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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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August 5, 2017

Oaths and the art of improvisation

Jazz musicians are famous for their ability to improvise. Con-artists know how to ad-lib. Notaries are also required to know a little about improvisation. The problem is that the states require Notaries to know how to administer Oaths when those very same states do not instruct Notaries on the art of Oath giving.

Beginnings and endings
A good Oath begins with some formalities. Remember, that Oaths are by definition formal, and should be formal. Lying to a Notary Public under Oath is an act of perjury and should not be tolerated!

“Please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear… (body of Oath) so, help you God?”

There is a beginning of an Oath which must include the word “swear” otherwise in my book it isn’t an Oath. Then, the Oath should ideally end with so, help you God? For those who want to leave God out of it, you can administer an affirmation instead of an Oath which uses the word Affirm and refers to no God. However, you must NOT use the term affirm in an Oath. You cannot mix and match notarial acts and their respective verbiages. Oaths use the term swear, Affirmations use the term affirm, state, or perhaps attest.

Bodies of Oaths
The body of an Oath would really depend on the context. As an Oath creator, you have to create Oaths that are useful, and make sense based on the situation. Sometimes there is some prescribed wording that you must use. Using prescribed wording does not let you off the hook for understanding the Oath. You must understand the Oath and its parts otherwise you won’t know if the prescribed Oath makes sense or not. If there is no prescribed wording, you can ad-lib or use a cheat sheet. But, if you lose your cheat sheet and cannot perform, people will think you are an idiot, and I run into this problem with Notaries a lot. Below are some examples of how I would create an Oath for various purposes.

PLEASE RAISE YOUR RIGHT PAW!

Marriage
“Do you solemnly swear to take this man/woman as your lawfully wedded husband/wife for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in smartness and senility (let’s be realistic), until death do you part, so help you God/Godess?”

Oath of Office as a Notary Public.
“Do you solemnly swear that you will uphold all of the laws relating to Notaries Public in the state of California, and faithfully discharge your duties as a Notary Public for the duration of your term, so help you God, the Secretary of State, and perhaps the NNA Hotline (if they still have one?)”

Oath for Military
“Do you solemnly swear to defend the constitution of the United States for the duration of your term as a Military Officer in the United States Army and defend the USA against all enemies foreign and domestic, and not abandon your duties for light and transient causes (or loophole clauses), so help you God?”

Rental Oath for Agnostics
“Do you solemnly swear to be a good tenant in this apartment for the duration of your year lease, and thereafter if you should stay beyond the contracted terms of this agreement, so you help you God… if there is one?”

Jurat Oath
“Do you solemnly swear that the contents of this document are true and correct to the best of your knowledge and that you agree to and will abide by the terms within if any, so help you God?”

ID Oath
“Do you solemnly swear that this is a true identification card for you as an individual and that it was not forged, counterfeited or falsified in any way, shape or form, so help you God (and the DMV?)”

Court Oath
“Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” (standardized wording here and not ad-libbed in this situation.)

COMMENTARY
Please notice that my Jurat Oath included the requried word, “swear” and refered to a particular document and not just to thin air. You swear to something particular and not to thin air.

Please also note that my Notary Oath included the term, the state in question, the act of defending the laws of the state and being dutiful in discharging your duties. It is important to mention all of the relevant components of what a person is swearing to. Can you picture a Notary Oath where the new Notary is only asked if they swear they will be a good Notary for an undefined period of time? Ludicrous!

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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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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 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.

You might also like:

What information is in the body of an acknowledgment (March Phoninar)
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=4390

Notary boiler plate wording
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2432

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