Understanding Notary Basics:
In Pennsylvania, notaries public are authorized to perform several official acts.
To dispel a long-held myth let me state that simply notarizing a document does not make it legal.
Below is a list of some of the more common forms and documents, and a brief description of when they are used.
- Oath – An oath is a declaration, usually based on an appeal to a higher power, that the maker will keep a promise or perform a duty faithfully. An oath involves swearing to a Supreme Being. The individual taking the invites the punishment or retribution of this higher power upon him or her if the promise is broken.
- Affirmation – A pledge that is equivalent to an oath-but without reference to a Supreme Being-is called an affirmation.
- Affidavits – An affidavit is a voluntary, written, sworn statement signed by a customer in your presence. Voluntary because it is taken by the notary at the customer’s request. However, voluntary does not necessarily mean optional. Often the customer signs an affidavit because it is required.
- Verifications – A verification is a formal act or statement that confirms the truth or correctness of something. In notarial terms, it is a sworn, written declaration-attached to or located at the end of a document-that the contents of a document are accurate. Because a verification is a voluntary, sworn written statement, it is often confused with an affidavit.
- Acknowledgments – An acknowledgment is a method of authenticating a signature on a document. It is a declaration made in a notary’s presence by an individual who signed a document. The individual appears in person to declare that he or she did, in-fact sign the document and knew what he or she was doing at the time, thereby authenticating the signature. A written form of acknowledgement, completed by the notary confirms the individual’s identity and intention to sign the document.
- Certificates – A certificate is a written statement made by a notary to indicate that something is true or accurate or that an event took place. Because a certificate is the notary’s statement, they are responsible for its accuracy. Therefore, the notary can only certify what they know to be true.
- Depositions – A deposition is an involuntary, written, sworn statement made by their customer in their presence. Involuntary because it is taken by the notary as ordered by a court of law or an attorney.
- Protests – When a negotiable instrument such as a check, a money order, or a traveler’s check is presented for payment and payment is denied, the instrument is said to be dishonored. The holder of the dishonored instrument may then ask a notary to issue a protest. A protest, also called a certificate of dishonor, is a notary’s written statement that, upon presentation, a negotiable instrument was neither paid nor accepted.
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