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Question & Answer Center

Here are some questions that are frequently asked by notaries public. For your convenience, we divided the FAQs into several categories. If an answer to your question is not listed below, please email us at members@usnotaries.com. Our members-only Help Center will research your question and respond within two business days.

Requirements for Proper Notarizations: Signatures

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  Can the signer sign the document with a signature stamp instead of an original signature?
Most states’ statutes recognize the effectiveness of facsimile signatures, so long as they are placed on the document by the signer himself or at his direction. If your state’s notary laws do not specifically prohibit a notary public from notarizing the stamped signature of an individual, the notary must still execute proper notarial procedures, which entails that the signer affix his stamp signature in the presence of the notary at the time of the execution of the notarization. Refer to your state notary statute for further information, or contact your state’s commissioning authority.
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  Because my boss travels frequently, he has a rubber stamp of
his signature. Can I notarize his document with his signature stamped on the documents when he is not in the office?
No. The document signer must personally appear before the notary at the time of the execution of the notarization. If your boss is not personally in front of you, face to face, at the time of the execution of the notarization, you must refuse to perform the notarial act. Furthermore, a notary may not take the acknowledgment of a signer by telephone or by any other means when the signer is not present.
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  A lawyer is insisting that I affix my seal on the signature line in lieu of my notary signature. Isn’t he wrong?
Yes. For the execution of proper notarial procedures, a notary public must sign the notarial certificate at the time of the performance of the notarial act and authenticate the notarial act with a notary seal. Failure to execute proper notarial procedures at the time of the execution of the notarization can create civil and criminal liability for the notary public.
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  I notarize about thirty or forty documents daily for my employer. Can I use a rubber signature stamp in lieu of an original signature?
Some states specifically mandate that their notaries public sign the notarial certificate with an original signature in the performance of every notarial act. Please consult with an attorney to determine whether a notary public in your state is permitted to use a signature stamp in the performance of his or her notarial acts.
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  If a notary used a signature stamp to notarize a document, does it invalidate the notarization of the document?
Some states prohibit their notaries public from notarizing documents with a signature stamp. However, the notary statutes in some states merely state that the notary shall sign and affix a notary seal to the certificate at the time of the execution of the notarization. Many states’ laws and courts have defined "signature," “sign,” and “signed” to include any symbol executed or adopted by a person with the present intention to authenticate a writing. The specific question that you have asked is a question of fact that must be addressed by a court that has jurisdiction to hear such matters. Please consult with an attorney to determine whether a notary public in your state is permitted to use a signature stamp in the performance of a notarial act.
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  Can I notarize my own signature?
No. The notary statutes in most states specifically prohibit their notaries public from notarizing their own signatures. Obviously, a notary public cannot take his or her own acknowledgment or administer his or her own oath.
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  How do I notarize a signature on a document that has
carbons? Do I have to notarize each copy of the original document?
No. After completing the notarial certificate on the document that is intended to be treated as the original, the notary public signs only the original certificate and authenticates the official act with a notary public seal. A notary public must never affix his or her original notary signature and seal to carbon copies or copies of a document being notarized.
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  Does notarizing a signer’s signature make the document “legal?”
No. The notarization of a document does not make the document legal or valid. The notarization of a document is intended to make the document “recordable.” The notary public is not responsible for the content of the document.
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  I work for a bank in the Community Development Finance department, and I was asked whether it is within a notary's authority to notarize a signature guarantee. Is it?
A notary public does not have the legal authority to “guarantee a signature.” Only an officer of a financial institution or a bona fide stock brokerage house has the legal authority to “guarantee a signature,” because the bank or brokerage making the guarantee has a legal obligation to the person who relies on the signature guarantee. Since you work for a financial institution, you may be in a position to provide a “signature guarantee” in your capacity as an employee of the financial institution, but not in the capacity of your office as a notary public.
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  Is a notary signature and the date of notarization required on all notarized documents?
Yes. The notary statutes in most states dictate that the notary public sign and affix a notary seal to the certificate at the time of the execution of the notarization. A notary public must complete the notarial certificate with the facts of the notarization, which includes the date of the notarization.
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  The principal signer is named on the document as “Joseph,” but the signer signed the document as “Joe.” Should I insist that his signature match the name reflected on the document?
Yes. The signature of the principal signer must agree with the name printed on the document.
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  I notarized 43 affidavits that I copied from a master copy, and they were not accepted because the affidavits did not have my original signature. Did I do something wrong by not signing every affidavit?
Some states legally require their notaries public to sign the notarial certificate with an original signature in the performance of every notarial act. Please consult with an attorney for legal advice.
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  A notary notarized a faxed signature without the signer being present. Is this a proper notarization?
No. A notary public may not notarize a faxed signature because a document that will be treated as an original must contain the original signatures of the signer and notary. Moreover, the performance of every notarial act requires the signer to personally appear in front of the notary public in the same room at the time of the notarization of the transaction. There are no exceptions to the legal requirements of “personal appearance” for the performance of a notarial act.
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  I work for a corporation, and they notarize documents in large quantities for a busy executive. If a notary is to have the author sign in front of them, what is the best approach for meeting their time restrictions and the law?
The performance of every notarial act requires the signer to personally appear in front of the notary public in the same room at the time of the notarization of the transaction. There are no exceptions to the legal requirements of “personal appearance” for the performance of a notarial act.
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  Do I have to register a copy of my notary signature anywhere?
Contact your state’s commissioning authority for instructions regarding your notary signature, because some states require their notaries to file a copy of their notary signature either with the commissioning agency or the county clerk’s office where the notary resides.
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