Deeds, mortgages, and other important papers
often require the signature of a notary public. This can be
inconvenient if the document is sent to you at home or while
you are on vacation because you have to go out and find a
notary. This raises the question: Is notarization really necessary?
What does it accomplish, anyway? And what do you do if the
document is sent to you while you are in another state or
The certificate the notary signs is legally known as a "certificate
of acknowledgment" or "jurat". The certificate
of acknowledgment is the notary's verification that the signer
(a) personally appeared before the notary, and
(b) stated that he or she voluntarily signed the document
for the purposes contained in the document.
A document may be signed outside the presence of the notary,
as long as the signer personally appears before the notary
when requesting the notarization, and states that he or she
actually signed the document. It is not legal for a notary
public to acknowledge a document for someone who does not
personally appear before the notary.
The exact language of the certificate of acknowledgment is
not important, so long as it expresses the idea that the signer
personally appeared and acknowledged signing the document.
In some states, documents will not be accepted for recording
unless they are notarized. In other states, they may be recorded,
but will have limited legal effect without the acknowledgment.
For example, in some states a document affecting real property
is not deemed to give public notice unless it has been properly
acknowledged. Therefore, an unacknowledged document can be
recorded, but is does little good to do so.
Consequently, most documents affecting real property should
be properly acknowledged and recorded in order to gain the
protections provided by law against other parties who may
later challenge title or claim an interest in the property.
Acknowledging a document also makes it easer to admit it
into evidence in court proceeding, and can assist in proving
Who Can Sign Acknowledgment?
In most states, acknowledgments may be given before a notary
public, judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of the court, county
recorder, or justice of the peace.
If you are in another state when you need to acknowledge
a document, it should not be a problem. An acknowledgment
that is valid in the state where given is also valid in each
other state. Just have the document acknowledged by a notary
public in the state where you happen to be at the time.
It can be slightly more complicated in a foreign country,
because notary publics are sometimes regarded as high public
officials in other countries and may be unavailable for a
routine notarization or may be expensive. In such a case,
a local judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of the court may sign
the certificate of acknowledgment. You can also go to the
local U.S. Embassy to obtain an acknowledgment from an officer
of the U.S. Foreign Service, a consular agent, or other person
authorized by the U.S. State Department to perform notarizations.
Commissioned officers in American armed forces overseas can
also notarize documents for members of the armed forces and
Acknowledgments furnish very important protections, particularly
for documents affecting interests in real estate, such as
deeds, mortgages, deeds of trust, easements, and deed restrictions.
As a general rule, all recorded documents should be notarized.
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