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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 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.

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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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August 22, 2017

Oaths — how Notaries completely screw them up!

Oaths are an official Notarial act in all states if my memory serves correctly. Oaths unfortunately are very misunderstood and generally poorly administered if administered at all. So, let me straighten out some common problems that I have seen with Oaths.

By definition, all Jurat Notary Acts must include an Oath. A Jurat is a Notary Act with a written statement and an Oath. The documentation of the Oath has verbiage such as, “Subscribed and sworn to before me ______ on this ______ (date) by _____ (name of affiant).” There are various problems that occur here. Oaths also can occur as independent and purely oral acts.

1. Omission of Oath
Most Notaries omit the required Oath for a Jurat. In California, your commission can be suspended, revoked, or terminated by omitting an Oath and you can also be fined $750 per incident. Other states do not teach Oaths, not fine you if you forget to administer it which is exactly why most out of state Notaries simply don’t do the Oath. Nobody is putting a gun to their head, so why should they unless they have integrity which they usually don’t have according to my recent findings. Sad!

2. The word Swear omitted.
When administering an Oath, you must use the word swear, otherwise in my book it is not an Oath. A good Oath requires the signer to raise their right hand, the word solemnly should ideally be used before the word swear (for good form), the phrase, “under the penalty of perjury” could also be used, and the clause, “So help you God” should also be used. Although there is no prescribed Oath verbiage, if you don’t swear, it isn’t an Oath. Some Notaries prefer to affirm, state, acknowledge or attest rather than using the word swear since swearing offends the ultra-religious and ultra-athiest members of the public. So, for those who don’t want to swear, don’t use an Oath — use an affirmation instead which does not mention God or swearing.

3. What if people don’t want to use the word swear?
Some people find it offensive to use the word swear or God in an Oath. For them, you use the sister act which is an Affirmation which is allowed in most if not all states. But, don’t confuse the two acts even though they are interchangeable — they are not the same thing and you can not cross use the verbiage for one act on another. If you Oath you swear and if you do an Affirmation, you Affirm. You do not affirm with an Oath.

4. Using exchangeable verbiage.
Some states allow or prescribe verbiage such as, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the contents of this document are true and correct?” That is acceptable to me as an Oath because you used the word Swear even though you had alternate verbiage. But, you did not omit swear to only use the alternate verbiage which would disqualify the act as an Oath.

5. Court Oath vs. Jurat Oath.
There are many types of Oaths out there. You can swear people into court, solemnize a marriage, swear someone into office, or have them swear to a document. Notaries should PRACTICE the various types of Oaths so that they can master each type and not confuse them otherwise the Notary will look like an idiot (this happens a lot with our members.) It is common for me to ask for an Oath for a document and the Notary says, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” I say, “I do, but can we now say an Oath for my document?” That is not a document Oath, that is a swearing you into court Oath.

6. Swearing that I voluntarily signed a document
Many Notaries will have me swear that I voluntarily signed a document. This is required in many instances in Massachusetts, however, swearing that I signed a document is not necessary in most states since the Notary watched the person sign, and making sure you signed voluntarily has never been an issue for anybody I know. If you were under duress, would you suddently tell the Notary simply because he asked or would you get nervous? Hmmm. There is no harm in asking if I signed a document on my own free will, so long as you don’t forget to give Oath verbiage about the document in Jurat Oath where the point of the Oath is to swear to facts contained in the document.

7. Swearing that I am the person in my ID
This is ridiculous. If I were an identity fraud, would I say that the ID was not mine? Many Notaries administer an Oath on my ID when I ask them to do an Oath on my document. The ID is not the document — get it straight.

8. Omitting the word document
If you are doing a Jurat Oath but give an Oath that “the information” is true and correct doesn’t cut it. If you are giving an Oath about a particular document, you must reference the document somehow. “Do you solemnly swear that the contents of the document before you are true and correct to the best of your knowledge, so help you God?” That would be an acceptable Oath because you are swearing, and swearing to a particular document rather than to thin air.

9. Relying on cheat sheets.
Many Notaries can only do an Oath when they have their recommended wording from their state with them. If for any reason they should lose the cheat sheet, they would not be able to lawfully conduct their duties as Notary Public. If you practice giving Oaths, you can give them by heard. Additionally, many Notaries give inapplicable Oaths as I mentioned above, so relying on reading text that you don’t understand the meaning of is useless. You need to understand the meaning and significance of the Oath you are giving otherwise it serves no intrinsic purpose.

10. Subscribed and Sworn.
Many Notaries say, “Subsribed and sworn to this ____ day of ___” when I ask them to deliver an Oath. That is the written documentation that an Oath took place. It is NOT the Oath itself. Oath wording typically starts with, “Do you solemnly swear…” and you should have the person raise their right hand.

11. A Jurat is not an Oath
Oath is to Jurat what Motor is to Automobile. A Jurat has an Oath, but a Jurat is not an Oath. An Oath can be an independent Notarial act which in most states has no written certificate. Florida has a useless certificate which says there was an Oath, but doesn’t give any indication of what was sworn to or the type of Oath. You might as well not have paperwork if it is that lame.

12. Notary Acts
When I ask people to name some Notary acts, most people claim not to know what I am talking about. They commonly mention Acknowledgments and Jurats. Few mention Oaths. Oaths and Affirmations are Official Notarial Acts in all or nearly all states. Notaries are required by law to administer Oaths if the public requests them from you. If you have never been asked to do one, that doesn’t preclude the possibility that you will be asked to do one. You are also not exempt from the responsibility of knowing how to administer one. If you are a commissioned Notary Public, you are responsible to administer Oaths, and correct sounding relevant Oaths, otherwise your state has the right to decommission you — and in my opinion they should.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS

Here is some standard Oath wording I like for documents.
“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 and that you agree to and will abide by the terms — if any in the document, so help you God?”
Please notice that I mentioned terms. What good is swearing to an agreement if you only agree that the agreement is true? The point of an agreement is that you agree to the agreement and will follow the terms of the agreement. Having a “useful” Oath rather than a correct but “useless” Oath makes a lot of sense. If your Oath serves no purpose, then why give one?

BAD OATHS
Here are some examples of wrong Oaths for Jurat documents for your reading pleasure.

“Do you acknowledge that this is correct?”
“Do you affirm that the document is correct?”
“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?”
“Subscribed and Sworn to before me.”
“Do you solemnly swear that this is your true ID?”

OKAY OATHS
“Do you swear that the foregoing is correct?”
“Do you solemnly swear that the document in front of you is true and correct to the best of your knowledge?”

COMMENTARY
Most states do not teach the art of Oath giving, but they should. Notaries are required by law to administer Oaths, yet the majority of Notaries either give no Oath, inapplicable Oaths, or poorly worded Oaths while others rely on cheat sheets which is bad. Using cheat sheets is okay, but relying exclusively on some standardized wording for Jurat Oaths is not acceptable. There are situations where there is REQUIRED prescribed wording where you have to use that particular wording. In such a circumstance it is okay to rely on particular wording. However, for Jurat Oaths, you should be able to make up an Oath, otherwise I will fail you.

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Notary Public 101 guide to Oaths, Affirmations, Jurats & Acknowledgments
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Affirmations – pleasing the politically correct while offending the traditional people.
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February 7, 2017

Notary Wording

Notary Wording Varies from State to State
There is no official American Notary wording. Notary verbiage differs from state to state, and varies based on what type of Notary act you are having done. There are various common types of notarizations such as Acknowledged signatures, Jurats, Oaths and Affirmations. The vast majority of notarizations are Acknowledgments whose wording states that the signer appeared before the Notary, was positively identified, and signed the document.

Notary Certificates — what type of wording is included.
Your typical Acknowledgment or Jurat Certificate will include several sections with wording.

1. Venue
The venue states the state and county where the notarization is taking place. Please note that the Notary is not always commissioned in the county where the notarization is taking place. So, if you are in Orange county, but the Notary is from San Diego, please make sure they put the venue county based on where the notarization is taking place, and not where they live.

2. Boiler Plate Wording
The main body of the text could be worded in an infinite variety of ways, but normally state the date of the signing, name of the signer, the name of the Notary, the fact that the signer appeared before the Notary, the fact that the signer signed the document, and if an Oath was included (Jurats by definition have Oaths) then the fact that the signer swore before the Notary. The verbiage “subscribed and sworn to before me this (date)” is commonly used in many states especially in New York where the cabbies enjoy the swearing part more than any other part of the Notarization.

3. The Signature Section
The bottom of the notary wording or notary verbiage has room for the Notary’s seal which might mean their signature or their official notary stamp. In most states the Notary signs and stamps, or might even emboss with a non-inked embosser as a secondary form of stamp.

Types of Acknowledgments
Normally, when people want to be Notarized, they ask the Notary if they can notarize a Jurat for them. In actuality, most Notarizations are for Acknowlegments. Normally people can use an All Purpose Acknowledgment, but in Ohio, there is such thing as a Corporate Acknowledgment and Attorney in Fact Acknowledgment.

Where Can You Find Your State’s Wording?
If you visit our find a notary page, you can click on your state and find current notary wording for your state. Or Google your states notary wording. Example: “California Acknowledgment Wording.”

Sample California Jurat Verbiage

State of California
County of Lake

Subscribed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me on this 5th day of January, 2017, by Jedadiah Goldminer, proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the person(s) who appeared before me.

(Seal)

Signature_______________________

Loose Certificates
Many documents have preprinted notary wording on them. However, it is legal to attach a loose certificate form using a staple. NNA is a great source for Notary certificate pads such as Acknowledgment Certificates, Jurat Certificates, and even Copy Certification by Document Custodian if you want to get fancy.

Filling out the Forms
It is common on Notary certificate forms to have sections where there is he/she/they or signature(s). You have to cross out the non-applicable word(s). If you are Notarizing a woman, cross out the he and the they and the (s). If you are notarizing a man and a woman in the same notary act, cross out the he and the she, but keep the (s). If you are notarizing a man who used to be a women — your guess is as good as mine — good luck, you’ll need it.

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November 30, 2016

Notary Acknowledgment Wording

If you are a Notary, or want to get something Notarized, you will have to deal with Notary wording and perhaps Notary Acknowledgment Wording. There are various types of Notary acts, and Acknowledgments are the most common with Jurats in second place. The process of getting something notarized normally involves the signer personally appearing before a Notary Public, showing ID, signing a journal, etc. The Notary needs to fill in the notary wording on the certificate and then sign and stamp the paperwork. Here are some facts about Acknowledgments.

(1) Certificates
The instrument that contains Notary Acknowledgment wording is called a “Certificate.” A certificate can be a separate piece of paper that is added by staple to a legal document. Or, the certificate wording could be embedded in the document below the signature section. In either case, the Notary certificate must contain notary verbiage specific to the state requirements where the notarization is taking place. The format of the certificate typically includes a venue, body of the acknowledgment and then a signature area at the bottom. There is often an additional or optional information section as well. The Notary’s seal must be affixed near the signature section of the certificate whether it is a loose certificate or boiler plate wording embedded in the actual document.

(2) State Specific Wording
If the notarization is being recorded in one state, but being notarized in another, then the Notary Acknowledgment wording must be substantially similar to the approved and required state wording where the document is being recorded. Notary Acknowledgment Wording differs from state to state. You can Google your state’s Notary wording if you like, or visit our find a notary page for more detailed information.

(3) Jurats
Please also keep in mind that some people call all Notary forms a “Jurat” while a real Jurat is substantially different from an Acknowledgment as it contains an Oath (by definition) and requires signing in the presence of a Notary. State rules for Jurats also differ from state to state, so you need to find out what the rules are in the state that you are being Notarized in are.

(4) Sections in an Acknowledgment

(a) Venue (State of Nevada; County of Clark)
(b) The words, “Appeared before me”
(c) The date (i.e. 08-04, 2012)
(d) That the signer acknowledges signing the instrument that their name is subscribed to within
(e) Name of the signer and the notary.
(f) Proof of identity of the signer
(g) Signature (seal) of the notary
(h) A place for the notary to affix their official notary seal.

(5) Optional Information
There is also an additional information section on Acknowledgments where you can indicate the number of pages in the document, the document name, and other identifying factors. To deter fraud, it is a prudent habit to fill out as much additional information as possible and even get a thumbprint on the certificate as well as in the journal.

(6) Sample Acknowledgment Wording

State of California
County of Los Angeles

On 5-15-2011 before me, John Doe, notary public, personally appear Joe Barber who proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument and who acknowledged to me that he executed the same in his authorized capacity and by his signature(s) on the instrument the person, or entity upon behalf of which the person acted, executed the instrument.

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

WITNESS my hand and official seal

—————————————— (affix stamp here)
(Signature of Notary)

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November 22, 2016

Definition of Oath

This article deals with Oaths in general as well as how Oaths are significant in the Notary Profession.

What is an Oath?
An Oath is a solemn and formal statement of fact or promise that is worded in a sacred or official way. An Oath is a formalized vow normally taken before others in a formal situation.

Types of Oaths
It is common for people to take an Oath or swear under Oath when becoming a public official which would be called being sworn into office. People also take Oaths when they get married or when they are sworn into court as a defendant, plaintiff, Attorney, witness or juror. People take an Oath of citizenship when becoming a citizen. Those in the medical profession take a hippocratic Oath. But, zookeepers do not need to take a rhinocratic Oath contrary to popular belief.

Hand Gestures
It is common in the United States for people to raise their right hand with their palm facing forward at the beginning of an Oath proceeding. Different parts of the world might have different hand gestures or no hand gestures.

Some People Refuse Oaths
Some Christians refuse to swear under Oath as they always tell the truth (or claim to.) They seem to not understand that the purpose of the Oath is not to prove to themselves that they are telling the truth, but to impress upon others that they are — while the others might not have the same opinion as to the integrity of the affiant. The Notary profession now allows for Affirmations instead of Oaths for those religious people who don’t believe in oaths.

Affirmations
An Affirmation is a formal statement that currently carries the same and identical weight and meaning as an Oath. A Notary Public can swear someone in using an Affirmation instead of an Oath merely by substituting verbiage. Instead of saying, “Do you solemnly swear that this document is true and correct?” you could say, “Do you solemnly affirm that this document is true and correct?”

Affiant
An affiant is the person who swears under Oath typically in a written statement called an Affidavit.

Affidavit
An Affidavit is a written document, often a legal document where the Affiant swears before a Notary Public as to the truthfulness of the document.

Jurat
A Jurat is an official Notary act where the affiant swears under Oath to the truthfulness of a written statement or document. Some Jurats have handwritten statements written by the signer who is also the affiant. Others are drafted up by an Attorney, government or professional agency.

Notarial Oath
Jurats are not the only Notary act that can have an Oath. Notaries use Oaths in many aspects of their work. Notaries take an Oath of Office to get sworn into duty when their commission begins. Notaries routinely swear in Credible Witnesses who are used to identify a signer who doesn’t have identification. Notaries swear in Subscribing Witnesses as well who witness people signing a document. There are also just plain Oaths that Notaries administer. The Oath might not be written or recorded. If Notary administers an Oath, they should indicate in their journal that they gave an Oath regarding a particular subject and have the Oath taker (affiant) sign the journal in that corresponding entry.

Acknowledgments with Oaths
Acknowledged signatures normally do not have Oaths, but they could have an accompanying Oath. Acknowledgments allow the signer to sign before they see the Notary Public. However, the Oath would have to be taken in the presence of a Notary Public.

Oaths in Mortgage Loan Signings
Mortgage loan signings normally contain several affidavits such as the Signature Affidavit which requires a sworn Oath. So, if you perform Loan Signings, be prepared to be an expert at the art of Oath giving.

Question
If Physicians take a Hippocratic Oath, what type of profession would take a Rhinocratic Oath?

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December 30, 2015

Notarize JUST the Name

Notarize JUST the Name
We are all familiar with the two most common notary actions. The Jurat: “Sworn to and Subscribed…….”, and the Acknowledgement: “This instrument was Acknowledged before me…..”. I’m not going to cover the not so subtle differences between the two of them. What will be discussed is the expansion of the notary statement to include virtually anything.

I just shipped off an Edoc. I had to redact (no changes were made, no replacement text, just a thin line thru with my initials at the end of the line) some superfluous verbiage. Before I get into the details let me credit the source of “my” opinions. The office of the New York County Clerk has told me, quite strongly: “You notarize just the name as proven on the ID, nothing more”. What they are referring to are what I call “name attributes” and there are many. Not to be confused with name components (Jr. Sr. III, etc.) which were on the birth certificate. Name attributes, and there are many include: MD, PhD, DDS, etc.

Those name attributes are rarely a problem and they are usually not added to the name in the notary section. What is a problem are what I will call “name descriptors”, and they are becoming a growing problem. A Jurat in the edoc included “a resident of ”. How would I know where the person signing resides? It’s not for me to say (I know, that’s a song title too). This was in the (usually) simple Sample Signature document. Why? I can’t figure out any rationale for inclusion of residency information on that document.

The same package included, after the name, the phrase “a capable person”. Capable of what? Such a phrase could keep lawyers in discussion forever. This particular bit of foolishness was on the AKA statement. Of course no discussion of name descriptors would be complete with mention of the classic and most common one: the marital status. Before me appeared Suzy Snowflake, a single woman. Says who? Suzy of course. So why is it in MY statement? If Ms Snowflake wishes to make a statement that she is not married, I would be happy to notarize it. But, I certainly will not include her marital status in my statement.

Even if I were to be absolutely sure of her marital status it is improper for me to include it in my statement. But, one cannot prove their marital status – it’s impossible; think about it. The problem stems from some shoddy computer programming taking the “vesting name” from the mortgage (where marital status makes sense) and propagating it into other areas.

I have discussed the issue of name descriptors many times with foggy headed drones who feel that because it is preprinted I must live with it. Not so. The notary section IS the statement of the Notary Public and IS subject to change and or deletion. My licensing officials don’t allow it, and I am certainly not able to state someone is capable, married or where they reside. Sometimes it’s a tough judgment call. If the descriptor is “of legal age” I would have to know exactly where that phrase is applied. If they are under 21, it “might” matter in some states; and could also be document specific.

We want to process the document with little conflict, as raising “issues” often sours the client. To me it’s better to lose a client than receive a summons; and become a party to litigation. As a public official my words have, “authority”; and with that comes responsibility for accuracy.

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April 19, 2015

Point (25-27) Jails; Venues; Fraud; Marcy Notarizes a Felon!

Filed under: (2) Technical and Legal — Tags: , , , — admin @ 10:27 am

Marcy was being very careful now. She had heard horror stories about Notaries getting sued, and landing in huge trouble. Of course in real life, very few notaries get in trouble. But, they could, and Marcy didn’t want anything in her life to go wrong. She got a call from a guy name Sam. Sam seemed very normal at first. Marcy drove out to the job. She recorded Sam’s ID in her journal. Then, she asked Sam for a thumbprint. Sam seemed reluctant. That was a warning sign if Marcy had ever seen one. Sam said, “You don’t need a thumbprint.” Marcy said, “It is safer for me if I have one.” Marcy didn’t know that Sam’s ID was forged. It looked legitimate. But, she had no way to detect the difference as it was forged by someone very professional. Finally, the guy got desperate as he really needed to get notarized. He gave her the thumbprint. A month later, Marcy got a call from a fraud investigator. Apparently Sam was in a lot of trouble. The Feds were catching up with him. Sam was doing fake transactions in false names for huge dollar amounts and cheating people. Marcy asked if they would like a copy of the journal entry that had a thumbprint. The Feds were very happy that she had taken that thumbprint. Without that one piece of evidence they would be virtually unarmed against this felon! A few weeks later Marcy got a call from the Feds. They caught Sam, whose real name was Charles. They were going to put him away for a long time, and they wouldn’t have been able to convict him without Marcy’s help!

Then, a week later, a Lender had a job for Marcy. It would pay extra. The Lender asked Marcy to save a few extra spaces in her journal. Marcy asked why. The Lender said, “Just do it.” Marcy had never been a fan of corrupt Lenders or Nike commercials. So, she just didn’t do it as she knew that was illegal, although she didn’t know what the Lender had in mind. At the signing, the Lender asked Marcy to put yesterday’s date on the transaction. Marcy declined. Then, the Lender asked if she wanted to get paid. Marcy replied that whatever he was paying wouldn’t do her much good if she was at “county.” And that whatever he was paying her (or not paying her) wouldn’t be a huge loss to him if he were locked up at “county”. A day after the signing, the Lender wanted another favor from Marcy. He wanted her to send a loose Jurat with her stamp on it because the certificate section on the Deed had gotten torn by one of their secretaries. Marcy told him that she would send him a certificate, but not a loose one. She said, “Just send the Deed back to me, and I’ll shred the old certificate and add the new one — that way it is legal.” The Lender didn’t like that and said, “Just send it.” Marcy was fed up by now. She told the Lender she was reporting him to the Secretary of State and for him to never contact her again. Just some advice for Notaries: If you want to stay out of trouble, you should consider declining work from anyone who makes even a suggestion of doing anything illegal!

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Point (25) Identification & Jail Issues
Notaries who visit jails may be very aware that inmates never have an identification document which is suitable for notarization on their person. As a result, they might have their mother, girlfriend, or Attorney come and meet the Notary at the time of the notarization and bring the ID which is hopefully current. Jail wristbands do not constitute acceptable identification. However, many states allow the use of one or two Credible Witnesses. Please consult your state Notary handbook for specific laws relevant to your state.

Many States Allow Credible Witnesses
In California, Florida, and many other states, you can use two Credible Witnesses who know the signer, but who do not know the notary to identify the signer. If you visit jails, you might have to use this method of identification to legally notarize someone who doesn’t have an ID. Make sure these witnesses produce their own ID and sign your journal.

Personal Appearance
Many people do not understand the important concept of personal appearance. To be legally notarized, the signer must personally appear before the Notary. That means they need to be in the same room a few feet away, or on the other side of a glass in a jail. Once I was asked to notarize someone 50 feet away barely visible from a jail window. I couldn’t clearly see the person and I declined to notarize as that person was not personally appearing before me.

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Point (26) Wrong Venue
What if the wrong venue is inscribed within the Notary certificate? What do you do? There are several things you can legally do. You can take a loose certificate, staple it to the document, inscribe the correct venue, and then complete the rest of the form. Or, you can cross-out the incorrect county, initial, and write in the correct county name on the original certificate. The third solution is to notarize the document twice: once with the existing certificate and then a second time with new certificate (two journal entrees necessary in this case) in hopes that one of the two will be accepted by the document custodian. It’s complicated. But, what the law says is acceptable and what the document custodian will accept are often based on two entirely different standards.

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Point (27) Deterring Fraud
Notary Fraud is a serious issue. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often. But, it did happen to me. Luckily, due to my prudent practices, I was able to use three pieces of evidence to prove that a particular notarization was indeed done fraudulently. After investigation, we learned that the fraudulent notarization happened to have been done by a crooked Title Officer’s secretary!

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What Constitutes Notary fraud?
There are many types of Notary fraud. Here are a few.

(1) If a signer falsifies an identification document, that would be fraudulent.

(2) If a Notary puts an incorrect date on a notarization on purpose, that would be fraudulent.

(3) If someone uses a Notary’s seal who is not the rightful owner of that seal, that is fraud.

(4) If a signer signs someone else’s name and has that signature notarized, that would be fraud.

(5) If a Notary or anyone else purposely attaches a Notary certificate to a document it is not associated with, that is fraud.

(6) Swapping pages on a document after it has been notarized is fraudulent.

(7) Using an expired Notary Seal is fraud.

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Here are Some Ways to Deter Fraud:

(1) Use an embosser as a secondary seal for all pages of all documents notarized.

(2) Avoid leaving any blanks in notarized documents as those could be filled in after the fact.

(3) Staple Notary certificates to the documents they are associated with.

(4) Take thumbprints in your journal for all notarizations just in case the signer’s ID is forged.

(5) Be thorough when you fill out the additional information sections in an Acknowledgment certificate.

(6) Be sure to indicate how many pages are in the document.

(7) Be sure to indicate the name of the signer, and their capacity if applicable.

(8) Be sure to indicate the document date to better identify it.

(9) Be sure to indicate the name of the document.

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Additional Optional Information for Acknowledgments?
Acknowledgment certificates have room for the document name, document date, and number of pages among other information. This information helps to identify which document it is associated with. Since Title likes to dismantle stapled documents which is a very questionable practice, you need to make sure they know which Acknowledgment goes with which document.

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There are Three Reasons why this Additional Optional Information Should be Required.

(a) If the certificate is accidentally removed from the document, it will be clear which document it is associated with. That would help someone who made an honest mistake.

(b) If a fraudulent person wants to re-attach the certificate to another document, he would be deterred by the fact that there will be evidence to show that he fraudulently attached the certificate to the wrong document.

(c) If a fraudulent person re-attaches the certificate to another document, they can easily be caught after the fact if investigated.

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These reasons are all related, yet all different. You assist the honest re-attaching, you deter fraud, and you catch bad guys when you investigate. Got it?

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What is a venue in a notary certificate?
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October 17, 2013

Jurat Wording Step by Step

Jurat Wording

Wording for Jurat Notarizations can vary from state to state. The main thing to understand in Jurat wording is that it states that the signer appeared before the notary, signed the document before the notary, and swore under oath before the notary.

Additionally, Jurat wording or Jurat verbiage will indicate the date of the notarial act or transaction as well as a venue which indicates the state and county where the notarial act took place!

You can typically use out of state Jurat verbiage so long as the wording is not substantially different from the Jurat wording in your state.

A Jurat form could have room for a hand written statement which the signer swears to under Oath. Or, you can attach a Jurat certificate to a document which is being notarized and stamp the certificate instead of the actual document.

Signers are typically asked to raise their right hand and swear under oath during a Jurat notarization. The notary will ask an Oath question using his/her/its own choice of wording. The signer is asked to give a clear oral affirmation to that question.

Jurats are the 2nd most common type of Notary act, Acknowledgments being the 1st most common.

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August 21, 2013

What is a Jurat?

Many people do not fully understand what a Jurat is. The term Jurat is loosely (and incorrectly) used to describe any notarial form. “Just mail me a Jurat” is a common request (that happens to be illegal). Never mail a loose certificate. A Jurat is one of many types of notarial acts. Common notary acts include: Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations, Protests, and some states allow witnessing, safety box opening, Proofs of Execution and other notary acts. Notary acts and laws differ from state to state.

A Jurat is a Notary Act that typically requires the signer to be identified, although laws in the past in many states did not require the signer to be identified (believe it or not).

The distinguishing characteristic of a Jurat is that it has an accompanying Oath — AND the signer must sign the document before the Notary Public. An Acknowledged signature may be signed hours, days or years before it is notarized! The wording for the Oath is up to the notary. Unfortunately, many notaries are not very good at administering Oaths and some skip the procedure altogether (which is illegal).

You can attach Jurat wording to a document. Or, just write a quick statement that you intend to swear to on a Jurat form. But, if you need an Acknowledgment certificate, don’t ask for “A Jurat”. It is not the same thing legally. Also, please note that the notary is legally forbidden from deciding what type of notarization you need. So, if your Attorney or document custodian doesn’t tell you what type of notarization you need, please ask them before the notary shows up! Good luck!

Tweets:
(1) The term Jurat is loosely (and incorrectly) used to describe any notarial form.
(2) “Just mail me a Jurat,” is a common, but illegal request!
(3) A #Jurat is a notary act requiring the signer 2sign before the notary, swear & be identified.

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May 9, 2013

What is a notary public?

What is a notary?

A notary is a state appointed public official that is authorized to conduct certain types of official acts such as Acknowledgments, Jurats, Oaths, Affirmations, Protests, and sometimes other notary public acts. Since notaries are appointed by their respective states, the laws for notary conduct and what types of official notary acts a notary can do vary from state to state.

Notary Acknowledgments & Identification Requirements
A notary public can execute acknowledgments. Acknowledgments are the most common notary act representing about 80% of all acts done by notaries! The notary must positively identify a signer as the first step in executing an acknowledgment. Identification requirements vary from state to state, but most states allow state issued identification cards, drivers licenses, and passports. As a general rule, any government issued photo-ID with a serial number, expiration date, and physical description is accepted. Social security cards, credit cards and green cards are not acceptable.

Identification through Credible Witnesses
Some states allow a notary to positively identify a signer through the use of credible witnesses who must be identified by the notary and then swear under Oath as to the identity of the signer. Personal knowledge of the signer used to be allowed in most states, but in recent years, notaries are required to rely on more “hard” forms of identification.

Notary Journals
After the identification process is over, the notary must fill out a journal entry in his/her official journal of notarial acts. Not all states require journals, but they should because the journal is the only record of a transaction that the notary has, and can be used in an investigation or in court after the fact. Such an investigation might happen in a few critical cases where fraud is suspected! The signer is required to sign the notary journal which is one of the most important parts of the notary process.

Notary Certificates
The notary must fill out an Acknowledgment Certificate with state specific Acknowledgment verbiage. The Acknowledgment wording can be embedded in the last page of the document, or could be added and stapled as a loose form.

The official notary seal
Notaries typically affix their seal to the notary certificate area in a document or on a loose certificate. This is a very official way that notaries finalize their notary acts. Notaries may use an inked rubber seal. Some states allow a notary public to also use an non-inked embosser which leaves a raised impression in a piece of paper — as a supplemental seal to deter fraud through page swapping.

Jurats
A Jurat is a notary procedure where the notary administers an Oath. The signer has to raise his/her right hand and swear under Oath to the truthfulness of a document or statement in a Jurat form. Additionally, the signer must sign the document in front of the notary for a Jurat, where they can sign long ahead of time for an Acknowledgment. Identification requirements for Jurats vary from state to state. Jurats represent roughly 18% of all notarial acts!

Oaths and Affirmations
Notaries can perform or administer Oaths or Affirmations for clients. They should record such acts in their bound and sequential journal as well. Wording for Oaths is really up to the notary, but some standardized or formal wording is recommended such as, “Do you solemnly swear that the contents of this document are true and correct to the best of your knowledge?”. Or, “Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”. The Oath verbiage depends on the situation and the document. However, it should be formal, and the Affiant (Oath taker) must raise their right hand definitively for this type of act. An Affirmation is the same as an Oath except for the fact that the word God is omitted from the Affirmation Verbiage.

Protests
This is an antiquated notary act where someone can protest the non-payment of a bill. I have never met a notary who has actually conducted such a notary act, but most states still include this as one of their official acts.

Acts allowed only in specific states
New York allows notaries to do Safety Box Openings as an official notary act while most other states do not. Rhode Island has something called a Marine Protest which is only an official notary act in Rhode Island. Various states allow notaries to act as a Witness as an official notary act as well. Additionally, please consult your state’s notary division for information about Apostilles and Authentications which typically involve either a local county recorder, the Secretary of State’s office, or a local embassy.

Documents that are commonly notarized.
Many notaries notarized Power of Attorney documents frequently. Notaries are advised not to draft such documents as they are legal documents. However, notaries can notarize signatures on such documents.

Affidavits of all sorts are normally notarized with a Jurat since they are to be sworn to (usually). The notary is forbidden from recommending a particular notary act over another, but they are not prohibited from stating what is “usually” done.

Wills can be notarized by a notary, however, it is generally frowned upon unless given written instructions from an Attorney!

Notaries can not notarize vital records such as Birth Certificates or Marriage Certificates.

A Notary Public can notarize Real Estate or Mortgage documents or loan documents except in certain Attorney states such as Massachusetts or Georgia where there are restrictions. Common loan documents that might be notarized could include Deeds of Trust, Signature Affidavits, Grant Deeds, Quit Claim Deeds, Occupancy Affidavits, and many more!

Where can I find a notary?
123notary has thousands of mobile notaries distributed throughout the United States that you can find on our Find a Notary page. They typically charge a travel fee and specialize in loan documents. To find a stationary notary, please consult your local yellow pages, or call pack & ship places in your area.

How can I become a notary?
Each state has a Secretary of State or Notary Division that appoints notaries. Please visit our state contact page, and contact your state’s notary division for details. Typically, you need to be 18 years old, not have a felony on your criminal record, be a citizen (some states require this), or in many states be legally residing in the United States. Most states have a Notary Public Application Form, and a Notary Public handbook for you to study from. You are normally required to pay an Application fee for becoming a notary, and there could be other fees for recording your Notary Oath of Office as well as the fee for your Stamp, Journal, and other related fees.

Is it worth it to become a notary?
It can be very rewarding to be a notary. You can make a lot of extra money in your spare time if you have a way to attract clients. You can meet new people, and learn new things. Mobile notaries who are good at what they do can make a full time living driving around doing loan signings. You can get a job more easily if the boss knows you are a notary, as that is a skill in high demand at many offices.

Tweets:
(1) A notary is a state appointed public official authorized to conduct certain types of official acts such as Jurats …
(2) A notary public can execute Acknowledgments, Jurats, Protests, Oaths, Affirmations…
(3) A quick guide to being a notary including: journals, seals, identification, witnesses, jurats, oaths & more…

I want to learn more!
Visit our GLOSSARY of notary and mortgage terms, and read more articles in our blog!

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