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Information for new notaries

When performing a notarial act, there are 3 important concepts that a notary public must follow:

  • Personal appearance
  • Proper identification
  • Notarial certificates

Physical Presence

All signers must sign the documents to be notarized while in the notary public's presence. This is called "personal appearance." You can't notarize the signature of someone who contacts you only by mail, phone, or over the internet.

Proper identification

Before a notary may notarize a document, they must first confirm the identity of each party signing the document. There are 3 ways to properly identify a signer:

  1. Acceptable ID documents
    The documents must:
    • Be current or expired for less than 3 years.
    • Be issued by a federal or state government.
    • Contain the individuals photograph, signature, and physical description.
  2. Personal knowledge
    This doesn't mean someone you were just introduced to. Ask yourself if you'd be able to describe your "personal knowledge" of the signer adequately when under oath in a court of law.
  3. On the oath or affirmation of a credible witness
    • You must know the credible witness.
    • The credible witness must know the signer.
    • The credible witness must identify the signer to you.

Notarial Certificate

As part of the notarial act, you are responsible for completing the notarial certificate, which is a section of the document that describes the act being performed. The certificate should include:

  • A statement of particulars:
    • A statement of particulars is the statement you complete and sign. It tells you what notarial act to perform, and describes for everyone else exactly what you did. (See RCW 42.45.140 for examples).
  • The date the notary act was performed.
  • Your signature
  • Your title ("Notary Public")
  • An impression of your seal or stamp (not required when certifying an oath for court).
  • The expiration date of your notary appointment.

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