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Common Notarial Acts

notarial acts

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Notarial acts are actions performed by individuals belonging to the notary (notary public) in their official capacity. They usually refer to a notary public signing or certifying a document.

What is a Notary Public?

Notaries public (also referred to as ‘notarial officers’ or ‘notaries’) are officers appointed by the state to serve the public in non-contentious matters such as administering oaths and witnessing or authenticating documents.  They usually act as official and impartial third-party witnesses when certain classes of documents such as estates, deeds, and documents for use abroad are signed. Notaries verify the identity of the signing parties, the parties’ awareness of the contents of the documents and their willingness to sign them.

After witnessing a signing, the notary public will place a seal, signature, and notary commission details to signify that the document is authentic and has been properly executed.

Why is Notarization Important?

Recent studies show that more than 1.25 billion documents are notarized in America each year. Notarial acts are popular because they are powerful risk management tools in preventing fraud during the signing of documents. They are commonly used by institutions such as banks and courts to confirm the validity of documents.

When it comes to contracts, notarizing signatures is a critical step to protect yourself from costly contract disputes. Notarization makes contracts more valid and is proof that parties have entered into an agreement knowingly and willingly.

Here are the most common types of notarial acts:

1. Acknowledgment

Acknowledgment is the process of authenticating a signature on a document. It is mainly used to identify the identity of the signer. It proves that the signature on the document belongs to the signer and that they signed out of their own free will.

The signer declares (acknowledges) before the notary public that they signed (or want to sign) the document. The signer also declares that they understand the contents of the document and are signing the document freely without coercion.

2. Verification on oath or affirmations

These types of notarial acts are collectively referred to as “jurats.” They happen when the signer swears to the truthfulness of the contents of the document in the presence of the notary public. They allow the signer to swear that the contents are true and are mainly used for court proceedings. The signer recites an oath administered by the notary public stating that the contents of the document are true.

In affirmations, the notary public not only proves that the signature on the document belongs to the signer but also demonstrates that the signer swore to the truthfulness of the contents in the document. These documents are mainly used as statements for petitions, complaints, pleadings, motions and other court documents.

It’s important to note that personal presence is required if the notarial act refers to acknowledgment or verification on oath.

3. Copy certification

This notarial act certifies/attests a copy of a document was taken from the original. Usually, the notary public photocopies or supervises the photocopying of the original document and certifies it as a complete and accurate copy of the original. The notary public must see the original document and is not permitted to make certified copies of other copies no matter how similar they may look. Most states prohibit notaries public from copy certifying public documents such as birth certificates, naturalization certificates, death certificates or documents that are to be publicly recorded.

Notarized copies can be used in:

  • Employment – diplomas, honors, and awards
  • Business – permits, licenses, contracts, powers of attorney
  • International – passports, driver’s license, and other documents
  • Adoptions – health assessments, financial statements etc.

Your document’s notarization is not complete until evidenced by the certificate of the notarial act. This is a written statement, usually at the end of the document, showing what the notary public has done or witnessed in an official capacity. The notarial act must show the jurisdiction in which it was performed, be dated, contain the notary public’s name, the title of office, signature, and stamp. The certificate must also show the steps the notary public took in performing the notary act.

The responsibilities of notaries are critical to real estate, business, financial communities, and many other applications. They are the universal impartial third parties who perform the important function of assuring any person or entity that documents are valid, executed and authentic.