Because laws and practices regarding acknowledgments vary from state to state, it is important that you familiarize yourself with, and comply with, statutory requirements. Generally, Agents National Title agents must follow guidelines for acknowledgments:
1. Notarize, witness, or attest signatures only when the signatory personally appears before you, appears to be legally competent and states that the signature being acknowledged is authentic and voluntary.
2. Obtain proof positive that the person whose signature you are acknowledging is, in fact, who they say they are. They should be either personally known to the notary or properly identified. Agents National Title requires that its agents obtain valid, current government issued picture identification which includes the signatory’s signature and physical description (e.g., a current driver’s license).
3. Require proof that the individual signing the document, (attorneys-in-fact, partner, trustee, etc.) has proper authority to execute in a representative capacity the document being acknowledged (i.e., through an acceptable power of attorney, partnership agreement, trust document, etc.). Remember that unless the document creating the powers of partners, trustees, corporate officers, etc., specifically provides for it, those fiduciary powers may generally not be delegated via a power of attorney.
4. Confirm that all information in the acknowledgment section has been completed and conforms to the information contained in the body of the document (i.e., name, title, date, etc.).
5. Make sure that strict compliance with statutory requirements for recordation has been met (i.e., correct number of witnesses have executed the document, acknowledgment form and verbiage, proper seals have been affixed, etc.), many states have specific, statutorily required language for acknowledgments as well as requirements for seal and commission expiration date. Also, some states appoint notaries for only certain counties. Failure to comply with those requirements may result in the document being void or void able.
Generally, acknowledgments should contain the following information:
1. Individual Acknowledgment
a. Name of individual
b. Personally appeared before them
c. Personally known or proved to be the person signing and acknowledging.
2. Attorney-in-Fact Acknowledgment
a. Name of Principal as contained in body of deed, by
b. Name of Attorney-in-Fact, as attorney-in-fact
3. Corporation Acknowledgment
a. Name of Officer
b. Capacity of Officer
c. Corporation Name
d. State of Incorporation
4. Partnership Acknowledgment
a. Name of Partner
b. Name of Partnership
5. REMEMBER: In some states (e.g., California), a generic statutory acknowledgment form MUST be used which makes no reference to the capacity of the signatory, and failure to use said form will disallow the filing/recording of the document. Also remember that regardless of the form of acknowledgment used, the proper capacity of the signatory MUST be noted in the signature area of the document. If you have any questions regarding local practice or acknowledgment laws in your state, contact your local Agents National Title Counsel.