What Am I doing When I'm Witnessing or Attesting a Signature?
A number of comments and questions from PAN members showed some confusion about the new notarial act. For example:
- "If a customer signs a document in front of me, isn't that witnessing their signature?"
- "If a customer brings me a document he or she signed and tells me they signed it, isn't that witnessing their signature?"
- I don't want to be responsible if, after the customer leaves my office, the customer changes their statement on a document I notarized.
Can I tell customers I will only witness their signatures?"
If a customer needs to sign a document in front of you, the act called for by the notarial wording (or by the customer's choice) could be an oath or affirmation, a verification on oath or affirmation, an acknowledgment, or a witnessed or attested signature. Each of these notarial acts has a different purpose.
- An oath or affirmation is the customer's oral declaration, with you as a witness, that the customer will keep a promise or perform a duty faithfully.
- A verification on oath or affirmation is the customer's written, sworn declaration, with you as a witness, that the customer's statement or information given in a record is true.
- An acknowledgment is the customer's declaration, with you as a witness, that the customer signed a document, meant to sign the document, and knew why he or she was signing the document.
- A witnessed or attested signature is you - the notary's - statement that a customer signed a document in your presence. The customer does not take an oath or affirmation and does not acknowledge his or her signature.