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April 1, 2018

Scenarios: What is the cleanest way to rectify an error on a certificate?

Notary Certificates

In this article I will address multiple points affecting fixing errors on certificates.


Most Notaries like to cross out and initial changes in certificates. Keep in mind that these are legal documents affecting million dollar properties. Cross-outs look like tampering and there is always a small chance that your cross-out will cause a long and drawn out delay in a court case if an Attorney suggests that perhaps there was tampering. It is CLEANER to take a fresh acknowledgment form from your Notary bag, fill it out thoroughly including the additional information section with the name of the document, number of pages, etc., And then staple it on to the document.

To be prepared for this type of situation, please do the following:

1. Keep Notary certificate pads on your person
Buy Acknowledgment, Jurat, and Copy Certification forms from the NNA. These forms come in pads and fit in your notary bag or at least in your trunk. A good Notary carries these and uses them regularly.

2. Ask for preferences, not for advice
Know when to ask the Lender or Title company for their preference. Please remember that as a Notary, it is your exclusive jurisdiction to be the expert and sole authority as to how Notarizations should get done and how Notarizations do get done. However, if there are two legal ways to handle a situation such as fixing an error on a certificate (does not apply to Maryland as I have heard that you may not add a loose certificate there — look it up in the MD Notary Manual to be sure) you can ask for a preference as to which legal way the Lender prefers. But, you must not ask a Lender if it is “okay” to do something in a Notary form, but only if they have an “issue” with it.

The way you think about asking Lenders questions matters as many Notaries think of Lenders as their authority and boss. As to completing the assignment, loan documents and shipping, they are your boss. For the actual Notary procedure, the Secretary of State Notary Division (or whatever they are called in your state) is your only authority and YOU are the authority over the Lender in this regard. You have the right to say no, and they do not have the right to boss you around about Notary issues, but only to voice preferences.

3. Recording fees & issues with adding forms
If you add a loose acknowledgment to a notarized document in a loan signing, that will change the recording fee which might be recorded on the CD, Closing Statement or HUD-1. You are opening a can of worms if you do that. However, in my opinion, the integrity of the notarization trumps any recording fee issues as you are not likely to end up in court because the recording fee went up by $10 or $50, but you might end up in court if someone thinks there is tampering due to initialing and changing information on a Notary certificate.


Lenders are particular to the fact that they might have trouble reselling their loan if there are too many abnormalities in the Notary section such as adding certificate forms. Additionally, recording fees can go up if you add a certificate to a recorded document, and that affects the information on the CD or HUD which opens up a can of worms. However, please consider that if there are any accusations of tampering, it is you who might spend a long time in court. Adding a fresh certificate that has its additional and optional information filled out, which identifies the document clearly, eliminates most possibility of suspicion.

Assuming the form is acceptable in all other ways other than the state, just cross out the state, write in the new state, initial, and you are done. Do NOT let the borrower initial Notary certificate forms — that is exclusively the jurisdiction of the Notary.

Having a cross-out in the county of the venue would probably not affect the nature of the contact. Whereas changing a date would affect rescission which could nullify the effectiveness of a loan if challenged in court. Crossing out a name on a certificate can really change the contractual significance of a loan document. I cannot recommend how to handle situations with any authority. However, please realize that changing a county is a small issue while crossing out and initialing a date or name on an acknowledgment for a loan document could cause havoc down the line.

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May 12, 2016

Put a dent in the NotaryVerse

Can you imagine if Steve Jobs designed the Notary industry? It would be a lot different. Putting aside our hi-tech notary gadgets, there would be a very different system with the secretary of state to bring us into the 23rd century.

The State Notary Divisions would have only interactive training materials. You wouldn’t need to leave your house. You could review the materials until testing time. The state would decide if you were fit to be a Notary and they could background check you at the click of a button — except it would all be automated.

The Steve Jobs type Notary seal would have a laserbeam or fancy equipment to put a watermark in the actual fibers of the document’s paper. You could buy the equipment anywhere just like you would buy an iPhone. However, it would only be activated by plugging it into your computer with a USB port and then logging into the Secretary of State’s website.

Additionally, you could scan your notary certificates so the state could inspect your work — that would also be automated. If you were making mistakes, omissions, or committing fraud with your certificates, the government would find out fast. And yes, your flat, business card shaped Notary seal would be able to do all of this.

Last, your Notary seal would be able to query Notary Oath wording suggestions for particular types of documents directly from your state — assuming they had a clue what Oath wording should be (which most states might not.)

It would be a new system where the Notary divisions and Notary seals were completely computerized, sophisticated, and interconnected. You wouldn’t need Apostilles anymore since the state would be able to verify authenticity requests automatedly and online.

There’s just one last thing. The Notary seal would have a dent in the side. After all, Steve Jobs is the type of guy who would put a dent in the NotaryVerse!


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June 20, 2013

Optional info on Acknowledgment Certificate

So, you are a notary? But:

(1) Do you fill out your certificates thoroughly?

(2) Do you know what the optional or additional information section of the acknowledgment certificate is?

(3) Do you know what a certificate is?

(4) Do you know what the Acknowledgment wording is in your state?

(5) Do you cross out the his/her/their or (s) in capacity(s)?

Most notaries don’t do their cross outs which is illegal to skip. And the Secretary of State is too busy to catch up with all of the notaries in their respective state.

What is in the optional information section, and should it be optional?
(1) Number of pages in the document

(2) Document name

(3) Document date

(4) Capacity of signer

(5) Other signers who signed the document but, were not notarized on that notarization

(6) Right thumbprint of signer

Why is this important?
There are a lot of frauds out there. California law requires notaries to STAPLE (legally, the word used is attach) the notary certificate to the corresponding document. But, do you know how many people detach the staple? Title companies complained about my staples because they detached everything I stapled. They are inviting fraud if you ask me. It looks tampered with if they detach documents. Very sketchy. If I were the Secretary of State, I would investigate anyone who unstapled a notary document and might have them arrested for suspected fraud!

If a fraud wants to take an Acknowledgment OFF one document and attach it to another, it will be hard work if the optional information is all filled out. The number of pages would have to measure up. The document date would need to correspond. The Document name would have to be consistant as well. Most frauds would have not go that far, and might make a mistake matching all of the statistics since they were not trained well (probably). But, imagine if you submit an Acknowledgment certificate that has none of this information? You could conceivably reattach it to ANY document that the signer signed — an invitation for others to commit fraud.

Therefor, I believe that it should be required by law in all states to fill in the optional information section — hence renaming it the required additional information section. Be square and deter fraud today!


November 26, 2011

Notary Certificates, Notary Wording & Notary Verbiage

Notary Certificates,  Notary Verbiage & Notary Wording

Notary terminology is sometimes confusing, so there are a few things to remember.  There are different types of common notarizations.  Acknowledgments and Jurats require certificate wording (notary wording), and Oaths and Affirmations could be purely verbal.  A Jurat requires that an Oath or Affirmation accompany the signing and certificate wording (notary wording, notary verbiage).  An Acknowledgment is purely paperwork in most cases, however, I have seen even an Acknowledged signature have an accompanying Oath.  80% of notarizations are Acknowledged signatures, while roughly 19% are Jurats, and the remaining 1% would be a mixture of other types of less common notary acts.
Acknowledged Signatures
The 2011 & 2012 notary certificate for an acknowledged signature includes a venue (documentation of county & state), the name of the notary, the name of the signer, the fact that the signer appeared before the notary and acknowledged signing a particular document.  The current notary verbiage on this form should include the date of the signing, and the signature and official seal of the notary as well.  The actual notary verbiage differs from state to state.  California notary verbiage is a bit different than Ohio notary verbiage.  Also, Ohio has different types of acknowledgments such as corporate acknowledgments and an attorney in fact acknowledgment.  You should ideally research your state’s notary verbiage to see what it is.  If you visit our find a notary page, there are links to states, and on the state pages, you can find a lot of information about acknowledgments and jurats in those states.  We have detailed information for Florida, Illinois, Michigan, California, Arizona, Ohio, and a few other states as well.
Jurat Signatures
The notary certificate for a jurat signature / oath has changed in many states. It is/was normal to have a venue, and then say, “Subscribed and sworn to before me (name of notary) by (name of signer) on (date).”  Then there would be a signature of the notary, and a place for the official notary seal.  Jurat verbiage also can differ from state to state so please look it up on google. 
Certificate forms.
Notary certificates can be notary wording / notary verbiage that is embedded on the last page of a document, or sometimes within a document if there are intermediary signatures.  If the notarial wording is NOT included, you must add a loose certificate and attach it to the document (by stapling). 
Filling out the forms.
Many notaries don’t understand how to fill out notary wording on certificate forms.  Let’s say a guy named Paul Solomon is the signer.  If the form says,
(note: this is not real Florida notary wording — I am making it up for educational purposes)
In real life, the Florida notary certificate is much simpler than this, but in other states there are cross outs that the notary needs to make. 
State of Florida
County of Brevard
On 8-11-2010 before me John Doe, notary public, the foregoing document was acknowledged before me by Paul Solomon, who acknowledges signing the document in his/her/their capacity(ies).
(notary seal)
In this example, it is the notary’s job to cross out the “her” and “their”, and the “ies” in capacities.  More than half of notarizations that I have seen were done by notaries who omitted to do the cross-outs.

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August 11, 2011

Notary Mistakes

Notary Mistakes
Notaries make mistakes from time to time, and that is normal.  Many notaries advertise a 99.9% accuracy rate while others=are proud of the fact that they triple check their work.  Obviously, it’s good to make as few mistakes as possible.  However, how you handle your mistakes is equally important. Many notaries will make a mistake and not want to go back to fix the mistake.  If you make a mistake, it’s your duty to go back and fix the mistake at no  cost, and quickly.  Otherwise, you will lose the client, and might even get a complaint posted. 

We have had many instances where the notary will make one or more mistakes, be a headache to deal with, and then the signing company won’t want to pay them.  This creates a lot of drama. The notary will often make a huge post on the forum, telling the world what a lousy bunch of jerks the signing service is, when it was the notary who was responsible for the mistake.  This happens regularly. Or, I might get a complaint from a signing service, and then the notary will want to argue with me for days over the dispute.  It’s easier to just do your job correctly the first time, and be willing to fix your mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are the result of miscommunications.  Sometimes, a notary is at a signing and can’t reach the lender.  Lenders will usually leave their phone number, but when you call them, they rarely seem to answer. If a mistake is made because you couldn’t reach the lender, it is the fault of the lender.  It is common for names to not match up on documents and ID’s.  The lender should have verified name information before drawing up the documents in the first place.  The lending industry is a sloppy one, where errors go unchecked, and even robots are pretending to be borrowers and signing loans.

It’s really important to know how to handle situations when the lender is not around. Handling mistakes in documents, name discrepencies, and figures that don’t add up.  Knowing how to tell the borrower that they have 72 hours to cancel is important.  Knowing which documents are critical and which are not matters a lot too.  A mistake in the loan application is not so serious, while a wrong rate on the Note could be suicide for the borrower.

What are some typical mistakes notaries make?
Forgetting to cross out the (s), (he/she/they) on certificates; Crossing information out on loan documents; Using white out. Answering loan specific questions; Being rude; Missing signatures; Smudgy seals; No notary certificates; Missing documents, When you send the package back; and the list goes on.

What are some other mistakes that notaries make?
Let us know what you think common notary mistakes are using the comment feature on our blog!

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