Updated: Feb 3
Carefully identify the signer
Properly verifying the signer’s identity is the essential duty of every Notary when executing an acknowledgment or jurat. California allows a notary to use one of two methods to identify the signer:
Credible identifying witnesses who know the signer well enough to verify their identity. However, credible identifying witnesses must present an ID from the list mentioned above and they can not benefit from or have an interest in the document being signed.
Unlike most other states, California does not permit Notaries to rely on their personal knowledge of signers to verify their identities.
Notary will check that the signer is acting independently and is aware of what’s going on. This can easily be accomplished by a simple conversation with a few basic questions. While not stipulated in state law, it is a recommended standard of practice.
To determine willingness, Notary should ask the signer if they are signing of their own free will. If there is any reason to suspect that they are not, the Notary will refuse to perform the notarization.
To determine awareness, the recommended practice is for the Notary to make a layperson’s, commonsense judgment about the signer’s ability to understand what is happening. Simply asking the signer if they are aware of what they are signing is an acceptable practice as well.