Carol Ray, the founder of Notary2Pro, often spoke to students about the importance of understanding notarial certificates and the differences between the two most common types, Jurats and Acknowledgments. These can sometimes be confusing, which is why Notary2Pro’s Elite course spends time explaining these in some detail., The following article summarizes some of the key points.
Notarial certificates are mostly state-specific. Jurats and acknowledgments are two types of notarial certificates that vary significantly by state regarding requirements, regulations, and verbiage. For instance, the state of California has very specific verbiage that’s required on all notarial certificates. While most states do not require all that California notarial certificates require, some states require certain information to be added by the notary public. Check your state laws and regulations to ensure the certificate wording is acceptable.
Acknowledgments and jurats are separate notarial certificates intended for different purposes, requiring their own unique certificate wording. Acknowledgment and jurat certificates cannot be used interchangeably.
In general terminology, an acknowledgment certificate will contain the words “acknowledged before me” or “appeared before me.” Jurat certificates will contain the words “subscribed and sworn to” or “affirmed before me.”
On the very rare occasion that a document contains two of the same notarial certificates, you can only execute and notarize one type of notarial certificate for that one document. This means two jurats cannot be notarized and attached to the same document. Neither can two acknowledgments. Sometimes you may find a loose acknowledgment or jurat in a loan packet that doesn’t seem to be associated with any one document. This is common practice for companies thinking that they are doing you, the notary, a favor by inserting a loose certificate just in case it is needed. However, it’s crucial to emphasize that you should never complete or fill out these loose certificates unless it’s truly necessary. Legally, you are not obligated to notarize this additional document. This practice can lead to these certificates being attached to any document, potentially causing confusion or legal issues. If a document has two different notarial certificates, a jurat, and an acknowledgment attached, then both can be executed and notarized.
For loan signings, the appropriate notarial certificate will be supplied. For general notary work, you may come across a signer who is unsure of which notarial certificate they need. A notary public who is not an attorney may never decide which notarial certificate is to be used. A notary can explain the purpose of a jurat and an acknowledgment, then inform them they must make that decision as you cannot decide for them.
Your notary stamp with your name and state of commission is also called your notary seal. While most states will have your commission number on the seal, many will not. Always check your state rules and regulations for state-specific requirements. When applying your seal to a notarial certificate, ensure the seal is as close to your signature as possible. Always check that the seal stamps clearly and cleanly without any cracks or lines. When you place your seal on the notarial certificate, always stamp on a smooth surface. Ridges and bumps on tables will affect how your stamp comes out. There mustn’t be any breaks, smudges, or lines through the stamp on the certificate. The seal should not be placed within the margin, cover, or touch any wording or signatures. The notary public must complete, sign, and stamp the notarial certificate in the presence of the signer.
IF YOU HAVE MORE SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CERTIFICATE WORDING OR ARE UNSURE OF YOUR STATE REQUIREMENTS, THEN CHECK YOUR SECRETARY OF STATE OR GOVERNOR’S OFFICE WEBSITE AND YOUR STATE NOTARY HANDBOOK FOR MORE INFORMATION.
Notary2Pro highly recommends recording notarial acts in a notary journal, although not all states require a notary public to record their notarial acts. Suppose anyone questions the integrity of any signing or document weeks, months, or even years after completion. In that case, keeping a notary journal is a proper way to keep a clean and concise record without relying on memory. While it is rare, it is still possible to either be or have your notary journal called into court for various reasons. Some states require driver’s license information, addresses, and more, while other states prohibit driver’s license numbers from being recorded. Check your state’s notary handbook to ensure you are following your state rules and regulations for what is acceptable.
The true definition of an acknowledgment is a formal declaration before a notary public that the instrument presented is the free and voluntary act of the party executing it and that the signatures on the document are genuine. An acknowledgment is NOT verifying or swearing to the truthfulness of the contents within the document, it is acknowledging that the signer or signers did sign willingly. Always check your state for more information on state laws, rules, and regulations.
Steps for an acknowledgment:
- The notary public must properly identify the person requesting the notarial act.
- The person making the acknowledgment must personally appear before the notary public, either in person or by electronic communication, depending on your state’s laws.
- Observe documents being signed:
- Technically, the notary public should observe the signing of the document during a loan signing in most cases, OR
- For general notary work, an acknowledgment can be signed without the notary public being present. As always, check with the rules and regulations of your state
- The notary public must complete, sign, and stamp the notarial certificate that is either on the document or provided in the presence of the signer.
- Although not all states require a notary public to record their notarial acts, Notary2Pro encourages all notaries and loan signing agents to record all their notarial acts in his/her notary public journal in case they are questioned or called into court at a later time regarding a particular signing or document.
A jurat is used when the signer swears or affirms to the truthfulness of the contents of a document to the best of their knowledge and belief. The notary public or loan signing agent must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer or signers before the jurat is signed. Regardless of your commissioned state, taking the oath or the affirmation is an unquestionable requirement. You must always administer the oath for each jurat that is being executed. The oath promises that the signer is making true and correct statements to the best of their knowledge and belief.
Steps for a jurat:
- The notary public must properly identify the person requesting the notarial act.
- The notary public must administer the oath or affirmation to the signer or signers before executing each jurat and receive a verbal confirmation.
- While under oath, the notary public must witness each person or persons sign the document. Including by means of electronic communication, depending on your state’s laws.
- The notary public must complete, sign, and stamp the notarial certificate on the document or the attachment provided in the presence of the signer, and Notary2Pro encourages all notaries to record all their notarial acts in his/her notary public journal. The notary public must apply the notary seal to the notarial certificate. Some states legally require a notary and loan signing agent to keep a notary journal. Always check your state rules and regulations to ensure you follow the law while protecting yourself.
REMEMBER: Please note that a jurat cannot be executed by someone offering to take the oath in someone else’s name. The person whose name is on the signature line must be the person who is signing the document and must be the person who has been given the oath.
Notary2Pro kindly reminds all notaries and loan signing agents that they MUST always check state rules and regulations regarding notarial certificates to ensure correct and accurate practices.
The Importance and Difference of Oaths and Affirmations
It is essential for notary publics and loan signing agents to know and understand the importance, the difference, and how to administer the oath and affirmation.
While there is a difference between an oath and an affirmation, they have the same function as they both constitute a form of a jurat, and both are legally equivalent and hold up in a court of law. The oath and the affirmation refer to the truthfulness of the content or statement within a document or documents. Providing a false oath or a false affirmation are examples of perjury, a felony crime that is punishable by law with a prison sentence and possibly a fine.
Always consider the legal ramifications of the oath and affirmation. A notary or loan signing agent should always stress the importance, seriousness, value, and significance of the signer or signer’s actions in the process. They must provide a loud and clear verbal “Yes” or “I do” to the oath or affirmation.
An oath is a solemn pledge where the person swears on a religious text or invokes a higher power, such as God, to confirm the truthfulness of the statement being made.
An affirmation is a declaration of truthfulness without any religious reference, suitable for individuals who may not wish to swear an oath due to personal or religious beliefs.
To delve deeper into the distinction between an oath and an affirmation and to learn how to administer them properly, visit the Notary2Pro website! Our comprehensive article provides valuable insights and guidance, empowering you to handle these critical notarization aspects confidently. Additionally, you’ll find examples of how to word an oath and affirmation, ensuring you are well-prepared to carry out your notarial duties effectively and ethically.