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Commissioned Notaries Public for California



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Notary Definitions:

A Glossary of Terms

This information is provided as a courtesy and should not be construed as legal advice.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT: a notarial certificate used to prove the identity of a document signer who has personally appeared before the Notary and has signed or acknowledged signing the document;  the Certificate of Acknowledgment must contain specific State-required wording 


ADVANCE HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE: a document assigning someone to make health care decisions for another person (or specify treatment preferences) when he or she cannot make his or her own decisions


AFFIANT: one who swears or affirms something;  a person who is sworn to an affidavit, or gives evidence by way of an affidavit or deposition


AFFIDAVIT: a voluntary declaration of facts, written down and sworn to or affirmed by the declarant (or affiant) before a Notary Public or other officer having the authority to administer an oath


AFFIRMATION: a solemn spoken pledge upon one's personal honor, affirming the truthfulness of a statement


APOSTILLE: a certificate by the Secretary of State authenticating the signature and acting capacity (or position) of public officials on documents to be sent or used outside the United States


ATTORNEY IN FACT: a person who has received a Power of Attorney
allowing him or her to execute legal documents on behalf of the the document signer


BENEFIT or INTEREST: indicates the possibility of financial gain or loss (or other benefit) in a transaction;  family members are usually considered to have a financial or beneficial interest even if not specifically named in a document


COMMISSION: the authority issued by the California Secretary of State appointing a qualified person to be a Notary Public


COPY CERTIFICATION: a notarial act where the Notary makes and verifies a true and legally acceptable copy of an original document, such as Power of Attorney


CREDIBLE WITNESS: an impartial person with satisfactory evidence of identity appearing on behalf of a signer to establish the signer's identity;  unless the Witness is personally known by the Notary Public, two Credible Witnesses are required

DEED: a legal document transferring the title (or ownership) of real property from one person to another such as a Deed of Trust, a Deed of Reconveyance, or a Quitclaim Deed


DEPOSITION: an oral affadavit;  the sworn testimony of a witness prior to a court appearance or trial, usually notarized only by a Court Reporter


EXECUTE or EXECUTING: to sign and complete a legal document


GLOSSARY: an alphabetic list of terms or words relating to a specific subject with explanations (or definitions)

Copyright: pixelrobot / 123RF Stock Photo Proper ID requires a photograph, description, signature and ID number


IDENTIFICATION: a Notary Public must reasonably establish the identity of each signer;  according to the California Civil Code any one of the following items, if current or issued within 5 years, might be used for valid identification: 

1.  An identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles; or

2.  A United States passport; or

3.  Other California-approved identification card, consisting of any one of the following (provided that it also contains a photographdescription of the personperson's signature, and an identifying number):

  • ​​A passport issued by a foreign government, provided that it has been stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services;

  • A driver's license issued by another state or by a Canadian or Mexican public agency authorized to issue drivers' licenses;

  • An identification card issued by another state;

  • A United States military identification card with the required photograph, description of the person, person's signature, and an identifying number;

  • An inmate identification card issued by the sheriff's office or California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, if the inmate is in custody;  or

  • An employee identification card issued by an agency or office of the State of California, or an agency or office of a city, county, or city and county in California.

IMPARTIAL PERSON: one who has no beneficial interest in the document(s) being witnessed or notarized 


JURAT: a notarial certificate which verifies the identity of the signer, who signs the document in the presence of the Notary, and swears or affirms that the statements in the document are true;  must contain the specified State-required wording "Subscribed and sworn to before me..."



NOTARIAL ACT: the prescribed behavior of a Notary Public in performing his or her duties, which includes scanning the document for fraud (no blanks allowed), reviewing or providing the notarial certificate specified by the document creator, and verifying the signer(s)' identity, the date and venue (the state and county where notarization took place)


NOTARIAL CERTIFICATE: the State-specified wording which is part of, or attached to, a document to be notarized;  the Acknowledgement, Jurat, and Copy Certification all have the venue (the state and county), the date, specific wording, the Notary's signature and the Notary's official stamp; sometimes called a "loose certificate"


NOTARIO PUBLICO: in the United States, a "Notario Publico" is NOT the same as a Notary Public and may not be advertised as such


OATH: a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God, a revered person or thing, that one's statement is true, or to be bound to a promise



PARTY TO THE INSTRUMENT or TO THE TRANSACTION: someone who is mentioned in the document (or the instrument) by name, job title or classification, or who would have beneficial interest in the transaction being documented


PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE: being familiar with an individual over sufficient time and through enough interaction to verify that person's identity without reasonable doubt;  since January 1, 2008, not an acceptable form of identification for almost all notarial acts


PERSONALLY APPEARED: the requirement for all forms of notarization that the document signer is physically present in front of the Notary - at the same time, and at the same place


POWER OF ATTORNEY: a document which empowers an individual (the attorney in fact) to act or sign on behalf of another individual (the affiant)


SATISFACTORY EVIDENCE OF IDENTITY: to verify someone's identity a Notary Public requires

  • At least one form of identification issued by the United States government, a state, or tribal government that contains an identifying number, the individual's photographsignature and a written physical description, including height, weight, and color of both hair and eyes; or
  • The oath or affirmation of a Credible Witness, who personally knows bothe the Signer and the Notary Public; or
  • The oath or affirmation of two Credible Witnesses, who personally know only the Signer


SIGNING AGENT: a Notary Public with expertise in dealing with real estate loan documents


SUBSCRIBING WITNESS: a person who will prove (under oath) that the document signer (or principal), who is unable to appear before a Notary due to unforeseen circumstances, is the person described in the document, and that the subscribing witness saw or heard the principal acknowledge signing the document


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