Know What Type of Notarization You Need
Generally, notarizations come in three basic forms: acknowledgments, jurats and copy certifications. You must be able to tell the Notary what type of notarization you need because, as a ministerial official appointed by the state, a Notary cannot advise you on the type of notarization you need. Make sure you review the types of notarial acts available to you before you visit the Notary, and confirm with the document drafter or receiving agency what type of notarization they require. If in doubt, you may contact an attorney for guidance.
Have a Valid identification
The primary duty of a Notary Public is to verify your identity as a document signer. The most common way they do that is by checking state-issued identification documents, like driver’s licenses and passports. A Notary needs to be presented with an identification document that meets the requirements of California’s Notary laws.
Proper identification is required for any notary service requiring verification of signature. California recognizes the following types of identification:
- An identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles;
- A United States passport;
- An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody in California state prison.
- Any form of inmate identification issued by a sheriff’s department, if the inmate is in custody in a local detention facility; or
- A type of identification listed below, provided that it contains a photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number:
- A passport issued by a foreign government, provided that it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; (refer to 4. above)
- A driver’s license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses; (refer to 4. above)
- An identification card issued by another state; (refer to 4. above)
- A United States military identification card with the required photograph, description of the person, signature of the person, and an identifying number. (Some military identification cards do not contain all the required information.); (refer to 4. above)
- An employee identification card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California. (refer to 4. above)
- An identification card issued by a federally recognized tribal government
If you have none of the required documents above, two credible witnesses can be used in place of the above identification per (Civil Code section 1185(b)(1)). In essence, the Credible Witness is the living breathing ID for the signer.
The Two Credible Witnesses:
- The individual appearing before the notary public as the signer of the document is the person named in the document;
- The credible witness personally knows the signer;
- The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the signer are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for the signer to obtain another form of identification;
- The signer does not possess any of the identification documents authorized by law to establish the signer’s identity; and
- The credible witness does not have a financial interest and is not named in the document signed.
Make sure your name on the ID matches the name on the document
If you’ve recently changed your legal name due to marriage, divorce or other reasons, be sure that any ID you bring to the notarization matches your name on the document. If there’s a significant discrepancy — for example, your married name appearing on the document is “Mary Smith-Williams” but your ID uses your maiden name of “Mary Smith” — then the Notary will not be able to proceed with the notarization unless you can provide an alternate acceptable form of identification that matches the name on the document.
Make Sure the Document Is Complete
A document must be complete without any blank spaces for a Notary to perform a notarization. All information must be filled in completely, this includes any confidential information such as social security numbers and other parties’ names.
Make Sure All Signers Are Present For the Notarization
A signer must be physically present before a Notary in order to have their signature on a document notarized. Be sure that any person whose signature needs notarization is available and can attend your appointment with the Notary. A Notary cannot notarize a person’s signature over the phone or on a video call.
Be Aware and Willing
One of the basic duties of a Notary is to screen document signers for willingness and awareness. That means a Notary will check that you are mentally aware and alert at the time of the notarization, and that you are signing the document voluntarily and not under duress. While this is important for persons of all ages, it is particularly so for the elderly or infirm. If you do not know what your transaction is about, or you aren’t sure you want to sign, take steps to address these issues before you go to the Notary.
Understand that the Notary cannot advise you on legal matters
Notaries who are not qualified attorneys are strictly prohibited from giving legal advice to signers. Notaries are not allowed to advise you on the legal effects of a document, fill in any part of the document except the notarial certificate wording or choose what type of notarial act is needed on your behalf.