What is a Notary?
A Notary is a person of integrity, appointed by the Secretary of State to verify the identity of document signers. A Notary also performs copy certifications and administers oaths and affirmations.
What is a Notarization?
A notarization is a certificate filled out by the Notary, certifying certain facts about the signer and document. The Notary does not verify the accuracy or validity of the document.
What is Proper ID?
The Washington State notary statutes offers several options for documents that a notary can use to verify a signer’s identity:
A driver’s license
A government-issued identification card
Another form of government identification that contains the signature or photograph of the
individual and is satisfactory to the notary
A notary can accept any identifying document that is either current, or expired for less than three years. Also note that there is nothing requiring these documents to be from any specific jurisdiction; a signer could use an Oregon driver’s license or a Canadian passport, as long as it is not more than three years expired.
Are there different kinds of Notarial Acts?
Acknowledgement: The signer personally appears before the Notary, is identified, and signs the document or acknowledged that he or she signed the document.
Proof of Execution by Subscribing witness: An individual vouches before a Notary to having watched the principal signer of a document sign the document or take the signer’s acknowledgement they signed and having been requested to sign the document themselves as a witness. They must appear with one credible witness who has valid ID, and who the notary personally knows) in front of the notary.
Jurat: The signer personally appears before notary, is identified, signs in the presence of the notary, and is administered an oath or affirmation declaring the truthfulness of the document.
Oath/Affirmation: Spoken promises of truthfulness made in the presence of the Notary (e.g., Oath of Office, witness for testimony, depositions).
Copy Certification: Notary certifies a copy is an accurate reproduction of the original. (Powers of attorney only) For copy certification of other documents, a signer may write a statement about the document and sign it. Then the notary may notarize that signature by proving the identity of the signer as in an acknowledgment, or have the signer swear what they wrote in the statement is true which is a Jurat.
Which notary act is right for me?
Sometimes the notarial wording is not found on the document you need notarized. Such as handwritten or private documents. When this happens, the signer should ask receiving agency–what type of notarization they need. The signer may also seek advice from an attorney or choose the act yourself. (For signatures, choices include an acknowledgement, which proves you signed the document or a Jurat the signer swears/affirms what they signed is true.)
What is an Apostille?
When documents will be used outside the United States in courts or other official capacities, they usually must be verified through a process called an apostille. Apostilles are performed by the Washington Secretary of State’s office, who verify the commission of the person who notarized the documents.
One of the key differences between apostilles and notarizations is that notarizations are handled by notaries public, whereas apostilles are handled by the Secretary of State’s office. A notary cannot perform an apostille. You can find more information about apostilles through the Secretary of State’s website.
What is a Pledge of Ethical Practice?
I am not an attorney and therefore, by law, I cannot explain or interpret the contents of any document for you, instruct you on how to complete a document, or direct you on the advisability of signing a particular document. By doing so I would be engaging in the unauthorized practice of law and could face legal penalties that include the possiblity of incarceration. Any important questions about your document should be addressed to the issuing/receiving agency or an attorney.
What is a Credible Witness?
As an alternative means of identifying a signing party, a credible witness may be brought in to verify the signer’s identity. This is a more difficult standard, because it requires having a third party involved in the process.
In order to use this method, a third-party witness must swear an oath and sign that the signing party to the document is who they say they are. The witness must be credible and personally known to you (see above on personal knowledge), and needs to provide identifying documents (see above on identifying documents) to prove their identity. Finally, both the signer and the witness must appear physically in front of you during the notarial act.
What does Confirm competency, knowledge, and voluntariness of the signer mean?
Another important function of the notary public is to identify that the person signing is doing so of their own free will. Being able to see and interact with the signer gives you the opportunity to confirm that the signing party intends to sign the documents in question, is competent to sign them, and is doing so voluntarily.
Examples of situations where the signing party may not be competent, knowing, or signing voluntarily include where the signing party:
Is signing under duress
Does not read and write the language of the documents being signed
Is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
Is mentally infirm
If you have doubts about the competency, knowledge, and voluntariness of a signer, you may ask questions and talk with the signer to get a better sense of their mental state. If you are not satisfied that the signer is competent, knowing, or signing voluntarily, you may refuse to perform the notarization.
What are the three parts of Performing the Notarial Act?
Once you have confirmed the identity and mental state of the signing party, the notarial act can take place. The notarial act consists of three parts: recording the act in a notarial journal, performing the notarial duty, and completing the notarial certificate.
Recording the act in a notarial journal
As of July 1, 2018, Washington State requires that all notarial acts be recorded in a notarial journal. The journal requirement protects notaries by creating a record of the notarial acts they perform. A brief description of the document being signed and the act performed, and The full name and address of each signing party, The signing party’s signature and a brief description of how you identified the signing party (“Driver’s license,” “Credible witness,” etc.)
Perform the notarial duty
Alongside recording the notarial act, it is important that you perform the duty that is being asked of you by the signing party and identified by the notarial certificate. The requirements for each of these duties are slightly different and are discussed below in more detail.
Complete the notarial certificate
An essential element to performing a notarial act is completing the notarial certificate, where your signature and seal will be placed. The certificate contains your verification of the act being witnessed. It may be a separate document, or it may be a section on an existing document.
Each certificate has a few required components that must be present. The components required for a notarial certificate include:
Venue: the state and county where the notarial act was performed.
“Statement of particulars”: the statement of which notarial act is being performed, which
must include who the signing party is, when they are signing, and what they are specifically attesting to.
Notary’s Signature: there should be a space designated for your signature.
Notary’s Stamp: there should also be a space designated for your seal or stamp.
How are electronic documents notarized?
Every party to the notarial act must still be physically present with you during the notarization. This means that even though the documents are electronic, the signing parties must still be signing these electronic documents on a computer in front of you. This is in contrast to another notary topic, known as remote notarization, where notaries may notarize documents over online communications software such as Skype, Facetime, or Google Hangouts. Washington law does not authorize notaries to perform remote notarizations.
Also, the journal requirement is the same for electronic notarial acts as it is for all other notarial acts: each notarial act must be recorded in your journal. As stated above, a notary’s physical journal must contain records of all notarial acts, including electronic notarial acts. Electronic notarial software may create an electronic journal as a duplicate, but even then, you must record the act in your physical journal.
What Notorial Acts Can a Notary Perform?
Notarial acts that a notary public may perform, includes:
Taking an acknowledgement
Witnessing or attesting signatures
Administering oaths or affirmations
Taking verification of oaths or affirmations
Certifying or attesting a copy
Receiving or noting a protest of a negotiable instrument
Certifying an event has occurred or an act has been performed.