Notaries who took our August quiz on jurats generally demonstrated strong knowledge of the notarial act, but one question stumped more than half our participants — the difference between an oath and an affirmation.
While more than two-thirds of all quiz takers correctly answered every other question, Question 2 — “What is the difference between an oath and an affirmation?” — proved to be a stumper. Forty-seven percent thought an oath was verbal and an affirmation was a signed promise in writing; 3 percent thought an oath is taken only in court while an affirmation is taken anywhere; and 2 percent thought an oath was a promise before a judge while an affirmation was a promise before a civilian.
Forty-eight percent of Notaries correctly answered that an oath is a declaration made to a higher power while an affirmation is a promise made on personal honor. Both oaths and affirmations carry the same legal effect.
Because individual signers have different personal beliefs, when executing a jurat a signer may prefer to take either an oath or affirmation declaring that the contents of a document are truthful — either is acceptable for purposes of notarization. The Notary may describe the difference between an oath and affirmation and let the signer choose based on personal preference. Of course, the Notary should never advise the signer, or decide for the signer, whether he or she should take an oath or affirmation.