Notary FAQ's

Q: What is a Notary Public?
A: A Notary Public is a public servant appointed by state government to witness the signing of important documents, acknowledgments, administering oaths and affirmations, and performing other acts authorized by law.
Q: Why are documents notarized?
A: Documents are notarized to deter fraud and to ensure they are properly executed. An impartial witness (the Notary) identifies signers to screen out impostors and to make sure they have entered into agreements knowingly and willingly.
Q: Does a document need to be signed in the presence of a Notary?
A: It depends. Documents requiring acknowledgments normally do not need to be signed in the Notary's presence. However, the signer must appear before the Notary at the time of notarization to acknowledge that he or she freely signed for the purposes stated in the document. On the other hand, documents requiring a jurat must be signed in the Notary's presence, as dictated by the typical jurat wording, "Subscribed (signed) and sworn to before me..."
Q: Can a Notary correct a name that has been misspelled on the document and on the notarial certificate?
A: Only the document signer has authority to make any changes on the document; likewise, only a Notary can correct the certificate.
Q: Can a Notary notarize a document with blank spaces?
A: No. Even if not addressed in statute, a prudent Notary should skim the document for blanks and ask the document signer to fill them in. If they are intended to be left blank, then the signer can line through them or write N/A.
Q: Can signatures be notarized on faxes or photocopies of documents?
A: Yes. A photocopy may be notarized as long as it bears an original signature, meaning that the photocopy must have been signed by hand. Therefore, a photocopied signature may never be notarized.
Q: Can a Notary notarize a document for a stranger with no identification?
A: Yes. If identification of a signer cannot be based upon identification documents (ID cards), a Notary may rely upon the oath or affirmation of one personally known credible witness, or two credible identifying witnesses who are strangers to the Notary. Effective January 1, 2008, every credible witness must present a valid state-approved ID to the Notary.
Q: Can a will be notarized?
A: It depends. A Notary should only notarize a will if clear instructions and a notarial certificate are provided. If the signer of the will is relying upon the Notary for advice on how to proceed, the Notary should refer the individual to an attorney.
Q: Can a photograph be notarized?
A: No. To simply stamp and sign a photograph is improper. A Notary's signature and seal must appear only on a notarial certificate (such as an acknowledgment or jurat) accompanying a written statement signed by another person.
Q: Can a Notary notarize a document in a language they cannot read?
A: Yes. As long as the notarial certificate and document signature are in a language the Notary can read, California Notaries may notarize documents written in languages they cannot read. However, under NO circumstances should a notarization be performed if the Notary and the principal signer cannot directly communicate in the same language.
Q: Can a Notary certify a copy of a birth certificate?
A: No. California Notaries are authorized to certify copies only of powers of attorney and, if requested by the Secretary of State, entries in their official journals of notarial acts. Instead, we can perform a "Certified Copy by Document Custodian", where the person holding an original document can certify that the copy they have made is a true copy of the original. Unfortunately, Vital records such as Birth, Death, and Marriage certificates still can not be certified copied in any way.