Glossary of Notary Terms

Below is a list of commonly used Notary Public terms. These are not precise legal definitions. /center>
To admit the existence or truth of a statement and accept responsibility.

A formal declaration before an authorized official (a notary public) by a person signing an instrument that such execution is his or her free act and deed. The term also refers to the notary's certificate on the document indicating that it was so acknowledged.

Acknowledgment Certificate:
a written statement usually found on a document just below the signer's signature block that records and certifies the details of the acknowledgment notarial act that just took place. The certificate must contain a description of the site of the notarial act, the name(s) of the person(s) acknowledging their signing of the document, an indication that an acknowledgment notarial act was performed; and a statement that the signer personally appeared before the notary, understood the contents of the document and signed the document willingly. The notary also certifies the date that the acknowledgment was taken, signs the acknowledgment notarial certificate and places her notary seal on the certificate. By signing and sealing the acknowledgment certificate the notary certifies as an officer of the state that the acknowledgment notarial act described indeed took place.

To conduct the duties of a job or position. 2) particularly, to manage the affairs of the estate of a person who has died under supervision of the local court. 3) to give an oath, as in "administer the oath."

a person who signs an affidavit and swears to its truth before a notary public or some person authorized to take oaths.

Any written document in which the signer swears under oath before a notary public, that the statements in the document are true. A declaration under penalty of perjury which does not require the oath-taking before a notary, is the equivalent of an affidavit.

a solemn statement of truth made under penalty of perjury, equivalent by law to an oath, but without religious significance or reference to a Supreme Being.

To attach or impress the notary seal to a document.

Additional authentication required for international acceptance of notarized documents including (but not limited to) adoption papers, affidavits, birth certificates, contracts, death certificates, deeds, diplomas and degrees, divorce decrees, incorporation papers, marriage certificates, patent applications, powers of attorney, and school transcripts. Instituted by 'The Hague Convention Abolishing The Requirements Of Legalization For Foreign Public Documents' of 1961, its objective is obviate "the requirements of diplomatic or consular legalization" and thus replace the cumbersome 'chain authentication method' that called for verification by multiple authorities. As prescribed by the convention, an apostille (French for, notation) is a preprinted small (minimum 9 x 9 centimeters) form having ten numbered items of information with blank spaces to be filled in by the designated authority in the issuing country. It is obligatory upon every signatory country to accept apostilles of the other signatory countries.

Principal's action that authorizes an agent to act on the principal's behalf. Disposing of a property, by exercising powers conferred for the purpose.

To bear witness to or to certify.

Verification of the genuineness of a document or signature, to make it effective or valid. It usually takes the form of a sealed or stamped certificate that confirms the authority of a public official (such as judge or a notary public) or of a signatory.

Written declaration documenting a fact or evidencing the result of a certification exercise. It can also be an official document attesting conformity with a legal requirement or the performance of an act, such as a certificate of compliance or a certificate of incorporation.

Certified Copy:
Reproduction of a document or record, authenticated by the issuing authority or a competent third-party (such as a notary public) as a true facsimile of the original.

To authenticate or attest as being true or as represented.

Civil Action:
Any lawsuit relating to civil matters and not criminal prosecution.

Civil Liability:
Potential responsibility for payment of damages or other court-enforcement in a lawsuit, as distinguished from criminal liability, which means open to punishment for a crime.

A supplement or addendum to a will.

To force into submission or compliance.

Closing Agent:
Closing agents can be the lender, escrow, title, closing service companies, etc. A closing agent actually performs the closing process, which includes disbursement of funds, the issuing of title insurance, if applicable and recording of the deed. In addition, the closing agent, if a notary, can also notarize the applicable documents in the loan package.

Commercial Paper:
Promissory note (issued by financial institutions or large firms) with very-short to short maturity period (usually, 2 to 30 days, and not more than 270 days), and secured only by the reputation of the issuer. Rated, bought, sold, and traded like other negotiable instruments, commercial paper is a popular means of raising cash, and is offered generally at a discount instead of on interest bearing basis.

The certificate issued by the Governor verifying appointment as a notary public and authorizing the notary public to perform the official acts of that office. The commission also bears the commission number and the beginning and ending dates of the term of appointment.

Credible Witness:
A believable witness worthy of confidence. Creates a chain of personally known individuals from the notary public to the signer of a document.

Custodian of the Document:
The person who has charge or custody of the document. In the case of making an attested photocopy, the "document's custodian" is the person presenting the document, who may or may not be the document signer.

a document by which a person conveys (transfers) real property.
   Quitclaim Deed:
A deed intended to pass any title, interest, or claim which the grantor may have in the real property, but not professing that such title is valid or containing any warranty for title.
   Warrenty Deed:
A deed in which the grantor warrants or guarantees good clear title to the real property

The person giving testimony in a deposition.

The testimony of a witness, under oath or affirmation, taken outside of court in which lawyers ask oral questions of the deponent. The testimony is usually reduced to writing and duly authenticated and is intended to be used in a trial of a civil action or a criminal prosecution.

Digital Signature:
A specific type of electronic signature used to denote encryption technology. It is a process that provides for a secure signature on an electronic document, one that can prove the signature belongs to the person who signed it, and that can be associated with the document in such a way that any modifications to the document invalidate the signature. (not allowed in California)

A device, that when squeezed together with paper between the jaws, makes indentations on paper. Not an official notary seal; but may be used in addition to the official notary seal.

Execute a Document:
To perform all formalities necessary to make a document fully effective. This is often a matter of just signing, but may also require a notarial act, delivery, or other element.

A person in charge of carrying out the provisions of a will.

Free Act and Deed:
Sometimes found in acknowledgment notarial certificates to indicate that the signer was not coerced into signing the document.

A person who receives the deed of real property from the grantor, i.e., generally the buyer

The person who transfers a deed of real property, i.e, generally the seller.

A person in charge or a minor and/or their property.

Identification Document:
In the event a notary does not personally know the signer, the notary may accept an identification document that is deemed acceptable by the State of California notary law.

A written document that requires a signature and a notarial act to be fully executed.

Journal of Notarial Acts:
Notarial journal prescribed by law to record notarial acts.

The portion of an affidavit in which a person has sworn that the contents of his/her written statement are true, filled in by the notary public with the date, name of the person swearing, sometimes the place where sworn, and the name of the person before whom the oath was made. A jurat is not to be confused with an "acknowledgment" in which the signer of a document such as a deed to real property has sworn to the notary public that he/she executed the document, and the notary signs and seals the document to that effect.

The locality where a cause of action occurs. The State and County where a notarization takes place.

An agreement between two parties, where one party is the owner of certain property and grants to another party the right to possess, use and enjoy such property for a specificed period of time in exchange for periodic payment of a stipulated price, referred to as rent.

One who rents property from another.

One who rents property to another.

L.S. (locus sigilli):
Indicates where the official notary seal imprint is to be placed. Latin term Locus Sigilli means "place of the seal".

Loose Certificate:
A document with notarial wording that is separate from, and attached to, the document being notarized. It is used when no wording is provided on the document, when that provided wording does not comply with the state's requirements, when there is no room for the notary seal on the document, or when a preprinted certificate has already been used by another notary in the case of multiple signers.

A legal right or security attached to real estate or personal property until the payment of some debt, obligation, or duty.

A lawsuit or legal action

The doing of an act which is a person ought not to do at all.

The improper doing of an act which a person might lawfully do.

Mortgage on Real Property:
A document creating a lien on a property.

The failure to use such care as a reasonably prudent and careful person would use under similar circumstances.

Notarial Act:
An official act that a notary public is authorized to perform by statute.

Notarial Certificate:
A written statement signed and sealed by the notary public certifying the facts of the notarial act performed immediately prior to filling out the notarial certificate.

Notary Journal:
An official record book of notarizations performed by a notary. Required by law in the many states and officially recommended in most states. All entries must be in chronological order and have all required fields completed at the time of notarization. If must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary and kept in locked and/or secured area.

Notary Public:
A person commissioned by a state government to serve the public as an impartial witness with duties specified by law. The notary has the power to witness the signing of documents and to administer oaths.

Notary Seal:
An official stamp or embosser used by a notary to seal notarizations. It must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary.

Notary Signing Agent:
a Notary Public that is trained to do loan document signings.

Any form of attestation or pledge by which a person signifies that he or she is bound in conscience and out of a sense of responsibility to a Supreme Being to the truthfulness for some statement. Willfully swearing to untrue statements constitutes perjury.

Making a false statement under oath or affirmation. Perjury is a crime punishable by a fine and/or prison term.

Personally Known:
Having an acquaintance derived from association with an individual, which establishes the individual's identity with at least a reasonable certainty

Power of Attorney:
A written document signed by a person giving another person the power to act in conducting the signer's business, including signing papers, checks, title documents, contracts, handling bank accounts and other activities in the name of the person granting the power. The person receiving the power of attorney (the agent) is "attorney in fact" for the person giving the power. There are two types of power of attorney: (1) general power of attorney, which covers all activities, and (2) special power of attorney, which grants powers limited to specific matters, such as selling a particular piece of real estate, handling some bank accounts or executing a limited partnership agreement. A power of attorney may expire on a date stated in the document or upon written cancellation. The signer acknowledges before a notary public that he/she executed the power, so that it is recordable if necessary, as in a real estate transaction.

Reasonable Care:
The degree of care which a person of ordinary prudence and intelligence would exercise in the same or similar circumstances. Failure to exercise such care is negligence.

Recordable Document:
A document that the recording authority (clerk of the county court, for example) is authorized to record, usually by state statute. Certified copies of a recordable document may not be made by a notary public. A certified copy of a recordable document must be obtained from the recording authority.

Representative Capacity:
Having the authority to act for and on behalf of a person, corporation, partnership, trust, or other entity as:
  • An authorized officer, agent, or partner;
  • A public officer, personal representative, or guardian;
  • An attorney-in-fact for a principal;
  • An authorized representative or in any other capacity recited in the instrument.

    S.S. (scilicet):
    "To wit, namely" in Latin. Archaic term generally used to indicate the exact location of the performance of a notarial act. "S.S." is usually found near the venue on a notarial certificate.

    Satisfactory Evidence:
    Any one of the acceptable forms of identification specified in California Civil Code section 1185 providing that the notary does not have any information, evidence, or other circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person making the acknowledgment (or taking the oath) is not the person he or she claims to be.

    The penalty for noncompliance specified in a law or decree.

    Signing Agent:
    A Notary Public who has been trained to handle the execution and notarization of mortgage, refinancing and real estate transactions.

    Signing Service:
    A company who subcontracts signing appointments to "Loan Document Signers" (Notary Public) for signing of loan documents and notarization. The sole purpose of this company is to act as a "Go-between" company, between the client and the notary public.

    Solemnize the Rites of Matrimony
    To perform a marriage ceremony.

    a law established by legislation.

    Statute of Limitations:
    A law that sets a time limit on initiating criminal prosecution or a civil action.

    A writ that compels a person to testify in a proceeding.

    To sign one's name in attestation, testimony, or consent.

    To take an oath.

    The person making a will.

    Testimonium Clause:
    At the end of many documents and certificates that follows the form "witness my hand and seal" or some variation thereof.

    The location of the notarial act, usually stated in the form:
    COUNTY OF________

    A confirmation of the truth of a theory or fact.

    Vital Record:
    An original document held by a state agency (or sometimes also held by the county of record) having to do with the birth, marriage, divorce, or death of an individual. Some states will include adoption documents and codicils made to correct mistakes on an original record as vital records. A certified copy of a vital record must be obtained from the agency that holds the original vital record. In California, a notary CANNOT certify a copy of any vital record.

    Waiver of Fees:
    A statement which waives or gives up the right to charge for notarial services.

    An instrument by which a person makes a disposition of his or her property, to take effect after his or her death.

    To observe the execution of, as that of an instrument, or to sign one's name to an instrument, to authenticate it (attest it).