Prepare for Notarization in California

Prepare for Notarization

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How To Prepare for Notarization

Many members of the public are confused about the duties performed by a notary. This information will help you understand how to prepare for notarization in the state of California.

What is a Notary Public?

A notary public is an officer appointed by state government. A notary is empowered to witness the signing of important documents, administer oaths and affirmations, and perform other acts as authorized by law.

As an impartial, third-party witness, a notary identifies signers for the purpose of screening out impostors and deterring fraud. A notary also verifies that signers have knowingly and willingly entered into agreements.

For this reason, signers must personally appear before a notary with proper identification at the time of notarization. While not always convenient, this requirement is for the protection of the public.

The responsibilities of a notary are limited. For example, a notary is not allowed to prepare documents or offer legal advice. The exception is if a notary is also an attorney, which is not uncommon in California.

Glossary of Terms

Here are a few common terms to help you prepare for notarization.

Acknowledgment – A statement made in front of a notary public or other person who is authorized to administer oaths stating that a document bearing your signature was actually signed by you.

Affiant – A person who signs an affidavit and swears to its truth before someone authorized to take oaths, like a notary public or county clerk.

Affidavit – A written declaration made under oath before a notary public or other authorized officer.

Deed – A document that transfers ownership of real estate.

Durable Power of Attorney – A power of attorney that remains in effect if the principal becomes incapacitated. If a power of attorney is not specifically made durable, it automatically expires if the principal becomes incapacitated.

Jurat – A certificate added to an affidavit stating when, before whom, and where it was made.

Notarize – Certification by a notary public to establish the authenticity of a signature on a legal document. Many legal documents, such as deeds and powers of attorney, are commonly notarized.

Notary Public – A licensed public officer who administers oaths, certifies documents and performs other specified functions. A notary public’s signature and seal is required to authenticate the signatures on many legal documents.

Power of Attorney – A document that gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. If you create such a document, you are called the principal, and the person to whom you give this authority is called your attorney-in-fact. If you make a durable power of attorney, the document will continue in effect even if you become incapacitated.

Satisfactory Evidence – The absence of any information, evidence, or other circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the individual is not the individual he or she claims to be. This is supported by paper identification documents, the oath of a single credible witness, or the oaths of two credible witnesses under penalty of perjury.

Is the Document Complete?

This is the most obvious step when you prepare for notarization. A document must be complete without any blank spaces in order for a notary to proceed with a notarization. Above all, this is for the protection of the signer. A notary won’t be able to help you fill in the blanks. Direct any questions about missing information to the appropriate parties before meeting with a notary.

Incomplete Documents
A notary public may not notarize a document that is incomplete. If presented with a document for notarization, which the notary public knows from his or her experience to be incomplete or is without doubt on its face incomplete, the notary public must refuse to notarize the document. (Government Code section 8205)

Is the Signer’s Identification Valid?

This is a big deal, since a notary’s primary duty is to verify the identity of signers. Basically there are two options. The signer may either present a form of Acceptable ID, or enlist the help of two Credible Witnesses.

Most people who seek the services of a notary possess state-issued identification documents, such as driver’s licenses and passports. Identification problems are typically encountered with elderly signers who no longer drive or travel. If a signer is unable to present paper identification documents to prove identity, two witnesses will need to be present at the time of signing. Give your notary a heads up on this, so details can be worked out ahead of time.

Valid Identification
Each signer must present a valid form of identification at the time of notarization. If you’re scheduling a notary appointment on behalf of someone else, particularly someone who doesn’t drive or travel, please be sure they can meet the state identification requirement.

Does the Signer’s Name Match the Document?

What happens if a name appears on the document as “William Taylor Smith,” but the signer’s identification shows the name as “William Smith?” Unfortunately, a California notary would not be allowed to proceed with this notarization.

For minor discrepancies the general rule of “less, not more” applies. For example, “David L. Brooks” is acceptable on the document if the name on the ID is “David Lee Brooks.” Make sure the identification you present to the notary matches or exceeds your name as it appears on the document.

What Type of Notarization Do You Require?

A notary won’t be able to advise you on the type of notarization you need. However, there should be plenty of visual clues available. In most cases your document will include notarial language–look for the words acknowledgment or jurat. These two types of notarization are most common. When in doubt, consult with the individual who generated your document, or the party who will be receiving it.

By the way, don’t panic if your document lacks notarial wording. Mobile notaries carry acknowledgment and jurat forms wherever they go. Your job is to direct the notary on the type of notarization you require.

Notarial Wording
A notary public cannot sign and stamp a document without the correct notarial language. The acknowledgment and jurat forms associated with your documents must comply with California laws.

Certificate of Acknowledgment

The certificate of acknowledgment is the form most frequently completed by a notary public. Basically, a certificate of acknowledgment certifies that the signer personally appeared before the notary on the date and in the county indicated, that the signer provided valid identification, and that the signer acknowledged executing the document. A certificate of acknowledgment must be filled out completely at the time of the notarization.

Every notary maintains a journal to record all information pertinent to each signing. In the case of an acknowledgment, the journal will record the type of identification used to establish the signer’s identity. Ideally, a signer will be able to provide proper paper identification documents, but there are exceptions to the rule where one or two credible witnesses can vouch for a signer. In cases like this, a notary will record the signatures and identification information about the witnesses in their notary journal.

According to California law, the words “personally appeared” must be included in the wording of an acknowledgment. A notary public signature and seal cannot be affixed to a document without the proper notarial wording.

Notary Acknowledgment
You must appear in person before a notary public to obtain a certificate of acknowledgment.

Jurat Certificate

The second most common form to be completed by a notary is the jurat certificate, which is identified by the wording “subscribed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me.”

A jurat certifies that the signer personally appeared before the notary on the date and in the county indicated, that the signer signed the document in the presence of the notary public, and that the notary public administered the oath or affirmation. Additionally, the notary public must certify the identity of the signer.

The oath wording is typically: Do you swear or affirm that the statements on this document are true? When administering the oath, the signer and notary public usually raise their right hands, but there is no legal requirement to do so.

According to California law, a jurat cannot be affixed to a document whereby the signer did not personally appear, take an oath, and sign in the presence of the notary public (even if the signer is known to the notary public). A notary public signature and seal cannot be affixed to a document without the proper notarial wording.

Remember, any document requiring a jurat must be signed before a notary. Therefore the document and jurat certificate dates must match. Wait to sign and date your document until you’re in the presence of a notary.

Notary Jurat
You must appear in person before a notary public to obtain a jurat.

How Much Does a Notary Cost?

For the most accurate quote, calculate the number of notarized signatures you require. Mobile fees, wait fees, and charges for printing may also apply. These will vary from notary to notary, even in the same town. Some notaries charge a cancellation fee if the signing can’t be completed. Others require a deposit in advance before they’ll drive somewhere to meet with you.

Most notaries outline all possible fees on their websites, as we do. Discuss your needs fully so there are no surprises at the end of your appointment.

Get a Quote
When contracting for a mobile notary, obtain a verbal or written quote before making a commitment.

Prepare for Notarization in California

Prepare for Notarization

Can Vital Records Be Notarized?

Birth, Death, and Marriage Records
An affidavit of birth, marriage, or death may be notarized.

Certified Copies of Vital Records
Certified copies of birth, fetal death, death, and marriage records may be made only by the State Registrar, by duly appointed and acting local registrars during their term of office, and by county recorders. (Health & Safety Code section 103545)

Shop for Legal Forms and More

General Affidavit, Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Real Estate Deed, Promissory Note, Premarital Agreement, Residential Rental Agreement, and more. California state laws prohibit notaries from choosing or completing legal documents for their clients.


2019 Notary Public Handbook (Secretary of State)

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