California Notary Law Update – Senate Bill 1050

Effective January 1, 2015, the forms and wording of the California Acknowledgment, Jurat and Proof of Execution certificates are changing to include the following consumer disclosure:

“A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.”

While this may seem an unnecessary adjunct to the notarial certificates, which after all already include prescribed notarial verbiage that state the limits clearly, the intent of SB 1050 is to reduce fraud by including a clear consumer notification statement as to the limited effect of a notary’s seal and signature.

2015 CA Acknowledgment
2015 CA Jurat

law_scaleCalifornia does love its consumer disclosures! Just how many states feel it’s necessary to advise the consumer that drinking gasoline can be harmful and put a sticker on the pump to warn them?

But seriously, in this case I can see the value of such a disclosure.
As a California notary, I am frequently approached by customers with out-of-state or foreign documents that request the notary public do something that would be in violation of CA notary law.
The laws that govern notaries vary from state to state.  The document originators usually prepare the document to be compliant with their own states notary law.  When the document is signed in another state, the notarial act must follow the states laws where the signing takes place.  The customer is often frustrated and doesn’t understand why we can’t “just stamp it.”

By law, a document notarized in California must contain prescribed notarial verbiage.  If it doesn’t, and many out of state / foreign documents either lack the verbiage or their states verbiage is deficient by CA standards, it must be corrected by either attaching a loose certificate or by stamping the verbiage on the document to make it compliant.

The exception to this rule is if the document requires an acknowledgment and will be recorded in another state.

Per the California Secretary of State:
“A notary public may complete a certificate of acknowledgment required in another state or jurisdiction of the United States on documents to be filed in that other state or jurisdiction, provided the form does not require the notary public to determine or certify that the signer holds a particular representative capacity or to make other determinations and certifications not allowed by California law.”

In California, we cannot certify copies of documents with the exception of Power of Attorney documents and our own notarial journal entries.  I am frequently asked to “notarize” or certify photocopies of identification documents; driver licenses, foreign passports, Permanent Resident Cards, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration forms for foreign passport renewals and other purposes.  California law prohibits that, but in many cases, an alternative procedure may be permissible:

Copy Certification by Document Custodian:
Copy certification by document custodian is the process where the holder of an original document writes a statement attesting to the accuracy of the photocopy  and their statement is then notarized. In effect, the owner of the document is certifying the document, not the notary public.
The statement may be hand written directly on the photocopy.  The custodian or holder of the document must then select which notarial act, acknowledgment or jurat, the notary will execute.  The notary will then perform the notarization and attach the notarial certificate to the photocopy.  If the photocopy has the room, the notary may stamp the notarial verbiage directly on the photocopy before signing and sealing.

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What will you need to bring for a notarization?

Besides the document that requires notarization, you’ll need identification so the notary can certify your identity as the signer and the notarial fee.

Documents
Any document that requires notarization can be executed by the notary, but some have special requirements:

Out of State real estate documents
Recordable documents that transfer property (Deed of Trust, Mortgage, Grant Deed, Quitclaim Deed, Warranty Deed, etc) located in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Louisianna or South Carolina have witness requirements in addition to the notarial requirement.

  • Connecticut requires two witnesses (one may be the notary)
  • Florida requires two witnesses (one may be the notary)
  • Georgia requires one witness (it cannot be the notary)
  • Louisianna requires two witnesses (neither can be the notary)
  • South Carolina requires two witnesses (one can be the notary) The witness must also witness the notary’s signature in the acknowledgment / jurat certificate of the Deed of Trust / Mortgage even if there is no witness line.
  • Vermont requires one witness (it cannot be the notary)

Who can be a witness?
The witness is an additional person over the age of 18 that is not party to the transaction and is present to witness the signing of the document.

If your document has a signature line designated for a witness, it is recommended to call the originator of the document to get clarification on what they require.

Identification
In California, “Identity is established if the notary public is presented with satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity”. (Civil Code section 1185(a)).
The State of California 2014 Notary Handbook:
http://www.sos.ca.gov/business/notary/forms/notary-handbook-2014.pdf

The most common forms of identification:

  • An ID card or driver license issued by the State of California Department of Motor Vehicles
  • A United States passport

Also accepted provided it contains a photograph, description, signature and identifying number of the signer:

  • An inmate identification card issued by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody in California state prison
  • A passport issued by a foreign government, provided it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;
  • A driver’s license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency
  • An ID card issued by another state
  • A U.S. military ID card
  • An employee ID card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California.

Notarial Fee

In California, the fee a notary may charge is regulated by the state.  It is currently set at a maximum of $10.00 per notarized signature.

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What is a Notary Public and what do they do?

A Notary Public is a publicly commissioned officer of the state.  In California, Notaries Public are appointed by the Secretary of State and granted four-year terms.  They serve the public as an impartial witness and perform a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.  These acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts, and sometimes require the Notary to place the signer under oath to swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the information contained in the document is true and correct.

A Notary has three primary duties:

  • To verify the true identity of the signer of the document.
  • To establish their willingness to sign without duress or coercion.
  • To determine their understanding of the content of the document and the implications of signing it.

As official representatives of the state, Notaries Public certify the proper execution of many life-changing documents of private citizens.  Impartiality is essential and dictates that they not act in circumstances where they have personal interest, nor refuse service to any person due to race, nationality, religion, politics or sexual orientation.

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