Oaths and Acknowledgments
OATH OR AKNOWLEDGMENT?
When you need to notarize a signature, the notary must perform one of two official notarial acts: take an acknowledgment from or administer an oath (or affirmation) to the document signer. These two acts have different purposes. The lack of understanding of these basic duties causes confusion and often leads to errors in notarizations, even among the most experienced notaries.
To make an acknowledgment, the document signer must personally appear before the notary public, and declare that he or she has signed the document voluntarily. The notary public should ensure that the signer understands the document and has not been coerced into signing. If there is any question about the signer’s willingness to execute the document or his or her understanding of the contents of the document, the notary public should refuse to notarize and perhaps refer the person to an attorney for legal advice.
The notary public will ask the signer, “Do you acknowledge that this is your signature and that you are executing this document of your own free will?” If the answer is yes, the notary public then should then complete a certificate which states that the execution of the document was acknowledged by the signer. Documents typically requiring an acknowledgment include deeds, mortgages, contracts, and powers of attorney (except those pertaining to motor vehicle titles).
OATHS OR AFFIRMATIONS
An oath or affirmation is administered to a document signer when the signer is required to make a sworn statement about certain facts. The signer personally appears to swear (or affirm) before to the Notary Public, an officer duly appointed to administer oaths, that the information contained in the document is true. A person who makes a false oath or affirmation is subject to criminal charges for perjury. Sworn statements are commonly used in affidavits, depositions, and applications.
A notarization requiring an oath begins with the administration of an oath or affirmation. The courts have held that there should be a verbal exchange between the notary and the document signer in which the signer indicates that he or she is taking an oath. An oath similar to one administered in court by a judge or bailiff would be sufficient. Or, the notary public may simply ask, “Do you swear (or affirm) that the information contained in this document is true?” After receiving an affirmative answer, the notary public complete a proper notarial certificate indicating that an oath or affirmation was taken.
If the document to be notarized contains a prepared notarial certificate, is important to look for the key words “acknowledged” or “sworn to” to tell you which notarial act is required. If there is no notarial certificate on the document, the signer must direct the notary public whether he or she wants to make an acknowledgment or take an oath. Unless the notary public is an attorney, the notary public is not authorized to advise a person which notarial act is appropriate for the document presented for notarization, and the notary public may not advise the person about the contents of the document.
The information contained on this page is based on the “GOVERNOR’S REFERENCE MANUAL FOR NOTARIES” available free to the public on the flgov.com website.
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