As a notary, the most important job you have is protecting the public against identity theft. Your most basic and important job is to authenticate identity. Below, we give you ten important steps you should follow when performing notarial acts.
- Always get proper identification that is issued by a governmental agency such as a driver's license or passport.
- Examine the document. Though you as the notary are not generally concerned with what's in the document, you want to ensure that there are no changes or blanks left unfilled. If there are blanks, cross them out and have the signer initial.
- Make sure the signer understands the document and its intention. You may also read the document to the signer if they cannot read, do not seem to understand or are disabled.
- Make sure that the date on the document is no later than the date of notarization.
- Ensure that all signers appear before you. If all parties cannot all be present, your notarization should reflect only those who appeared in your presence. Those not present will have to obtain a separate notarization for their signatures.
- Make sure that all signers to the document that you are notarizing sign your notary journal exactly as they signed the document.
- Obtain all necessary information in your journal for accurate records.
- Be sure the facts in the notarial certificate are accurate as well.
- Have all signers sign the document or if signed previously, acknowledge that it was previously signed. If the signer must acknowledge that it was signed previously, ask them aloud "do you acknowledge that this is your signature and that you understand and willfully signed this document?"
- Keep the contents of the document confidential.
With this checklist in mind, your notarizations should pass an authenticity check and help to protect the public as well as yourself as a notary.