Notary Bulletin

Hotline Tip: Can I Determine A Signer's "Representative Capacity"?

Notarial wording — whether preprinted on a document or as loose certificates — often lists a signer's title, such as "John Smith, President of ABC Inc." This designation is called the signer's "representative capacity," and notarizations with this designation need to be handled with care. That wording on an acknowledgment or jurat means you are "certifying" that John Smith is the President of ABC Inc., and you have no way of verifying such representative capacity.

In California, for example, Notaries are prohibited from certifying capacity. If the wording of an out-of-state certificate includes the signer's capacity, replace it with a loose certificate that does not mention the client's title or role.

In other states, when you encounter paperwork that lists capacity in a company and your signer doesn't have proof of that, you still can notarize for the person as long as the notarial language in the certificate makes no such assertion.

Signers can write their name and anything else after it without the Notary requiring proof. All the Notary is doing is verifying identity. You're not vouching for or certifying capacity, and the notarial certificate will reflect that.

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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.)

Confronted with a tricky notarization? Unsure how to proceed? NNA members have unlimited access to our expertly trained Hotline counselors to help you with all of your notarial questions.

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