Online Notary Course  for California

Part 3, Section 1

 By taking an acknowledgment, the notary is: 

  • Stating that the signer appeared in person before the notary and presents a document
  • Verifying that the person who signed the document has satisfactorily proven their identity

These two elements must occur at the same time and in the same place.

It doesn’t matter if the document was signed that day, the day before, or the year before, the signer just needs to verbally acknowledge that he or she signed it.  If the document is signed in your presence, you need not take a verbal statement of acknowledgment. 

These requirements are steadfast and you must insist that each and every one be adhered to.  It is your duty as a Notary Public to reasonably ensure that the person signing the document is not an imposter who is fraudulently signing under someone else’s name. 

Personal appearance by the signer is crucial and you must insist on it each and every time. If the signer did not appear before you and you complete the acknowledgement anyway, you could be held liable for the execution of a fraudulent notarial certificate, and you could face severe penalties.

Before you sign the acknowledgment form, it is a good idea to make a habit of briefly reviewing the document to make sure there are no blank spaces, as you cannot notarize a document that is obviously incomplete.  Also, if the document is pre-dated, the date must be on or before the date of your notarial act. 

The notarial certificate must always be dated on the day of the notarial act.  Never “back-date” or “future-date” a notarial certificate, no matter how much someone may want you to do so.

A California Certificate of Acknowledgment must be in the form set forth by California law.  No variations to this form are allowed.  If you are asked to complete a Certificate of Acknowledgment that does not use this wording, you must attach a loose Certificate of Acknowledgment that complies with the law.

State of California               )
                                            ) ss.
County of (where the           ) 
acknowledgement is 
being signed)
On (date) before me, (your name, Notary Public), personally appeared
 __(name(s) of signer(s)_____________________________________, 
who proved to me on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the 
person(s) whose name(s) is/are subscribed to the within instrument and 
acknowledged to me that he/she/they executed the same in his/her/their 
authorized capacity(ies), and that by his/her/their signature(s) on the 
instrument the person(s), or the entity upon behalf of which the person(s) 
acted, executed the instrument.
I certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of 
California that the foregoing paragraph is true and correct.
WITNESS my hand and official seal.
Signature _____(your signature)_________                                (Seal)
Civil Code § 1189
  • Note that you are signing your acknowledgment “under penalty of perjury”.  A notary public who willfully states as true any material fact known to be false can be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
  • Because of the potential for fraudulent use, never let a loose acknowledgment go
    without it being attached to the document you have notarized.
  • Line out all inapplicable information in the statement of particulars on the acknowledgement. 
    For example, if you are notarizing the signature of only one man, you line through the pronouns “she/they” and
    “her/their” and line through any indications of a plural “(s)” or “(ies)” and the verb “are”. 
  • Your signature on your notarial certificate must be written by hand in ink.  Signature stamps
    are not acceptable.
  • Sometimes very little room is left for your notarial seal.  If there is not enough room next
    to your signature, you may place your seal in a margin,  getting as close as possible to your
    signature, or simply complete and attach a loose notarial certificate.
·     Never, ever, sign and stamp a notarial certificate ahead of time.  It may seem like a time-saver 
to keep certificates on hand that are already signed and stamped and ready to fill out, but if 
one of those certificates got into the wrong hands, your certificate could be used for 
fraudulent purposes and you could be held fully liable for any damages caused, as well as 
facing administrative actions by the Secretary of State.  
Filling out the acknowledgment form is usually a very simple matter, but one that does require your full 
attention.  A simple mistake or blank space left on the acknowledgment form could cause rejection of 
the entire document, which of course could cause a great deal of inconvenience, and time and money lost.

If you are completing an acknowledgment form for a state other than California, you may use any
acknowledgment form that state requires, so long as you do not need to make a determination as to the
representative capacity of the signer (for example, the president of a corporation). 
Civil Code § 1189(c)

If you are presented with an acknowledgment form that is unfamiliar to you and you are not sure if you
should use it or not, simply complete and attach a loose Certificate of Acknowledgment in the above format.

The letters “ss.” adjacent to the venue on notarial certificates is an abbreviation of the Latin word
“scilicet”, which means “in particular” or “namely”.  If you come across a notarial certificate that does not
have these letters, do not worry.  This abbreviation is not required and the notarial certificate would still be
considered valid.

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All rights reserved. Revised: 07/14/09.