Notary Public FAQs



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, witness signatures, affidavits, verifications, and other sworn testimony or statements. .

 

Q2. What is the difference between an oath and an affirmation?

A2.  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.

 

Q3. What is an acknowledgement?

A3.  In an acknowledgment, the notary is guaranteeing that:

  • The signer was in the notary’s presence,
  • The notary identified the signer, and
  • The signer acknowledged that the signature on the document is his or hers.

Technically, acknowledgments don’t have to be signed in the notary’s presence. However, the notarization must take place in the signer’s presence.

 

Q4. What is witnessing a signature?

A4. When a signer signs a document in a notary’s physical presence, the notary has witnessed a signature. The certificate may use words such as “signed before me”.

  • The signer was in the notary’s presence,
  • The notary identified the signer, and
  • The notary watched the signer sign.

 

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.

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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, and
  • Contain either the signer’s signature or signer’s photograph.

Satisfactory evidence can include the sworn written statement (affidavit, declaration, etc.) of a credible witness personally appearing before the notary. The credible witness must personally know the signer who lacks sufficient identification. The credible witness must also either (1) personally know the notary or (2) be identified by the notary using sufficient identification.

After notarizing the credible witness’s signed statement, the notary may opt to keep a copy but is not required to do so. As with all notarial acts, the notary must fully record the notarization in their journal and that journal entry is sufficient.  

 

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 the type of notarial act you have completed. 

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, 2019",
  • Your official signature, stamp, title of office, and commission expiration date, and
  • The statement "Notary Public, my commission expires: January 31, 2022".

For more information, refer to Notarization Format Examples

 

Q8. What must be in a notarial certificate?

A8.  A notarial certificate must have:

  • The location where the notarization took place, including the county,
  • Date of notarial act,
    • You may not pre- or post-date any notarial certificate - there are no exceptions
  • The type of notarial act (oath or affirmation, acknowledgement, witness signature, preparation of a certified copy),
  • The notary's stamp,
  • The notary's commission expiration date (the exact month, day and year of expiration),
  • Title of office which is “notary public”, and
  • 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 Colorado. 

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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 and the signer are physically in the state of Colorado.

 

Q12. Can a notary certify a copy of a birth, death, marriage, or divorce certificate?

A12. No. RULONA prohibits a notary from certifying a copy of a record that can be obtained from certain offices including a Colorado clerk and recorder and Colorado vital records. Federal and/or other state documents must state on their face if it can’t be copied.  

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.

 

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 spaces are intentionally left blank, then the signer should put a line through them or write "N/A.” Refer to section 24-21-525(7), C.R.S.

 

Q14. Can I notarize a fax or a photocopy of a document?

A14.  Yes. 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.

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Q16. Can I notarize my own document or signature?

A16. No. A notary public who has a disqualifying interest in a document cannot legally perform any notarial act in connection with that document. 

A notary public has a disqualifying interest in a document if the notary either:

  • 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 a party to or is named in the document that is to be notarized.

In other words, if the document concerns you, or if you might benefit from it directly more than the notary fee charged (including free notarizations) you cannot notarize it.

This prohibition extends to notaries who also translate documents and want to attest to the accuracy of their translation.

 

Q17. Can I notarize documents for my spouse, children, parents or other relatives?

A17. RULONA provides that a notary public also has a prohibited disqualifying interest in a record if specific relatives of the notary:

  • 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 a party to or is named in the document that is to be notarized.

The specific relatives are the:

  • The notary’s spouse or partner in a civil union,
  • The notary’s ancestors (the notary’s parents, grandparents, etc.),
  • The notary’s descendants (the notary’s children, grandchildren, etc.), and
  • The notary’s siblings (sister or brother including half-siblings and step-siblings).

A few examples of prohibited notarial acts include:

  • A notary notarizing his son’s divorce documents,
  • A notary notarizing a will in which the notary’s mother is a beneficiary (whether named or not named in the will) who will receive when the will is executed, and
  • A notary notarizing her husband’s signature on a business contract.

It is unnecessary that the notary notarize the relative’s signature for the notary to have a disqualifying interest.

 

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.

 

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