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October 17, 2017

Notary Public 101 — Basic Notary Acts

Return to table of contents for Notary Public 101.

BASIC NOTARY ACTS

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.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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 my 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 restructions 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.

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JURATS

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.

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OATHS

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.

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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?”

Commentary
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!

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AFFIRMATIONS

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?”

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PROOF OF EXECUTION

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.

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PROTESTS

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.

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December 5, 2016

Affidavit of Support

What is an Affidavit of Support?
The Affidavit of Support is a common immigration document. This document needs to be notarized with a Jurat (a common Notary act which involves a sworn oath.) The purpose of this document is typically for one family member to promise to the government that they will financially take care of the individual who they are trying to bring to the United States.

Where can I learn about Affidavits of Support?
For official information about this document, please consult an Immigration Attorney or the Department of Immigration. Please do not ask immigration questions to a notary as they are not authorized to answer these types of specialized questions unless they have some type of official authorization.

How do you notarize an Affidavit of Support?
Please make sure you have the document in your hand, and fully understand it before calling a Notary. The Notary will have you swear under Oath and sign in front of him/her. Next, the Notary will will in the Jurat certificate verbiage (notary wording) in the form and stamp the document in at least one place. When I was a Notary, Affidavits of Support required two stamps. There is also a problem that the document doesn’t leave ample room for the Notary Seal, so try to squeeze it in or attach a separate Jurat form if the client chooses for you to do so.

My personal experience with Affidavits of Support.
I had fun notarizing Affidavits of Support. I had lots of clients from around the world who treated me to tamales, dim sum, Thai coffee, and other international treats. Notarizing for Chinese people is the best as they are much more likely to feed you than other nationalities — plus, I love Chinese food.

What are some other commonly Notarized immigration documents?
The Affidavit of Citizenship is a commonly notarized immigration document. The Affiant commonly drafts his/her own statement and then has the Notary notarize the statement which normally includes a sworn Oath and normally requires the signer to sign in the presence of the Notary.

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You might also like:

Affidavit of Citizenship
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2028

Modern Family: An Affidavit of citizenship & affidavit of domicile Notarized
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=10989

Affidavit of Support & Direct communication with the signer
http://blog.123notary.com/?tag=affidavit-of-support

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January 21, 2014

Affidavit of Support and direct communication with the signer

Filed under: Affidavits — Tags: , , — admin @ 12:10 am

As a former Notary Public, my favorite type of notarization was for Affidavits of Support. It was not the actual document that I enjoyed. It was the hospitality that accompanied the job which normally included various types of Asian cuisine! I’m not particular. I like pot stickers, fried rice, and rad-na! It’s all good. To do a good job doing an Affidavit of Support Notary job, you need to know how to place your stamp in a very tight area in a form and know how to administer an Oath. But, what if your signer doesn’t know English that well?

State notary public laws vary from state to state. One of the largest discrepancies is how to deal with foreign language documents and foreign language speakers. Some states require direct communication between the notary and the signer. That means that no translators or interpreters are allowed. Even if you know very little of the signer’s language or vice-versa, that might be enough to get through a notarization procedure.

Remember — notary appointments require very little actual communication. You need to ask if the signer understands the document. You need to instruct the signer where to sign the document and your journal. You need to be able to negotiate fees. You need to be able to administer an Oath in their language. You could easily learn to do Oaths in five languages without any linguistic talents to speak of! Just for the record, I used to give Oaths in Chinese and Spanish. I know relatively little Spanish although I can chatter for hours in Chinese with my acupuncturist.

And what if the document is written in a different language? Since an Affidavit of Support is a U.S. Immigration Document, it would be in English. But, what if your signer has some other documents in Chinese Calligraphy to have notarized? Does your state allow you to notarize those documents if you don’t know the language? And what if the signer’s signature is in Chinese Characters? OMG! Or perhaps I should say MSG!

Although some states allow the use of an interpreter, doing notary work is critical, and is a way to preserve and protect the integrity of signatures and Oaths. I personally feel that regardless of what your state laws say, be on the safe side and learn to communicate directly with whomever you notarize. After all, an unknown and/or un-certified interpreter could make a mistake which could cause a heap of trouble! Know your state’s laws before you go out on a notary job!

Tweets:
(1) As a former notary, my favorite type of notarization was for Affidavits of Support because the hospitality that accompanied.
(2) If you specialize in notarizing Affidavits of Support, you might get pot stickers, fried rice, and cash tips.
(3) How do you deal with foreign language docs & foreign language speakers w/o breaking state laws?
(4) Many states don’t allow the use of an interpreter — and this law is not open to interpretation!

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February 14, 2012

Immigration documents for gay lovers.

Immigration documents for gay lovers 

I’m glad I got to publish this one on Valentine’s day! I have done many types of notary jobs, but this one is one I’ll remember for a long time.  In my career, I notarized documents for gay couples in West Hollywood many times.   It is a little different, but I got used to it. By the way, West Hollywood is a place where close to half the population is gay, and the other half is either Russian, or in the film business in one way or the other.  When you work as a notary public in Los Angeles, you see all areas and will see many movie sets, domestic partners, gang members, jails inmates, busy businesmen, people who speak languages other than English, and regular suburban folks too.
 
An affidavit of support for a non-relative – this job was different
I was to go to the San Fernando Valley to Encino to notarize documents for a middle-aged American man who looked like he was in his 50’s.  He was very nice and very gentle and lived in a very comfy house with a big living room. And there was another man there too, in his early twenties, Asian, also very nice, very lean, and very gentle too.  The document to be notarized was an affidavit of support.  What I learned, was that the older man was having a relationship with the younger man who was from Hong Kong, and the older man wanted to support him.  They had a very loving way of looking at each other. Love was in the air… I hope it lasts!!!
 
Checking Identification
I checked everyone’s ID at this notary job.  Since I’m a nosey person, I wanted to see how old everyone was, and that information is on every Driver’s license. I wanted to be polite, so I didn’t comment on how old…. or not old…. certain people at the signing were…. or weren’t.   I had everyone sign where they were supposed to sign.
 
The Oath and the paperwork
 Next, I had to have them raise their right hands and solemnly swear under oath that the contents of the document were true and correct and that they promised to abide by the terms of the document.  The response was, “I do!”, and they gave each other more loving stares. This was so romantic, like a movie!  I filled out my journal entry, had them sign the journal,  filled out the notarial wording, signed, and affixed my seal.  Done!  That was easy.  I collected my fee and was on my way.
 
Affidavits of domestic partnership
I’m not sure if this document is still used or not.  However, about a decade ago, I used to notarize many affidavits of domestic partnership for gay couples  in West Hollywood. It was one of those standard documents that you have done a thousand times. I think they need this type of document for saving on taxes or getting other benefits.  I am not clued in on this, so if someone wants to fill in the blanks with a comment on this blog, that would inform everyone.

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Notarizing your foreign language document
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2768

Vampire notaries: 24 hour service
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4094

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January 28, 2012

Information about various notary procedures

This blog entry will contain links to information about various notary procedures.

Credible witness notary procedure
Credible Witnesses from A to Z
 
General notary public procedure
There are various types of notary acts which are common such as Jurats, Acknowledgments, Oaths, and Affidavits.  Please click on the link of the notary act you are interested in.
 
Jail signing Procedures
Jail signings are not that different from other signings except for the fact that inmates typically do not have identification that is acceptable to notaries.  The next difference is that the person who coordinates the jail signing and meets the notary at the jail is generally a relative, girlfriend, or attorney for the inmate, where most notary jobs are booked by the signer themselves.  It is possible that inmates could be moved from jail to jail which is another issue. Please read out blog about jail signings.
 
Notarized Affidavit Procedure
An affidavit is a document like any other, and it is generally notarized using a Jurat which requires the signer to sign in the presence of the notary, and for the signer to swear under oath that the contents of the statement / document are true and correct and perhaps that they will abide by the terms in the agreement. Please read our entry about Notarized Affidavits
 

Notary Witness Procedure
Notaries can act as witnesses in their capacity as individuals.  Please see our blog entry entitled,”can a notary be a witness“.  Notaries can notarize signatures of witnesses, and can also use credible witnesses to identify a signer in many states. In addition, there is such a thing as subscribing witnesses for proofs of execution and for signing by x.
 
Procedure for notary by mark
Please see our blog entry about signing by x
 
Procedure for Affidavit of Support
Please see our blog entry about Affidavits of Support. In short this is notarized like any other affidavit and uses a Jurat which requires the signer to sign in the presence of the notary and take an Oath regarding the truthfulness of the document and their willingness to abide by the terms stipulated in the document.

You might also like:

Notary Procedure for Affidavit of Support Documents
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1421

Credible Witnesses from A to Z
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=452

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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). 
 
Identification
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 www.123notary.com, 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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