FAQ’s

Should I keep a notarial journal?

UCA §46-1-13 A notary may keep, maintain, and protect as a public record, and provide for lawful inspection a chronological, permanently bound official journal of notarial acts, containing numbered pages.

While Utah law does not require a notary to keep a journal, here is a good question to ask yourself when considering whether or not to keep one: How will you defend yourself in a court of law if a notarization is called into question? If your answer is: “My notary journal”, you would be correct. The journal is the only sure way you can prove you used reasonable care in your performance as a notary, and may also be used as irrefutable evidence that a correct notarization occurred. Without it, you’re on your own.

What is a Signature Witnessing?

UCA §46-1-2(13) A notarial act in which an individual (a) appears in person before a notary and presents a document; (b) provides the notary satisfactory evidence of the individual’s identity, or is personally known to the notary; and (c) signs the document in the presence of the notary.

This new notarial act allows for a notary to just witness a signer’s signature or confirm a signer’s identity, without placing the signer under oath or affirmation. This still requires the signer to physically appear before the notary. This will be helpful when the notarization does not require the signer to be placed under oath or affirmation for the document’s stated purpose.

What is a Jurat?

UCA §46-1-2(5)  A notarial act in which a notary certifies that a signer, whose identity is personally known to the notary or proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence, has made, in the notary’s presence, a voluntary signature and taken an oath or affirmation vouching for the truthfulness of the signed document.

Here is a simple breakdown of the definition:

  1. The signer is in the presence of the notary.
  2. The signer is either personally known to the notary or has proven by satisfactory evidence to be who he/she claims.
  3. The signer affirms or swears an oath attesting to the truthfulness of the document.
  4. The signer is voluntarily signing the document.

What is an Oath or Affirmation?

It’s a certification made by a vow or affirmation in the presence of the notary on penalty of perjury before signing a document. In other words, the signer(s) is attesting to the truthfulness of their action in signing the document. Here are two examples of how to perform an Oath or Affirmation:

Oath: “Do you solemnly swear that the contents of this document subscribed (signed) by you are correct and true?”

Affirmation (for those opposed to swearing oaths): “Do you solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that the statements made by you are true and correct?”

What is an Acknowledgement?

UCA §46-1-2 defines an acknowledgment as follows: a notarial act in which a notary certifies that a signer, whose identity is personally known to the notary or proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence, has admitted, in the presence of the notary, to voluntarily signing a document for the document’s stated purpose. You normally won’t hear someone telling you “I acknowledge that this is my signature and I affixed it without duress.” However if someone asks you to notarize a document that has already been signed by them, it’s prudent to ask “Is this your freely made signature?” before continuing.

What if the notarial certificate is from out-of-state?

Using a Jurat, Acknowledgment or Copy Certification that was printed in another state should cause you to pause before proceeding to notarize. First, make sure the language complies with Utah laws. If unsure use the sample Jurat, Acknowledgment of Copy Certificate on this site instead. Before replacing the notarial certificate, make sure you explain your decision not to use the pre-printed language to the signer.

What if there is incorrect information in the notarial certificate?

Make sure you initial any changes made to your notarial certificate, and make note of it in your journal as well.

What if I make a mistake on the notarial certificate, and someone tells me to fix it?

You and you alone must be the one to fix any mistakes on your notarization. If someone brings the mistake to your attention, let them know that you have to be the one to correct the certificate. Make and initial any changes needed to the notarial certificate; you do not have to create a new notarial certificate.

What happens if someone signing the document is the “attorney-in-fact” or has a power of attorney?

Utah law allows for someone claiming to be the attorney in fact to sign as the person they are representing. Most attorney in fact are not attorneys, rather they are a spouse, business partner or relative of the principal. You can require them to sign their name as well as the person they are signing for. For example:

Jane R. Smith
attorney in fact for
John Q. Smith, principal

More importantly, you will want to use notarial language that would not misrepresent who’s signature you were witnessing. Here is a link to the sample “Attorney-in-Fact” notarial language.

Who does the notarial bond cover?

Utah requires every notary be bonded in the amount of $5000. This money reimburses any person for financial losses caused by a notary’s mistake or misconduct. Once funds are paid to the victim the bonding company will seek to recover this amount from the notary. The notary may purchase an error and omissions policy, which may help with any honest mistakes a notary makes, however, this is not a requirement from the State of Utah.

What happens to my notary commission if I leave the employment of an office?

Except in the case of a State of Utah employees bonded before May 9, 2017 (who must surrender their notary commission upon leaving the state employment) you are still a notary! Never let an employer take your stamp, commission or journal upon termination. Employers mistakenly believe, if they paid for the commission they have the right to revoke it. This is not true, only the notary or the Lt. Governor has the right to cancel a notary commission. You are also under no obligation to reimburse the employer of costs associated with obtaining your notarial commission, stamp or bond.

Can I notarize the “capacity” of an individual?

Yes, in some cases representatives of companies are asked to sign papers on behalf of their organization. In this case you would use a notarial certificate reflecting this language. The signer would still sign his or her name; however, you would place their capacity after their name in the certificate. Here is a link to a sample certificate you may use.

Can I write notarial language on a document?

Yes, as long as it does not render illegible any information or signatures on the body of the document, you may write notarial language in. If it doesn’t fit, you may place it on the back or on an attached (stapled) document.

What if I don’t understand the terminology in preprinted notarial language?

Here are some examples and their translations:

Affiant …………. Affidavit Signer
Attest ………………………… Certify
Depose……………………….. Swear
Execute…………………………. Sign, Executing, Subscribing
Witness………………….. Witness
Instrument ……………. Document
Legalize…………….. Authenticate
Subscribe………………………. Sign Verification
Upon Oath………………….. Jurat

What if someone asks me to send them a new notarial certificate on something I’ve already notarized?

You should never send a completed certificate by itself because it could be attached to an unauthorized document. If you are re-doing the whole notarization, it’s like starting from scratch, and you would attest to a new notarial certificate that reflects the current situation.

What if someone wants me to use preprinted notarial language?

Many times you will see notarial language preprinted on a document before you complete the notarization. If this is the case, make sure it complies with Utah law. If it doesn’t use a certificate that does comply. If the individual asking you to notarize the documents demands you use their language, simply refuse service. The language you attest to should lawfully abide with Utah notary statute, anything that doesn’t is simply against the law, and you will be the only one to answer for this.

What if there is no notarial language on the document?

Utah notaries may not decide on their own which notarial language to use, whether it be a Jurat or Acknowledgment, however, you may describe the difference between the certificates to the signer and have them decide upon which to use.

What does this (§) symbol mean in a notarization?

These letters appear in the “venue” — location in which the transaction occurred — of the notarial certificate. It is an abbreviation for the Latin term “Scilicet” which means “namely” or “in particular.” This symbol is not a requirement when listing your venue, nor does it affect the validity of your certificate if it’s missing.

Can someone I authorize use my notary stamp?

Absolutely not. It is a criminal act to impersonate a notary and is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or both.

What if I no longer want to be a notary public?

Simply notify our office in writing via email, fax or mail. Include your commission and the date in which it is to be rendered canceled. Then destroy your notary stamp and commission.

If I live in Utah may I notarize documents outside of the state, or if I don’t live in Utah may I be a notary?

Utah law does not allow a notary to notarize documents outside of the state of Utah, nor can a non-resident of Utah be a notary, so if you move, you must resign your commission.

What if I’m asked to notarize something that names the notary in the body of the document?

Being named in a document means that the notary may not act as an impartial party. In other countries, notaries can be “civil notaries” which means they can go above and beyond what a notary in Utah can do. They can also attest to information outside of what is lawfully allowable for a non-attorney notary in Utah. If this is the case, unfortunately, only a notary who is also an attorney may attest to this information. Any notary that does attest to the language in the body of the document is both a. acting as an attorney, and b. naming themselves in the document. Both of these are against the law. All you can do is considerately and tolerantly clarify to the person requesting the notarization is that the powers of notaries differ radically from state to state and nation to nation, and refer them to their own legal counsel.

What if I have a criminal conviction, can I still become a notary?

If your conviction was a result of moral turpitude with any regard to forgery, counterfeiting or fraud, the Lt. Governor has the right to deny you a notary commission. When you apply for your commission you are asked to divulge any information regarding criminal convictions. If we determine your conviction to be notwithstanding to hold a notary commission we will likely deny your application and refund your money.

What is a copy certification?

Anyone can “certify” a copy of a personally kept paper by attaching a personally signed statement that it is identical to the original. Corporations and private institutions can certify copies of their papers by attaching a signed statement from an authorized employee and using the organizational seal or letterhead. However, only Notaries, county recorders, custodians of vital records, and certain other public officers may officially certify copies as agents of the government. A notary may not copy certify a publicly recorded document.

Can I notarize a document for a co-worker, family member or friend without seeing their ID?

Utah code says that a notary who “personally knows” or is familiar with an individual resulting from interactions with that individual over a period of time sufficient to eliminate every reasonable doubt that the individual is who the claim to be, you may notarize their document. Examples of such relationships would be; your in office co-workers who you’ve interacted with on a daily basis for a reasonable amount of time to establish you know who they are, a relative who you’ve known all your life, or a childhood friend. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask people you’ve only known for a short period of time to show you their ID, as you are still responsible for proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you knew this individual if your notarization is challenged.

What if the date on the document is after the date in which you are notarizing the document?

Prudence would cause you to ask the signer if they are aware of the anomaly, and would perhaps give you reason to refuse services, if they will not change the date. The signing date on the document should always precede or coincide with the date of notarization, since a document dated later than the notarial certificate could be questioned or even rejected by a recorder wondering how a document could have been signed after it was notarized.

Deeds, deeds and more deeds. Should I notarize these?

Bonding companies report that well over two-thirds of the lawsuits targeting notaries involve real estate deeds. As a notary, you should make it a point to double your caution in notarizing real property deeds; the nation would see a significant decrease in forged, coerced and incompetent signings. Just imagine that you see the words “Proceed Carefully” at the top of every deed you notarize. Then, take special pains to identify each signer and to make sure that the signer appears to be aware of the import of the document.

(2016 Sources: Utah Code Title 46, National Notary Association)