The purpose of an acknowledgment is to ensure the signer of a document is who they claim to be, and has voluntarily signed the document. Acknowledgments often are needed for documents concerning valuable assets, such as deeds, mortgages and deeds of trust.
To perform an acknowledgment, the signer must personally appear before you at the time of notarization to be positively identified, and to declare or “acknowledge,” that the signature on the document is their own, and that they signed willingly.
While it is common practice for your client to sign the document in front of you at the time of the notarization, it is not necessary. Your client may sign the document before bringing it to you and declare — or acknowledge — to you that the signature on the document is theirs.
A copy certification confirms that a reproduction of an original document is a “full, true, and accurate transcription or reproduction” of the original.
Documents requiring copy certification may include diplomas, driver’s licenses, leases, contracts, vehicle titles, Social Security Cards, medical records and bills of sale. To perform a copy certification, the person in possession of an original document (known also as the “document custodian”) takes the original document to a Notary. The Notary will typically make a photocopy of the document, and complete a certificate for the copy certification to confirm that the photocopy is a true, accurate and complete copy of the original.
While copy certifications are considered a common notarial act, nearly half of the states in the U.S. bar Notaries from performing this type of notarization. Make sure to check your state’s guidelines to see if you may certify copies. Of the states that do authorize this act, some stipulate that you may only certify copies of documents, not images or other items. Other states allow Notaries to certify copies of both “records” and “items,” such as graphs, maps or images. Many states also forbid the copy certification of vital, public documents, such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and deeds. And as a general practice, the Model Notary Act (Section 2-4) recommends against certifying copies of these types of documents. Certified copies of these documents may be obtained from the agency that holds the originals.
The purpose of a jurat is for a signer to swear or affirm that the contents of a document are true. Depending on the jurisdiction, it also can be known as an affidavit or a verification on oath or affirmation. For a jurat, the signer must personally appear before you and sign the document in your presence. You must then administer an oath or affirmation and have the signer speak aloud his or her promise that the statements in the document are true. The choice between an oath or affirmation should be made by the signer.
Administering the oath or affirmation is a vital part of performing a jurat or verification because the signer is affirming that the contents of the document are true, and he or she may be prosecuted for perjury if the contents are not true.
A number of states authorize Notaries to perform a signature witnessing. With this notarial act, you certify that the individual appearing before you is who he or she claims to be, and the signature on the record is the signature of the individual before you.
The main difference between a Signature Witnessing and an Acknowledgment is that you witness the document being signed. The main difference between a Signature Witnessing and a jurat, affidavit or verification upon oath or affirmation is that with a signature witnessing, you do not administer an oath.
Oaths & Affirmations
In some cases, a client may simply need you to administer an oath or affirmation orally rather than as part of a jurat, affidavit or other written document. The purpose of administering a verbal oath or affirmation is, again, to compel a client to truthfulness.
An oath is a solemn pledge to a supreme being. An affirmation is a solemn pledge on the individual’s personal honor. Again, the choice should be made by the signer.
Georgia Notary Marc R Lacrimosa
Georgia Notary Miranda E. Panter