When documents are notarized, certain procedures must be followed, and certain forms must be used. These forms must contain a specific type of "notarial word" depending on the type of notarial act that is being performed. One type of notarial act is an "acknowledgment." Read on to find out more about when and why an acknowledgment is used.
An ACKNOWLEDGEMENT certificate is the form most often completed by a notary. This certificate is commonly used when the receiver of the document needs to have the identity of the document signer verified. When a notary public completes this form, he or she certifies that:
1) The signer appeared personally before the notary public on the date indicated and in the county listed on the acknowledgment certificate. The notary may not back-date or pre-date the acknowledgment certificate. The signer can not "appear" by phone or by electronic means such as Skype.
2) That the notary verified the identity of the signer using "satisfactory evidence". This is most often approved government issued ID or possibly "credible witnesses" if the signer lacks proper identification.
3) That the document signer acknowledged signing the document.
If a notary completes an acknowledgment certificate that contains information that the notary public knows to be untrue (such as the wrong date, the signer did not actually appear, or the notary did not verify the correct identification), the notary public can be liable for civil penalties, administrative action and even criminal charges.
The notary public can not determine whether the acknowledgment certificate is the correct form for the signer's transaction. If the document does not include a notarial certificate, the signer must contact the agency or entity requesting the notarized document for directions. The notary may explain the different types of notarial certificates to the signer, but it is the signer's responsibility to choose the correct certificate.
NOTE: For an acknowledgment in California, the signer does not need to sign in the presence of the notary (the document may have been previously signed) but the signer must appear before the notary at the time of notarization and acknowledge that he or she did in fact sign the document.
Each state of the union has different rules and regulations governing acknowledgment certificates. This article focuses on when and how an acknowledgment certificate is used in California. Check with your state's Notary Division for specific laws governing these certificates in your state and for additional policies and procedures for notaries.
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Martine F Henry