Notary Bulletin

How Do I ... Determine Representative Capacity?

It is sometimes necessary for one individual to sign as a representative for another, usually as attorney in fact or guardian, or as a representative of a legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership or trust. Documents signed in a representative capacity generally require special acknowledgment certificates that specify who or what is being represented.

Depending on state law or the wording of the particular acknowledgment certificate, the Notary may or may not be required to verify the signer’s representative status. Some states do not give Notaries the authority to investigate and certify a person’s representative capacity, including the state of California.

Determining a signer’s authority to sign in a particular representative capacity may be done in several ways: through personal knowledge, by documentary proof or by vouching under the oath or affirmation of the signer or a credible witness.

As mentioned, some states do not permit a Notary to determine a signer’s representative capacity in this way. Nonetheless, if you live in one of these states, you may encounter certificates from out of state that require such proof. Completing these certificates may legally obligate you to verify that a signer is empowered to act as described in the certificate. Always use notarial certificates authorized by your own state.

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Quiz: The Many Types Of Notarial Acts

Notaries perform many different duties for the public — and it’s easy to lose track of the different acts and what states they’re authorized in. Test your familiarity with common — and uncommon — notarial acts.

(A link to the correct answers is provided at the end of the quiz.)

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