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Common Notary Certificate Issues Explained

New-correcting-certificates-resized.jpgUpdated 5-28-19. Notaries often encounter confusing situations when filling out certificate wording. Here are answers to common questions about certificate wording asked on the NNA Notary Hotline.

What if a document doesn't include a certificate?

You should ask the signer what type of notarial act they need. Notaries aren't allowed to choose the type of notarization on a signer's behalf. If the signer isn't clear on this, you may describe the different notarial acts — for example, the two most common notarizations are acknowledgments and jurats — and let the signer choose.

If the signer isn’t sure what notarial act is needed, they can contact the agency that issued or is receiving the document or an attorney for instructions. They will tell you what notarial act is needed, and you can attach and complete the appropriate certificate form.

Can I affix my stamp to a document with no certificate wording?

The answer is generally no. In most states, if there is no certificate wording included with the document, you cannot complete the notarization. State laws almost universally require the Notary's seal to be affixed near the Notary's signature on a notarial certificate appropriate to the notarization being performed.

One exception is the state of Maryland, which does not allow loose certificates. In Maryland, if the document does not contain any acknowledgment or oath wording, the Notary may witness the signing of the document in the Notary's official capacity. This is considered “signature witnessing.” The Maryland Notary must do the following:

Michigan Notaries also may stamp and sign a document under certain circumstances because of a 2006 law that repealed the Notary certificate forms from the statute.

May I complete an acknowledgment and a jurat for the same signer on one document?

Yes. In this case, you would be performing two separate notarial acts for a signer. You may charge for each notarization (acknowledgment and jurat) and would make two separate journal entries. Be sure to follow all of your state's rules for each notarization.

May I use certificate wording from another state to complete a notarization?

In most cases, yes. California is the only exception where Notaries are required to use specific certificate language prescribed by statute for certain acts. California Notaries must always use the California-specific jurat wording, and they must use the California acknowledgment wording if the document will be filed in California.

Most states, such as Texas, include certificate wording in their statutes but permit you to use other wording, as long as it is substantially similar to their forms. Florida permits using any wording that includes 9 required certificate elements in Florida law. A few states, such as Georgia, don’t have specific certificate wording in their statutes but instead offer suggested wording on their websites or in their Notary handbooks.

As a general rule, you may use an out-of-state certificate as long as it meets your state's requirements for that notarial act and doesn't ask you to do something that’s not authorized in your state (California Notaries, for example, are not allowed to certify a person's representative capacity).

May I correct an error on an acknowledgment or jurat certificate?

It depends on your state’s requirements and when the mistake is discovered.

In California, if you spot an error during the notarization while the signer is present before you, then yes — you can line through the mistake, enter the correct information, and initial and date the change. However, if the error is found after the notarization is completed and the signer leaves, the answer is no — in that case, a new notarial act would have to be completed. Florida is even more restrictive. You can’t amend a notarial certificate after the notarization is complete. A new notarization would be required.

Some states provide specific instructions or regulations on making corrections in the certificate. In Arizona, if a Notary attaches a loose certificate to correct an error, the law requires the Notary to describe the attached document on the loose certificate. Always be sure to follow your state's rules regarding certificate corrections.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Notary Essentials

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50 Comments

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Kathy Liccardi

25 Aug 2014

I need information on Journaling Please

National Notary Association

26 Aug 2014

Hi, Kathy! You can find some basic information on keeping a journal in our complimentary webinar "How To Complete A Journal" here: http://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/webinars/commonly-asked-questions/how-to-complete-a-journal-entry Also, here are some Bulletin articles on journals that may be helpful to you: Recommended Notary Practices: Maintaining A Journal http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2011/06/recommended-notary-practices-journal Handling Journal Inspection Requests: http://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2013/05/handling-notary-journal-inspection-requests Please let us know if we can be of further assistance. Have a great day!

[email protected]

25 Aug 2014

Thanks for providing all this valuable information

John

27 Aug 2014

I noticed that there is no law primer for new notaries. Yet they need to be extremely aware of the requirements of the State where they have their commission. For example, if they are NSAs in Maryland do they have their Title Insurance License? Do they have the required E & O insurance as required (and not just the amount NNA offers)? Do they have the required CPEs? There are a mess of laws and "Best Practices they need to follow. I've encountered other NPs who believe they can notarized in several States using the same seal. Wrong! The 4th is not completely correct. ISO REQUIRES that a single line be drawn through the incorrect entry and an entry be made as to the reason for the error. Best Practices does not just mean what NNA says they are but also what industry standards require or you can lose certification.

National Notary Association

28 Aug 2014

Hello John, Thanks for your feedback. We saw your comment about ISO standards in our other story too. In case you haven't seen our reply in that thread, please feel free to email us at [email protected] We're happy to discuss your concerns and would appreciate it if you can include the specific sections you're referring to in your message. Thanks!

Ashley Davis

08 Jan 2015

If i recieved a document without the notary stamp or seal is this document valid?

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2015

Hello Ashley, Different states have different requirements regarding the use and format of the Notary's official seal. Whether the notarization is valid or not would depend on the laws of the state where the notarization on the document was performed.

joseph

11 Mar 2015

Very simple question: when entering my name and title to a certificate, is it ok to abbreviate my middle name for space purposes. My seal has my first, middle, and last name spelled out, but generally middle initials are used... It's a small detail but I know how things can affect recording. Thank you!

National Notary Association

12 Mar 2015

Hi Joseph. You should enter your name on the certificate the same way as it appears on your Notary commission and seal.

Michelle L

30 Mar 2015

I have 3 questions: 1) Is there any way I can find out if I should sign my full name in my notary certificate? I have my first, middle, and last name spelled out on my seal. But I usually sign my first and last name only, e.g. sign checks, driver's license, and almost everything else. I forgot if I included my middle name in my signature when I applied my Notary commission in California. 2) Should I sign and stamp my seal on the document that doesn't have the updated CA wording if I completed and attached a loose certificate? If not, should I cross out that on the document? 3) on the certificate, there is an optional session for additional information below the Notary seal area. If I don't fill out any thing there, do I have to cross that out? Thank you!

National Notary Association

02 Apr 2015

Hi Michelle. 1. You should enter your name on the certificate the same way as it appears on your Notary commission and seal. 2. You should only affix your signature and seal to the notarial wording you are using to complete the notarial act. 3. You are not required to cross out a section for optional additional information on a pre-printed certificate.

Ashley

01 Apr 2015

Is there a video I could watch to guide me on getting started with my notary? Such as what to expect on your first signing, what I need to get as far as supplies to get started with my notary business? Thank you!

National Notary Association

02 Apr 2015

Hello Ashley. You may want to check out our webinar series on commonly asked Notary questions. Here's a link to the page: http://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/webinars/commonly-asked-questions We also have webinars for new signing agents if you're interested in working with loan document assignments: http://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/news/webinars/signing-agent Best of luck and please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

Michelle L

06 Apr 2015

Hi, thanks for answering my questions. They're very helpful. One last thing that I want to make it clear. I always print my full name (first, middle, and last name) on the certificate the same way as it appears on my seal. My question is: can I sign the certificate only my first and last name? Thank you!

National Notary Association

07 Apr 2015

Hi Michelle. As mentioned previously, you should sign your name as it appears on your seal and Notary commission.

angela bennett

15 May 2015

I'm a new notary and has never notarized as of yet. Do I sign and stamp documents brought to me? I'm in the state of Michigan.

National Notary Association

19 May 2015

Hello Angela. If you're an NNA member and need any help performing notarial acts, you can contact our NNA Hotline for assistance: 1-888-876-6827 or [email protected]

Martine Lisa

22 Dec 2015

I'm a notary in Minnesota and I've noticed that on the certificate of some documents I'm notarizing there is not a spot that says "state of" and "county of" for me to fill in the blanks. Should I write in this information in pen?

National Notary Association

22 Dec 2015

Hello. MS 358.47 states that any notarial certificate "must include identification of the jurisdiction in which the notarial act is performed." If this information is not on the pre-printed certificate we suggest attaching and completing a certificate that includes a space for the venue information.

martine Lisa

22 Dec 2015

Than you for your reply. I just re read it and yes the Venue information is pre printed on the certificate. I wasn't sure if I still needed to write it in my own handwriting. But you answered my question so thank you.

Jon L

23 Dec 2015

If there are blank spaces on the document can I put a line through them or does the signer need to do that?

National Notary Association

23 Dec 2015

Hello. Any blank spaces in the main body of the document would need to be filled in or corrected by the signer. The Notary may only correct or complete blank spaces in the notarial certificate wording.

Carmelina Carrillo

23 Dec 2015

Texas one of my signers asked me if she could have a copy of my driver license? I showe to them, but I did not allow them to get a copy. Instead I sugest them to obtain information about me from the Title Company. Did I break any law? Thank you

National Notary Association

30 Dec 2015

Hello Carmelina. There's no Texas Notary law that requires you to provide a copy of your driver's license to a signer during a notarization. Public information about commissioned Texas Notaries is available online at the Secretary of State's website at https://direct.sos.state.tx.us/notaries/NotarySearch.asp.

julia

27 Apr 2016

Hi! I was wondering if I am notarizing a document in California, which will be filed in South Dakota, and my notary seal doesn't fit in the notary seal box on the form- can I attached a loose acknowledgement/jurat to the document with California verbiage? Any information would be greatly appreciated!

National Notary Association

29 Apr 2016

Try to affix the seal on the available certificate wording as close to the Notary signature as possible. This may mean finding another “blank” area within the certificate. A CA Notary may attach a loose certificate; however, that doesn’t always guarantee that the receiving agency will accept it. If in doubt, ask the signer to contact the receiving agency for instructions.

Todd Cottle

03 May 2016

Title company (out of my state) thinks I have made an error on my notary of the documents. They want me to email them ( and mail original) Jurat. How would I word a Jurat to comply for them?

National Notary Association

04 May 2016

Hi Todd. While some agencies may request it, Notaries should never mail a loose certificate nor rely on someone else to attach it to the document.

joy taffy

11 May 2016

Please clarify, I'm a notary in California, a client would like me to notarize a document for another state, let say for example sake an acknowledgement for the state of Arizona. The document does not contain the required CA Notarial wording. Do I complete the loose certificate?

National Notary Association

12 May 2016

Hi Joy. It depends. When executing a jurat or proof of execution, California Notaries must always use the certificates with the new consumer notice regardless of where the document is sent. California Notaries who take acknowledgments on documents that are filed in another state or jurisdiction may complete any acknowledgment form as may be required in that other state or jurisdiction, provided the form does not require the Notary to determine or certify that the signer holds a particular representative capacity or to make other determinations or certifications not allowed by California law.

KATIE MURPHY

11 Jul 2016

I am a notary in Florida and have a document that has no wording - just a saying that the notary seal must be placed at the bottom of the page. What is the wording that I will need to add for Florida? THANK YOU!

National Notary Association

11 Jul 2016

Hello Katie. The signer would have to tell you what notarial act is being requested. Once you know what type of notarization is needed, you can attach the appropriate certificate form. Remember that a nonattorney Notary cannot determine what type of notarization is needed on behalf of a signer, because that would be the unauthorized practice of law.

Ian mckinlay

11 Jul 2016

What is the most concise way to explain to a client the difference between an acknowledgement and a Jurat?

National Notary Association

12 Jul 2016

Hi Ian. This article may help you: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/04/key-differences-acknowledgment-jurat-certificates

Amanda

07 Mar 2017

On an all-purpose Acknowledgment, if I am only notarizing for my employer, am I able to pre-fill and print these out so that the only information left to be entered is the date and signature?

National Notary Association

08 Mar 2017

Hello Amanda. So we can answer your question, can you please confirm what state you are writing us from?

Ian mckinlay

28 Mar 2017

To speed the process can I use a stamp for the Jurat or acknowledgement and my name and title on the certificate? Thanks for always being on hand for all my question

National Notary Association

28 Mar 2017

Hello. To help us answer your question can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Emilie Beck

28 Apr 2017

We have to get a document notairzed, apostilled and then sent oversees. The company oversees is asking that we do not "attach" a California All-Purpose Acknowledgement form because they do not want it getting detached. Is it legal for the top-half of the acknowledgement to be insterted on the bottom of the document itself? The notary would not be doing this, I would, prior to get the document notarized. I want to make sure that this would be considered an official proceedure before i go through with this.

National Notary Association

04 May 2017

Hello. We're sorry, we're not clear from your description what you are referring to by the "top half" of an acknowledgment. If you are an NNA member, we would recommend calling our Hotline at 1-888-876-0827 so a counselor can speak with you by phone to answer your questions.

Will

15 Jun 2017

I am in Arizona and asked to notarize a document from IL. There does not seem to be a certificate. Can I add a loose certificate?

National Notary Association

16 Jun 2017

Hello. Yes, if there is no notarial wording pre-printed on the document, you would need to complete and attach the appropriate certificate wording to the document. The signer would have to tell you what type of notarial act they need.

John Clark

19 Jun 2017

I was asked to notarize a bank supplied document by a client, who insisted I notarize within the document where indicated. I said that I would attach the standard loose leaf used here in California which would override the bank's version. But the client insisted I do it twice. To avoid argument, I did as they requested. Was I right to do this?

Ellen Bailey

04 Jun 2018

If the document does not have a formatted place for signature and stamp, may I print a template of one onto the end of the document if there is space on the page?

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2018

Hello Ellen. When you say a "template" are you referring to the Notary certificate wording?

Ellen Bailey

04 Jun 2018

If the document does not have a formatted place for signature and stamp, may I print a template of one onto the end of the document if there is space on the page?

Ellen

04 Jun 2018

Yes, I just keep a couple of blank 'blurb' jurats.

National Notary Association

04 Jun 2018

Hello. Yes, you may attach the appropriate certificate wording to the document, provided the certificate complies with your state's Notary laws.

Talia Prosser

30 May 2019

I have a document that was notarized in Texas. The notary stamped on the signature block and did not sign. Is this a valid notary?

National Notary Association

30 May 2019

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

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