By Michael Lewis
The California Secretary of State’s office issued a statement this month informing Notaries that they are not allowed to correct mistakes on a notarial certificate after a notarization is complete.
While most Notaries are diligent in carrying out their duties, they are not immune from occasionally making errors in completing a notarial certificate — such as inserting incorrect dates, misspelling names or writing the wrong county in the venue. According to the state’s one-paragraph notice in the latest issue of the agency’s Notary News, “If you discover an error in a notarial act after completing the act, then notarize the signature on the document again.”
The NNA first became aware of this issue in 2012 when a member reported that she was being investigated by the Secretary of State’s office for correcting errors on certificates. But this is the first time the state has published its official position.
The Secretary’s position means that if you discover a mistake after leaving the signer, you must meet with the signer again and complete a new certificate of acknowledgment or jurat. At that time, you will need to go through all the steps required by law of a proper notarial act, including positively identifying the signer and completing a full journal entry for the transaction. Essentially, you must perform a new notarization.
The Secretary’s statement noted that “there are no provisions in the law that allow for the correction of a completed notarial act.” However, the agency views correcting certificates after the fact to be a form of backdating, which is a possible criminal act and official misconduct under the law and could result in your commission being suspended or revoked.
Signing agents are particularly susceptible to making inadvertent clerical errors on notarial certificates because of the large number of documents contained in a loan package. Signing agents should take special care to review all the loan documents carefully at the signing table before leaving the signer to make sure everything is completed correctly.
Michael Lewis is Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.