Notary 101: How to do a notarial act, in detail.
How to do a notarial act.
Basic Steps to administering a notarial act
- Make sure everything is ready for notary.
- Collect and check active IDs for each signer.
- Write ID, document, and notarial act details in your journal.
- Signer requests the notarial act.
- Examine docs, administer oaths, and sign documents.
- Collect signatures and thumbprints for the notarial journal.
- Attach notary certificate to the document.
1. Make sure everything is ready for notary.
Before starting a notary appointment, it is important to ensure that all necessary requirements are met. Missing IDs, documents, or signers can cause a lot of inconvenience for both parties. To avoid this, it is recommended to complete a pre-notary checklist while planning the appointment over the phone or email. Confirm that signers have active government IDs or other satisfactory IDs, the IDs match the names on the document precisely, completed documents (without any blanks) will be present at the appointment, signers are mentally fit to sign, especially the elderly or sick, and signers are ready and willing to sign on their own accord. It is also important to ensure that signers speak the same language as the notary.
SD Signings recommends viewing the documents in advance, which helps to prepare for the appointment. Many times, it’s as simple as asking for the digital file. A notary can verify the accuracy of the documents and enter them into their journal. This is particularly helpful before larger transactions like loan signings or estate plans.
2. Collect and check active IDs for each signer.
Secondly, it’s best practice for you as a notary to fully identify the signer. If an important document requires a notarial act, it’s crucial to identify the signer fully as the true individual signing. By doing so, you’re protecting everyone involved in the transaction. For example, if a person brings a document that says “Joe Charlie Smith III” is granting his home to someone but only has an ID that shows “Joe Smith,” some notaries may create an acknowledgment indicating “Joe Smith aka ‘Joe Charlie Smith III’.” While the notary is only identifying with the ID information provided, they may be unwittingly assisting a fraudulent transaction to take place. By fully identifying the signer through their ID or other satisfactory evidence, you can prevent this from happening.
The general rule for identifying signers is to use the identification name, which should match the document name exactly or provide more name than the document.
3. Write ID, document, and notarial act details in journal.
Secondly, you must record the document information, which includes the document name and/or description, and the document date. If there is no document name, then a general description of the document can be recorded instead.
SD Signings recommends jotting down additional details that indicate the document’s intentions further, such as parcel number, property address, or the names of the people intended to receive the home.
Lastly, you must record the notarial act information, which includes the date, time, and type of notarial act performed, such as acknowledgment or jurat.
SD Signings recommends making notes to make clear the atmosphere of the signing, such as if elderly signers were present but still aware, or if the signing took place in a public space with no alcohol consumption.
It is important to record all the information required by law, as it will serve as a record of the notarial act and can be useful in the event of a future dispute regarding the signing of the document.
4. Signer requests the notarial act.
The two most common notarial transactions are acknowledgments and jurats. Here is a brief overview of each:
Acknowledgments: This type of notarial act involves a signer appearing before the notary and acknowledging that they have willingly signed the document they are presenting. The signer may have signed the document previously or directly in front of the notary.
Jurats: This type of notarial act involves a person swearing or affirming before the notary that a document is true and correct. The person then signs the document in the presence of the notary.
5. Examine docs, administer oaths, and sign documents.
Administering oaths and/or affirmations for jurats. When performing a “jurat” notarial act, the notary is required to administer an oath or affirmation. To do so, the notary raises their right hand and asks the signer, “Do you affirm before me that the statements on this document are true, accurate, and correct?” The signer then responds, “I do” or “yes.”
Once all the above notarial parameters have been met, the signer can proceed to sign the document. However, some receiving agencies may have specific requirements for how the document should be signed. For example, California’s county recorders and most residential lenders typically require a “full signature, exactly as name appears on documents.” This means that if a signer has an abbreviated or illegible signature, it may not be accepted by the receiving agency. It is best for the notary and the signer to review any instructions that come with the documents or contact the appropriate party if there is a question about signatures. A full signature would typically be in a cursive or script format, with the signer having signed every part of the name indicated by the document.
SD Signings recommends to have the client affirm that documents are already completed in their entirety before setting up an appointment. If there are any questions about what information should be filled in within the document, direct the signer to the receiving agency of the document, their industry professional, or an attorney for legal advice.
6. Collect signatures and thumbprints for the notarial journal.
Certain documents, such as deeds, powers of attorney, and property-related documents, require the signer’s thumbprint to be taken in the notarial journal. It is a best practice to take a thumbprint for every document that is notarized, as it serves as the best identifier that the individual was truly present at the time of the notarial act. While it may be a rare instance, taking a thumbprint helps protect against fraud and provides additional security for the signer and the notary.
7. Attach notary certificate to document.
Next, you should attach the notarial certificate to the document. Make sure that you have chosen the appropriate verbiage for the notarial act chosen by the signer and fill out the certificate accordingly. Here are the items that you need to fill out on a notarial certificate:
- Venue – State and County where you are standing while doing the notarial act.
- Today’s Date – The date of the notarial act.
- Notary’s Name – As it appears on the commission and stamp.
- Signer’s Names – As identified.
- Notary Signature – As provided to the Secretary of State.
- Notary Seal/Stamp.
In addition to the above, there are some optional items that you may include on the certificate, such as:
- Thumbprints of Signers.
- Document Description.
- Specific Document Details.
- Page Numbers and
- Exhibits Attached.
- Document Date.
SD Signings recommends collecting payment for your services at this time.