For Clients

What You Should Know About the Notarization Process

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.

Proper ID

(What to Bring)

Proper identification is required for any notarial service that requires verification of signature.  California recognizes the following types of identification as valid:

  • California Driver License or ID Card
  • A United States passport
  • Driver license or ID card (non-driver’s) issued by another state
  • Mexican or Canadian driver license issued by an authorized agency
  • US Military identification card (must include signature)
  • Foreign passport
  • California State, County, or City employee ID card (with photo, serial no., signature, and issue or expiration date)
  • The Consular card (must have physical description, photo, signature, serial#)
  • Federally recognized Tribal ID card (must have physical description, photo, signature, serial#)
  • Inmate ID card or wristband for incarcerated signers (county or state agency only)

All of these ID cards must be either current or issued within the last 5 years.  These are the only California-approved ID cards.

Should you be unable to provide one of these ID cards, you may be identified on the oath or affirmation of credible identifying witnesses who have their own approved ID card. Credible Identifying witnesses must have personal knowledge of your identity, believe it is not reasonable for you to obtain the approved ID, and be honest, aware, and impartial.

Are there different kinds of Notarial Acts?

The following are the notarial acts that can be performed in California:

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?

Apostille (pronounced ah-po-stee) is a French word which means a certification. In notary language, it refers to a certificate issued by the Secretary of State to authenticate the signature of a notary public and other public officers then placed on documents that are to be sent overseas. The Apostille certifies that the public official who signed the document is valid and authorized to be signer of documents like birth, death, and marriage certificates or the notary is current and performed a valid notarization.

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.


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