Q. Can I just sign the document or do I have to complete the document before the notarization?

A. It depends. A document with jurat wording (typically an oath or affirmation) must be signed in front of the notary. Documents with acknowledgment wording require only that signer appear before the notary. They can be signed beforehand, if in doubt, wait until the notary arrives before signing.

Q. Can I get a document notarized that is in a foreign language?

A. A notary public can notarize a signature on a document written in a foreign language, whether or not they are familiar with the language, since a notary public’s function only relates to the signature and not the contents of the document. However, a notary public must be able to communicate with the customer in order for the signer to swear or affirm the contents of an affidavit or to acknowledge the execution of a document, as well as to enable the notary public to obtain proper identification of the signer and to complete the required journal entries. An interpreter should not be used because vital information could be lost in the translation. If a notary public is unable to communicate with a customer, the customer should be referred to a notary public who speaks the customer’s language. (See generally California Civil Code sections 1189 and 1195; California Government Code sections 8202, 8205 and 8206.)

The notary public should be able to identify the type of document for entry in the notary public’s journal. If unable to identify the type of document, the notary public must make an entry to that effect in the journal, e.g., “a document in a foreign language.” As in all cases, the notary public should determine if the document is complete and must not notarize the signature if the document appears to be incomplete. The notarial certificate in a foreign language document or attached to a foreign language document, e.g., the acknowledgment or jurat, must be written in English. California law requires these forms to be followed exactly and they appear in California law in the English language. (California Civil Code sections 1188 and 1189; California
Government Code section 8202.)

Q. Does notarizing a document make it legal and binding?

A. By completing a certificate of acknowledgment, the notary public is not certifying the legality of the underlying document. An acknowledgment is the notarial certificate attached to a document when the notary public confirms the identity of the signer and the signer acknowledges being the signer of the document.

Q. When should I use a Jurat?

A. A jurat is the notarial certificate attached to a document when a person signs a document and swears under oath or affirms that the contents of the document are true and correct. The notarial certificate for a jurat is identified by the wording “Subscribed and sworn to (or affirmed).” The jurat also typically will be found at the end of the document.

A document containing statements sworn or affirmed by the signer to be true and correct typically is referred to as an “affidavit” or a “declaration,” and the signer will be said to be “subscribing and swearing (or affirming) to” the contents of the affidavit. A jurat must be attached to, or located at the end of, all affidavits subscribed and sworn (or affirmed) before the notary public. (California Government Code section 8202.) A notary public cannot attach or complete a jurat if the signer of a document does not swear or affirm to the truth of the contents of the document.

Q. Can I get a Birth Certificate certified?

A. A notary public cannot certify copies of vital records, such as birth, marriage or death certificates. However, a notary public can administer an oath or affirmation and give a jurat for an affidavit that states the birthdate or age of the affiant, and/or includes a photograph of the affiant and/or fingerprints or thumbprints of the affiant. In effect, a signer can certify their own vital information by swearing to the contents of a document containing that information.

If the notary public gives a jurat for a document that includes the signer’s birthdate or age and a photograph or their finger or thumb print, the notary public must require the signer to verify their birthdate or age by showing a certified copy of the signer’s birth certificate or an identification card or driver’s license issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. (California Government Code section 8230.)

Q. Where can I find a California Acknowledgment?

A. At the California Secretary of State website (link provided) Acknowledgement form

Q. Where can I find a California Jurat?

A. At the California Secretary of State website (link provided)
Jurat form