Signing by Design FAQ's

No, a Notary Signing Agent cannot provide documents, assist in the completion of your documents or give legal advise on your documents.

Notaries are prohibited from notarizing any document that is incomplete.  Any blanks should be filled in by the signer, lined though or marked as “not applicable”.

As public officials, Notaries serve an important role in the prevention of fraud and protection of the parties involved by following strict procedures in identifying a person and by acting as an official, unbiased witness for certain documents.  Notaries are not responsible for the truth, accuracy or legality of documents they notarize.

Notaries must perform all lawful and reasonable requests for notarization.  However, the following are some circumstances under which a Notary my decline service:

  • If the document signer is unable to produce proper identification
  • If the document signer is unable to produce credible identifying witnesses
  • If the document is incomplete or contains blank spaces
  • If the document does not provide notarial wording and the signer is unable provide instructions as such
  • If the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s willingness, mental awareness or has cause to suspect fraud
  • A  Notary Public may not perform notary services outside of the state that he/she is commissioned in.  In other words, an Arizona Notary may not travel to California or any other state to perform notary services unless they are also commissioned in that State.

A Notary Public is a person of honesty, credibility, truthfulness and integrity appointed by the State to service the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of acts related to the signing of important documents, taking oaths and affirmations and performing other acts authorized by law.  A Notary Public is not an attorney and may not give legal advice or assist a signer to draft, prepare, select or complete a document or transaction.

When a signer is unable to present proper identification, the signer may be identified on the oath or affirmation of one or two credible identifying witnesses.  If there is only one credible identifying witness, he/she must be personally known by the Notary; otherwise two credible identifying witnesses are required.  The witnesses, whether personally known or unknown by the Notary, must present valid identification.  In either case, each witness must swear or affirm that the following is true:

  • The document signer appearing before the Notary is the person that is named in the document
  • The document signer is personally know to the witness
  • The document signer does not have any acceptable identification
  • The witness believes that it would be difficult or impossible for the document signer to obtain acceptable identification,        and
  • The witness has no financial or beneficial interest in the document and is not named in the document

All individuals on documents to be signed and notarized are to be PRESENT at signing and must have PROPER IDENTIFICATION (see below)

  • Acknowledgements
  • Jurats
  • Oaths
  • Affirmations
  • Copy Certifications
  • Acknowledgements
  • Jurats
  • Oaths
  • Affirmations
  • Copy Certifications

A disabled person may sign a document by marking an “X” in the presence of two witnesses who personally know the signer and who have no interest in nor are named in the document.  The witnesses must present acceptable identification.

If you do not have valid identification, you may be identified by either one or two credible identifying witnesses who must produce acceptable identification. Only one credible identifying witness is required provided that individual is personally known by the notary, and is able to produce acceptable identification. Two credible identifying witnesses are required if neither of them are personally known by the Notary. They must also produce acceptable identification.  The witnesses must personally know you and take an oath attesting to your identity.  The witnesses may not have an interest in or be named in the document.

May Accept “Less of a Name” Than Appears On The Identification:

If the document reflects less of a name than what appears on the identification, the Notary may proceed with the notarization. For example, if your identification reads “Norton John Smith,” and the document reads “Norton J. Smith,” the Notary may accept your identification for that document because the “J” is defined.

May Not Accept “More of a Name” Than Appears On The Identification:

If the document reflects more of a name than what appears on the identification, the Notary may not proceed with the notarization. For example, if your identification reads “Norton J. Smith,” but the document reads “Norton John Smith,” the Notary may not accept your identification for that document because it does not define the “J.“”

The name on the identification must either match what is on the document or follow the “less but not more than rule” (see explanation above). If you cannot present acceptable identification, you may also be identified by one or two credible identifying witnesses (discussed above).

A marriage license, social security card, temporary driver’s license, or credit card with or without a photo, are not included in the acceptable forms of identification.

A copy certification is a notarial act in which a Notary certifies that a photocopy of an original document was made that is neither a public record nor publicly record-able.  The Notary must have access to a copy machine.  Example of publicly recordable documents that a Notary cannot certify-marriage records, birth certificates, death certificates, divorce records.

Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) regulations require organizations to protect themselves against unauthorized access, anticipated hazards and risks threatening the security or integrity of consumer financial information.  To comply with this law and the Inter-agency Guidelines that have been set, some financial and lending institutions have begun to require regulatory compliance training and background screening for all persons involved in the lending process and who render real estate settlement services.  Since Signing Agents have access to consumers’ private and financial information, many lenders now require notaries to received regulatory compliance training (typically a Certified Loan Signing Agent has satisfied the educational requirements) and to submit to a background check.

A Jurat is a notarial act in which the Notary certifies that a signer, whose identity is proven by satisfactory evidence, has made in the Notary’s presence a voluntary signature and has taken an oath or affirmation vouching for the truthfulness of the signed documents.  Some states refer to this as an affidavit.  The purpose of a Jurat is to compel truthfulness by appealing to the signer’s conscience and fear of criminal penalties for perjury.

A Notary Public is a public official commissioned by the Secretary of State to perform notarial acts.  A Notary,  in essence, serves as an impartial witness.  Government offices, businesses and the general public rely on the accuracy and integrity of Notaries.  A Notary is most commonly called upon to act as an official, unbiased witness to the identity and signature of the person who comes before the Notary for a specific purpose, and that they have taken all reasonable steps to verify a signer’s identify before notarizing that persons signature.

A Certified Signing Agent (aka Notary Signing Agent-NSA) is a commissioned Notary Public who has completed additional training in real estate and loan documents and passed an examination (in addition to the State examination) administered by an industry-recognized company such as the National Notary Association. A Notary Public who has earned the designation from the National Notary Association as a “Certified Loan Signing Agent” must submit to and pass an examination, testing their knowledge of notarial laws, the lending process, regulatory compliance, and the processing of loan documents. In addition, a National Notary Association Certified Loan Signing Agent must also pass a background check every two years. A Signing Agent is hired as an independent contractor by a Realtor, Lender, Title Company, or closing agent to ensure real estate loan documents are properly executed, notarized, and returned for processing.

An Acknowledgement is a notarial act in which a notary certifies that a signer, whose identity is proven by satisfactory evidence, appeared before the Notary and acknowledged that the signer freely signed the document.   If the document was signed outside the Notary’s presence, the document signer must make a personal appearance before the Notary to confirm it is their signature. This must be done prior to the document being notarized.

A formal legal declaration: a formal declaration acceptable in a court, usually made by somebody who has a conscientious objection to taking an oath

A solemn promise: a formal or legally binding pledge to do something such as tell the truth, made formally and often naming God or a loved one as a witness

Documentation must include the signers photograph, signature, identifying number, and a physical description that includes height, weight, color of hair and color of eyes.

  • An unexpired Driver’s License or Identification card issued by a State or Territory of the United States
  • An unexpired United States Passport issued by the United States Department of State
  • An unexpired United States Military Identification Card that is issued by any branch of the United States Armed Forces
  • Inmate identification card issued by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation if the signer is in custody
  • Any other unexpired identification card that is issued by the United States Government or a State or Tribal Government, that contains the individuals photograph, signature and a physical description

 For USA Real Estate Transactions for Canadian or Mexican citizens – a valid unexpired passport issued by a National Government other than the United States Government, and that is accompanied by a valid unexpired Visa or other documentation that is necessary to establish an individual’s legal presence in the United States.

Some of the commonly presented but unacceptable forms of identification are as follows:

  • U.S. Military Common Access Card
  • Green Cards – Permanent Resident and Border Crossing Cards
  • Social Security Cards
  • Credit Cards with or without Photographs
  • Temporary Driver’s license
  • Driver’s license without photograph
  • Marriage license
  • Birth Certificate
  • Organizational membership cards