Powers and duties
Q1. What are the powers and duties of a notary?
A1. A notary’s duty is to be a neutral witness to the signing of documents. A notary makes sure that signers are who they say they are and have entered into agreements knowingly and willingly.
Notaries in Colorado can administer oaths and affirmations and certify copies. They can also take acknowledgements, depositions, affidavits, verifications, and other sworn testimony or statements. For more information, see the Notary Handbook (PDF).
Q2. What is a jurat?
A2. The word "jurat" is used to refer to the notarization of an oath or affirmation. Jurat is short for the Latin "juratum est," meaning, "It has been sworn."
Q3. What is the difference between an oath and an affirmation?
A3. Oaths and affirmations are both pledges sworn to before a notary public attesting to the truth of a given statement. An oath calls upon a supreme being as a witness, while an affirmation is made under penalty of perjury.
Q4. What is an acknowledgement?
A4. In an acknowledgment, the notary is guaranteeing that:
- The signer was in the notary’s presence.
- The notary identified the signer.
- The signer appeared to be willing and able to execute the document.
- The notary witnessed the signing of the document (called the "execution" of the document).
Technically, most acknowledgments don’t have to be signed in the notary’s presence. However, the best practice would be to have the client sign the acknowledgment in front of the notary. (See the Notary Handbook (PDF) for more information on this subject.)
Q5. Does the signer always have to be in my physical presence when I notarize a document?
A5. Yes. For every type of notarization, state law requires that the signer appear in the physical presence of the notary. You must also have satisfactory evidence of identity- evidence that signers are who they say they are. Violations of this requirement are the reason for more than half of all complaints filed against notaries.
Q6. What is acceptable identification or satisfactory evidence of identity?
A6. You must see an acceptable form of identification in order to have satisfactory evidence of identity.
Acceptable identification must:
- Be a current identification card or document issued by a federal or state governmental entity.
- Have a photograph of the signer.
- Contain the signature of the signer.
The notary can also accept a sworn statement from a credible witness as proof of identity. The witness must be personally known to the notary and state that he or she knows the signer.
Q7. What is a notarial certificate?
A7. A notarial certificate, also called a notarization, is a written statement of your actions as a notary. A certificate must be used in every notarial transaction. A certificate is your testimony about what you have done and witnessed in your official capacity.
The notarial certificate will have:
- A statement such as "subscribed and sworn to before me in the county of Denver, State of Colorado, by John Jones this 10th day of July, 2009".
- Your official signature and seal.
- The statement "Notary Public, my commission expires: January 31, 2012".
Q8. What must be in a notarial certificate?
A8. A notarial certificate must have:
- The location where the notarization took place or the venue of the notarial act. This includes the county (or city and county, in the case of Broomfield and Denver) and the state.
- When the notarization took place or the date of the notarial act.
You may not pre- or post-date any notarial certificate. There are no exceptions.
- What the notarial act was (oath or affirmation, acknowledgement, preparation of a certified copy).
- The notary's seal either embossed or rubber-stamped.
- The notary's commission expiration date (the exact month, day and year of expiration).
- The notary's official signature consistent with the signature that appears on the notary affirmation.
Q9. Are notaries restricted to a county?
A9. No. A Colorado notary public has authority to act anywhere in the state.
Q10. Can I notarize documents that came from outside the state?
A10. Yes. Documents originating from another state may be notarized as long as you perform the notarial act in Colorado and the signer appears before you.
Q11. Can I notarize documents when I am physically outside the state of Colorado?
A11. No. You can only perform notarial acts while you are physically in the state of Colorado.
Q12. Can a notary certify a copy of a birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificate, or a Certificate of Naturalization?
A12. No. The Clerk and Recorder of the county where the documents were originally recorded must certify documents regarding real property, marriages, or divorces.
In the case of divorce, the Clerk of the Court that issued the Decree of Dissolution of Marriage can provide a certified copy of the order.
The Vital Records section of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is the only place to get official copies of birth or death certificates.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides certified copies of Certificates of Naturalization. See "How Do I Obtain Certified True Copies of a Certificate of Naturalization?" on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Q13. Can I notarize a document that has spaces left blank?
A13. No. A notary should skim the document for blanks and ask the document signer to fill them in. If they are intentionally left blank, then the signer should put a line through them or write "N/A.”
Q14. Can I notarize a fax or a photocopy of a document?
A14. Yes. A photocopy or fax can be notarized, but the copy must have an original signature (it must be signed with pen and ink- the signature can’t be a copy).
A photocopied or faxed signature can be notarized as an acknowledgment if the original signer of the document appears before the notary. For example, the signer may have signed the original document in the past, but now only has a copy. The notary can take an acknowledgment from the signer that the signature on the fax copy is that of the signer.
Q15. Can I notarize a document that doesn't have a date?
A15. Yes, but if there is a space for a date it should be filled in with the correct date or lined through by the document signer. If the document simply doesn't have a date, you can notarize it and record in your journal that the document had no date.
Q16. Can I notarize my own document or signature?
A16. No. A notary public who has a disqualifying interest in a transaction cannot legally perform any notarial act in connection with such transaction.
A notary public has a disqualifying interest in a transaction if he or she:
- May receive directly, or as a proximate result of the notarization, any advantage, right, title, interest, cash, or property exceeding in value the sum of any fee properly received, or
- Is named, individually, as a party to the transaction.
In other words, if the document concerns you, or if you might benefit from it directly or indirectly, you cannot notarize it.
Q17. Can I notarize the signatures of my spouse, children, parents or other relatives?
A17. You are not prohibited from witnessing and notarizing the signatures of a spouse or other relatives. However, a notary public who has a disqualifying interest in a transaction cannot legally perform any notarial act in connection with the transaction. If the document were to be questioned for any reason, the notarial act may be looked at more closely than if the notary was not a relative.
In addition, if the witnessed document is one from which you might benefit, your right to receive that benefit may be jeopardized. To avoid questions about your impartiality as a notary as well as accusations of undue influence, it is always safest for a signer to find a notary that he or she is not related to.
Q18. How do I fix incorrect information on the document or on the notarial certificate?
A18. Only the document signer can make changes to the document.
Only the notary can correct the certificate. When you are correcting a notarial certificate, put a line through the mistake with ink, write the correction above or beside it, then initial and date the correction.