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  • Writer's picturejsiegelhill

Understanding the Notary Process in Virginia: the Basics

Updated: Jun 28

If you have a contract that you want to be notarized or you have been told it needs to be, there are several things to know in advance of your notary appointment. In this article, I will explain the two primary notarial acts we use in Virginia and considerations for how the notary verbiage is applied. Contract basics In general, a contract is legally binding in itself and does not need to be notarized; however, if a dispute were to arise between the parties, a notarized contract would be beneficial. Proper notarization of a contract would prove that the signed parties entered into the contract and did so willingly. What makes a contract real? In short, a valid, written contract should contain the parties' full legal names and signatures. Whether the parties' signatures are handwritten or electronic, they should also be dated to indicate the date that the contract was entered into. What is the process of notarization?

The signers must provide proper identification according to their own state rules so the notary can confirm the identity of all signers. Once the notary has verified their identities, they observe the signers making each required signature. The notary must also verify that all blank lines in the document are completed. What happens when the required notary wording does not appear in the document? When does the notary attach their own notarial certificate? Suppose the signer has their contract in hand but there is no notarial wording on the document. Many people think that notaries can just sign and place their seal on the contract. Not true. In Virginia, the required notarial block or "certificate," as it is called, must contain seven essential elements. These details include the notarial statement; the date of the notarial act; the location of the notarial act; the expiration date of the notary's commission; the notary's signature; the notary's registration number; and their seal. If there is no notarial block on the document, the notary needs to attach a separate certificate form, which we refer to as a "loose certificate." Each of the following circumstances is cause for the notary to attach a loose certificate: - When the certificate provided does not comply with state requirements - When the certificate provided calls for an act the notary cannot perform in their own state - When there is no room for the notary's seal - When there is no room for the notary's signature - When there are multiple signers appearing at different times - When there isn't enough room for the names of all the signers What is the process for attaching a loose certificate? In Virginia, the two most common types of notarial acts are the Acknowledgement and the Jurat. When the notary is to attach a loose certificate, the standard practice is to ask the signer what type of notarization they need. The notary is not authorized to make this determination. If the signer is unsure, they must ask the assigning party. Notaries should carry loose Acknowledgements and Jurats for this purpose and it is our job to describe the purpose of each one so the signer can choose one. The notary fills out the certificate. When the contract is signed, the notary completes the loose certificate, making sure all information is accurate and that every space is completed. The loose certificate provides optional information, which we use to describe the document being notarized. It reads something like this: "This certificate is attached to a ___________ (title or type of document), dated _______, of ___ (number) pages, also signed by ________________ (name[s] of other signer[s] if any)." This makes it harder for the certificate to be used fraudulently on another document. Attach the certificate to the document. Once the certificate is complete, the notary should staple it to the document. What is the difference between the Acknowledgement and the Jurat? The Acknowledgement and the Jurat are different notarizations with different purposes, and each one requires its own wording. And Acknowledgement will contain the words, "acknowledged before me" or something similar. The Jurat contains the words, "subscribed and sworn to (or affirmed) before me." The Acknowledgement is a notarial certificate that declares that the signer has willingly signed a document. It requires the following steps: - The signer must appear before the notary. - Notary positively identifies the signer according to their state rules. - It is acceptable for the signer to have signed the document either prior to appearing before the notary or in their presence. If the signer has already signed the document, they must state that they willingly signed the document. The purpose of the Jurat is for the signer to swear or affirm to the truthfulness of the contents of the document to the notary. A Jurat requires the following steps: - The signer must appear in person before the notary and sign in their presence. - The notary must administer an oath or affirmation and the signer must respond out loud. Summary Contracts can vary widely in their complexity, but a notary's job is simple and straightforward. These necessary steps will ensure that the notarization of your contract is done properly and in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. June Siegel-Hill January 1, 2024

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