Notarization 101 what you need to Know

I have often in my blog lamented partial notarizations, especially when the notary only stamps and signs the document. This installment from will cover in detail the proper format for a notarization done in New York State. Procedures and rules will vary from state to state, but most of the essentials are probably the same. I will cover the format from the top down, as it should appear on the page. Minor variations are acceptable; the definitive rules from New York State are available on the Notary Laws and procedures page of my web site.

Generally at the beginning of the document is the Venue, it may also appear later at the start of the notary section. The venue tells the location where the notarization was performed. It has nothing to do with the property address, as in the case of a mortgage. It is “related” to the notary’s stamp – more on that later. The Venue usually consists of two lines. The first, for me, is “State of New York”, as I can only notarize in New York State. The second is “County of ____” – this is the county where the document was signed and the oath was given. Both entries are required and often overlooked. Next, generally, is the body of the document which may be a mortgage, power of attorney or affidavit. At the end of the body of the document is the signature of the affiant. It’s a best practice to have the name printed under the signature line.

After the body of the document is the “Notary Section” – the venue may be here if not at the start of the document. After the venue is the statement by the notary. It tells what type of service the notary provided. The two main services are “Sworn to and subscribed before me” and “This instrument was Acknowledged before me”. In the former, the notary is saying that (s)he actually witnessed the signature. In the latter, the notary is saying that (s)he asked the affiant if (s)he signed the document and received a positive reply. Of course, in both cases, the affiant is required to show positive identification. The notary should add the name of the affiant and the date to whichever format, described above, is used.

After the notary statement is the signature of the notary. There is usually an area for “My Commission expires __________”, whereby the notary states the end date of the current notary commission. In New York State, all entries by the notary are required to be in black ink. After the signature, the notary will stamp their information. That stamp has their name, the statement “Notary Public, State of New York”, their commission number, the county where the notary is qualified and their commission expiration date. It’s required for the notary to use an embosser when a document might be used in a Federal Court, a different state, out of the country, or is required by the Uniform Commercial Code. As a I consider it a best practice to always emboss every notarization I perform.