How to do any Notary

Share Roles and Responsibilities

It’s so important to let signers know your your role as a notary in advance. Your main reason for being there is to identify a person and ensure that their decision is something they really want to do. Let them know in advance that if they have any questions, to be in touch with the people they’re working with on the transaction. They are the ones that are professionally qualified to do the project. A notary hasn’t gone through training within the documents your signing. In fact, every day we see different 

San Diego Notary, person signing document at kitchen table
California Palm Trees against a blue sky

Proactively creating an atmosphere that is awesome before, during, and after the signing. Who will I be? (Awesome!)

Our notaries do amazing work.That’s who we are! We guarantee best notary processing. California has deemed your notary a member of great standing that has taken an oath to keep the community upstanding. We’re kind of like superheroes that protect the vulnerable. We’re sentinels against fraud, we’re awesome and kind. We empower you! Notaries provide your decision a lifelong protection through records within their journals. We are professional more than ever… to us, that doesn’t mean wearing suit and ties. We are human, we are real, we are kind. Our notaries are professional. We bring excellence and great attitudes to every appointment. 

1. Ensure an appointment is solid before meeting.

Before an appointment even begins, it’s best to make sure that everything is lined up for the notary. It’s no fun for anyone to designate time and travel to the other side of town to realize that the notary appointment has to be rescheduled for missed prerequisites. Missing IDs, documents, or signers can all stop a notary transaction it’s tracks. It’s best to make sure all the standards are met before you even arrive to meet.  While planning a notary appointment over the phone or by email, make sure that you’ve completed a pre-notary checklist. Affirm that signers will haver IDs, documents are completed, and all signers are mentally sound to sign. Yes, it seems obvious, but a little preparation will save you a lot of heartache.

Confirm the following before planning the appointment.

  • Signers will have active government ID or other satisfactory ID. 
  • IDs match name on the document exactly
  • Completed documents (no blanks) will be present at appointment.
  • Signers are of sound mind and understand the magnitude of the situation. Especially elderly/ sick.
  • Signers are ready and willing to sign on their own accord.
  • Signers speak the same language as the notary.

Notary Pro: If it’s possible for you to view the documents in advance, this may help you to prepare before an appointment. You may look them sure to ensure they are accurate. You may also enter them within your journal. This can be very helpful before larger transactions like loan signings or estate plans.

2. Collect and check active IDs for each signer.

After you’ve arrived at the appointment and said your ‘hellos’, it’s time to get down to business. Ask all the signers for their Identifications. Affirm it’s really them, and make sure the IDs match the names to be signed on the documents.

Important: You can only identify a signer so far as their ID identifies them. So if the document reads “John William Smith” and the ID reads “John Smith” it may be best to ask if they have a passport or other form of valid identification that provides the full name. This is important for two reasons.

Reason 1: Important for them, Identifying a full name will help documents to process correctly.

Ultimately the person requesting notary needs to complete a transaction that’s important to them. They’re paying you money and running this errand so that their transaction processes correctly the first time. By taking an extra step to identify them completely, you can indicate such on the notarial certificate for best processing.

Reason 2: For you, It’s best to identify a signer fully for ‘best practice’ purposes.

Really, if an important document requires a notarial act, it is best that a signer is fully identified as the true individual signing. It protects everyone. Let’s say a document says “Joe Charlie Smith III” is granting his home to someone. A person brings the document and only has an ID to show for “Joe Smith” … some notaries may create an acknowledgement indicating “Joe Smith aka ‘Joe Charlie Smith III’ “. The notary IS only identifying with the ID information provided but may be unwillingly assisting a fraudulent transaction to happen. ‘Joe Smith’ is a common name, ‘Joe Smith’ may be a son, or a father, or a cousin, or a stranger to “Joe Charlie Smith III”… It’s just best that notaries identify a signer fully through ID or other satisfactory evidence.

General Rule for identifying signers: identification name > document name

The Identification should match the document name exactly -or- the identification should provide more name than the document.

3. Write ID, document, and notarial act details in journal.

While still holding onto the signer’s IDs, you are going to copy the license information into your notary journal. This will serve as a record that you’ve identified the signers. You will also record a description about the document and the details of the notarial act. This is required per California law. If for any reason there is a future dispute as to whether or not a person signed the document, you will have this record that you had truly identified it was the individual who signed. You will record the following information in your journal.

ID information to record within the journal

the journal shall contain the type of identifying document, the governmental agency issuing the document, the serial or identifying number of the document, and the date of issue or expiration of the document. – Notary Public Handbook, California Secretary of State

Mandatory Identification info to record in the notary journal:

  • Full Name on ID
  • Identification type and issuing agency
  • Expiration Date and/or Issue Date
  • Serial Number

Optional info to record in journal:

  • Signer Address
  • Date of Birth
  • Other identifying/additional details

What’s the best practice? Record everything. Why not?


Document information to record within the journal


Character of every instrument sworn to, affirmed, acknowledged or proved before the notary public (e.g., deed of trust). – Notary Public Handbook, California Secretary of State

Mandatory Identification info to record in the notary journal:

  • Document name and/or description.
  • Document date

Optional info to record in the notary journal:

  • Identifying document details

The document information to be recorded would include the ‘document name’ or a ‘general description’. The name of the document is usually atop the front page in larger or bolder font. If the document does not have a name, a description of the document is also perfectly ok to record. An example of this may be a handwritten letter affirming truth to a birth record which could be described as “a letter affirming truth to a birth record”.

The notary is also to indicate the document date. This is typically found in two places. At the very beginning of the document or at the very end of the document next to the signature lines.  A document may have been ‘dated’ the day it was drafted. It may also have been dated the day it was signed. Both of those days may very well be before the day they appeared before you. That is ok. Search for the document date within the document and make a note. If there is none, make a note. It is also very common that the day a person signs the document initiates the day the document was dated.

Notary Pro: To better protect everyone in a transaction, jot down additional details that that indicate the document’s intentions further. For instance instead of just recording “grant deed” include a Parcel number, a property address, and/or the names of the people intended to receive the home. If a power of attorney was being signed, make a note of whom the powers were being granted to. If ever a document came under dispute, this information could be extremely helpful to protect the intentions of the signers.


Notarial Act information to record within the journal

Date, time and type of each official act (e.g., acknowledgment, jurat). – Notary Public Handbook, California Secretary of State

Mandatory Identification info to record in the notary journal:

  • The date of the notarial act
  • The time of the notarial act
  • The type of notarial act

Optional info to record in the notary journal:

  • Notes to make clear atmosphere of a signing.
    (i.e. “elderly signers but very aware”, “signed in a restaurant, no alcoholic drinks had been ordered, everyone clearly in good capacity”, “Although a sad situation, signer clearly agreed to willingly and intentionally sign document on their own accord.”)

4. Signer requests the notarial act.

A notary cannot advise the signer as to what kind of notarial act they need. This would be legal advice. The signer must request it on their own. Most often the notary verbiage is already provided on the document which gives clear indication as to what notarial act is required for their document. This is an optimal situation. If the document does not have clear notary verbiage and a signer is unclear as to the type of notary they need, you may explain how each notarial act works for them to decide.  It maybe helpful for the signer to contact the receiving agency to confirm the notarial act they want to see.

Typically, the most common notary transactions are acknowledgments or jurats. Here are there purposes:

acknowledgments: A signer appears before the notary acknowledges to the notary that they had willingly signed a document they are presenting. They may have signed it previously or directly in front of the notary.

Jurat: A person swears/affirms before the notary that a document is true and correct. The person then signs the document before the notary.

5. Examine docs, administer oaths, and sign documents.

No Blanks. Completed documents protect everyone.

It’s time to look over the documents in their entirety for blanks. If a document is signed, stamped, and delivered while blanks still remain it creates a risk that the document can be changes at a later time.  The signer’s intentions may not be carried out, the signer is left unprotected, and there opens up the possibility for fraudulent activity.

Administer oath or affirmation if necessary (Jurats)

The ‘Jurat’ notarial act requires the notary to administer an oath or affirmation. The notary raises their right hand, the signer does the same. The notary says something to the extent of  “Do you affirm before me that the statements on this document are true, accurate, and correct?” The signer would respond “I do” or “yes”. 

Sign away.

Having met all the above parameters for notary, it’s time to sign away. Some receiving agencies may require the signer to sign a certain way. For example, it is very common for California’s county recorders and most residential lenders to require “full signatures, exactly as name appears on documents” … this often means that if a signer has an abbreviated or scratchy signature, it wont suffice for the receiving agency. It’s best that the notary and the signer look over any instructions that come with the documents of call the appropriate party if there is a question about signatures. A full signature would typically be in a cursive or script having signed out every part of the name indicated by the document.

Notary Pro: If setting up an appointment in advance, affirm that documents are already filled out in their entirety. If there are questions about what should be filled in within the document, direct them to the receiving agency of the document, their industry professional, or an attorney for legal advice. This will create ideal notary transactions for you and the signers in the future.

6. Collect signatures and thumbprints for the notarial journal.

Signatures for journal

Earlier in the signing you had recorded each document that required a notarial act within your notarial journal. The signer will now sign their names next to each of these entries to acknowledge that they did sign the document and requested the notarial act. This will serve as a record if ever there is a a question. It protects the signer’s intentions. The signer will sign an entry for each document that was signed moments ago.

Thumbprints for journal

Thumbprints are required for certain documents that were notarized including deeds, powers of attorney, and documents pertaining to property. It is best practice to take a thumbprint for every document that ever get’s notarized. it would be a rare instance that anyone would ever have a problem with this. Ultimately, it is the best identifier that an individual was truly present at the time of the notarial act.

7. Attach notary certificate to document.

Finally, attach the notarial certificate with verbiage for the notarial act chosen by the signer. Fill out the document accordingly with the information as indicated below.

Items to be filled out on a notarial certificate

  • Venue- State & County Where you’re standing while doing notarial act
    Today’s Date – The date of the notarial act
    Notary’s Name as it appears on commission and stamp
    Signer’s Names as Identified
    Notary Signature as provided to Secretary of state
    Notary Seal/Stamp

Optional items to include on certificate

  • thumbprints of signers
  • Document description
  • Specific Document details
  • Page Numbers and Exhibits attached
  • Document date

Notary Pro:  Collect payment.

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