and supervision of non-notarized signatures and packages seem to be part of the deal if you are a Signing Agent.

The Notary is the sole authority regarding what goes in a Notary certificate such as an Acknowledgment, Jurat, etc., what goes in the journal, what is allowed or not allowed, and how a notarization should be done.

It is common that Notaries have questions during a loan signing and direct those questions to the Lender or Title representative. This is okay for Title or Lending questions, but not for Notary questions where the Notary may only turn for help to their state Notary division, official Notary handbook, or perhaps the NNA hotline.

Notaries should NOT ask the Lender for Notary advice because:
1. The Lender is probably not a Notary
2. If the Lender is a Notary they might be in a different state
3. If the Lender is a Notary and in the same state they might not be knowledgeable.
4. If the Lender is a Notary, in the same state, and knowledgeable, they might (are likely to) give you advice that would make the job go more smoothly for them, yet have tremendous liability for you.
5. You are the one appointed to the job, so even if the person you are asking for advice is a Notary, they are not the one whose commission number gets put on the certificate, and you are the one going to jail if something goes wrong. Therefor, you have to know your laws and what you can and cannot do, etc.

Who can initial and where?
Any initials on a Notary certificate are done exclusively by the Notary Public. It looks like tampering if the borrower or anyone else makes marks on a Notary certificate. The borrower may initial documents, but not the Notary certificate or Notary section in or attached to a notarized document

The Lender
The Lender is the “boss” of what happens with loan documents. If the Lender authorizes a change, initialing, cross outs, etc., on an actual loan document that is NOT in the notary section, that is up to them and they are the authority on that matter, not the Notary. The minute the issue becomes with a Notary certificate, then the authority swings over to the Notary (even if the Notary doesn’t have a clue what to do.)

The Title Officer
The appointed Title company might be a good source of information about how to handle any issues that might come up with Title documents or recorded documents. You can ask them if you have questions, but don’t let them answer Notary questions.

Issues of Preference can be asked to the Lender
Sometimes there is more than one legal way to handle a situation. If there is an error on a preprinted Acknowledgment, and your state allows a choice of crossing out & initialing vs. using a fresh Acknowledgment form, you have a choice. The Notary has the right to make that choice on his/her own and choose the option that he/she feels is more prudent or ask the Lender. However, this is a situation where the Notary can ask the Lender not for advice, but for preference. If the Lender would prefer a loose Acknowledgment stapled on to the document rather than crossing out & initialing the original form, the Notary can proceed accordingly.

The Borrower
The borrower has the right to sign, not sign, tell you where to park and more. Their preferences matter as well.

Your State
Your state Notary division decides what the laws are in your state, how they are explained or document in your official Notary handbook, etc. They are your boss, so you do whatever they say. Additionally, if you are weak on your Notary knowledge, that can lead to ending up in court as a witness, having your commission revoked, suspended or terminated. Additionally, it is possible to be convicted of a crime if you are thought to be involved in property related fraud, or if you filled out a form stating that an Oath was taken when in fact it was never taken which is a daily fraud that most Notaries engage in that is unacceptable.

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May 24, 2021

Notary Pit Stop

Filed under: Virtual Comedy Themes — admin @ 1:39 am

Let’s imagine that a very important person would need to get their Notary work done in a hurry. I have notarized for directors, company presidents and other busy people. They have time to come in the room, sign and leave. They normally don’t even give you time to look at the identification. So here is my idea.

Two Notaries work as a tag team notarization outfit. They visit the VIP’s office.

Notary #1 looks at the ID and inscribes the necessary information in the journal.
Notary #2 fills out the certificates, staples them to the forms. Then,
Notary #1 gets the VIP to sign the journal.
Notary #2 gets the VIP to sign the document.
Notary #1 hands the ID to
Notary #2 to verify that the signature on the ID matches the signature on the document. Notary #2 returns the ID to the signer and then
Notary #1 stamps the document’s certificate

Q.Why doesn’t Notary #2 stamp the actual certificate?
A. Because they are using Notary #1’s journal

Q. Why doesn’t Notary #1 throw a chair at Notary #1?
A. Because they are on the same team

Q. Why doesn’t Notary #2 throw a chair at the signer?
A. Because the signer is paying them

Q. Do they have pit stop outfits or tag team wrestling outfits?
A. Probably not, but they could if that was their theme.

Q. Does the signer have to wear a helmet?
A. That’s probably a bad idea.

Q. Who collects the money?
A. Notary #2 because Notary #1 is too busy stamping

Q. Can you bring sound effects of a real Indy 500 race?
A. That would definitely add to the experience.


April 20, 2021

Last minute notary questions? Who do you call?

Filed under: Business Tips — admin @ 8:13 am

I have to keep reading online to see what is going on in the industry. When I was a Notary (young man) the NNA had a great hotline. I am not sure if they kept it continuously, but they still have it now.

They are great at answering state specific technical questions and train their staff well. Go to the NNA’s website and find out what their number is. Additionally, NNA is a great place to buy E&O Insurance, stamps, bonds, journals (my favorite source) and certificate pads. Yes, it is one stop shopping.

So, now you know who to call, and it is not Ghostbusters. It’s the NNA hotline!


February 27, 2021

South Carolina Acknowledgment Certificate Wording

South Carolina Notary Acknowledgment Wording
South Carolina Notary Acknowledgment Verbiage
South Carolina Notary Acknowledgment Form
South Carolina Notary Acknowledgment Certificate
South Carolina Acknowledgment Wording
South Carolina Acknowledgment Verbiage
South Carolina Acknowledgment Form
South Carolina Acknowledgment Certificate
SC Notary Wording

State of _____________
County of ___________
The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this _______ (date) by_________ (name of person acknowledged).

(Signature of Person Taking Acknowledgment) (Seal) (Title or Rank) (Serial Number, if any)


January 25, 2021

Vermont Acknowledgment Certificate

Vermont Notary Acknowledgment Certificate. Vermont Acknowledgment Form. Vermont Acknowledgment Verbiage. Vermont Notary Acknowledgment Verbiage. Vermont Notary Acknowledgment Wording.

State of Vermont)
County of ______) ss.

On this _____ day of ________, 20____, before me personally appeared_______________________(name of person acknowledging) to me known to be the person who executed the foregoing instrument, and he (she) thereupon duly acknowledged to me that he (she) executed the same to be his (her) free act and deed.

Notary Public Signature


January 15, 2021

Wisconsin Acknowledgment Certificate

Wisconsin Acknowledgment Certificate Form. Wisconsin Notary Acknowledgment Form.

State of Wisconsin
County of ___________

This instrument was acknowledged before me on ________ (date) by __________ (name(s) of person(s). ____________________ (Seal, if any)

Signature of notarial officer ____________________
Title (and Rank)
My commission expires:_____

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