Wednesday, August 7, 2013


To notarize or not to notarize that is the question.

The purpose of notarization is to deter fraud.

A notary complies with a statuary method to determine the identity of the individual that signed a document and, as needed, administers oaths.  This greatly increases the reliability of the signature.

Although there may be other ways to prove that someone signed a document, a notarization is a clean, cost-effective method.  In many places notarization is required by statute for certain documents (deeds, mortgages, power of attorneys), but it is a good practice for any important document.  If the document is ever in dispute in a lawsuit the notarization provides a significant procedural advantage because it is “self-authenticating” meaning that the signer doesn’t have to take the stand and swear that he signed it before the court will accept it into evidence.  You can imagine how useful this is if the signer is dead or otherwise unavailable.

What can a notary do for you?  The scope of a notary’s authority varies a little from state to state, but here are the two main examples of tasks a notary can perform for you:

If you want to be able to rely upon the identity of the signer, you use an acknowledgment.

  • This is the most common notarization used in California for documents and it simply means that the signer came before the notary, proved his or her identity by “satisfactory evidence” (that is a legal term that refers to a statutory method of proving up identity), pointed to the signature on the document, and swore to the notary that he or she signed the document.  Most people do not realize this, but with an acknowledgement you do not have to sign in front of the notary.  

If you want to be able to rely upon the truth of the document you use a jurat.  

  • A jurat is usually used with an affidavit.   With a jurat the notary watches the signer sign the document and then administers an oath where the signer must swear that everything in the document is true to the best of their knowledge.  A notary is technically a public official and the  criminal sanctions for lying under oath in front of a  notary is the same as lying to a judge, so don’t. 

To follow up with my e-signature post, I should mention that some states, including California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, allow electronic notarizations, or e-notarizations. An e-notarization occurs when a notary public affixes a digital signature to an electronic document. The fundamental rules governing notarization still apply, including the requirement that document signers appear before the notary.

If you’re looking for legal advice contact Roxanne at www.roxanneolson.com

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