A notarial act is any act performed by a notary public that he is authorized to do in his official capacity. Types of notarial acts include acknowledgments, affirmations, jurats, copy certifications, witnessing signatures and administering oaths. In some states, notaries have the authority to administer wedding ceremonies.
An acknowledgment is a notarial act whereby a person, at the same time and place, appears before the notary public and presents a document to be acknowledged. If the notary does not know the individual, she must present sufficient documentation to the notary confirming his identity. Once identity has been established, the individual must indicate to the notary that the signature was voluntary and performed for the purposes indicated by the document. At that time, the notary can acknowledge the document by witnessing and placing a notarial seal or stamp on the document. This notarial act us authorized in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
An affirmation is legally equivalent to an oath. An individual, at the same place and time, appears before the notary public and makes a vow of truthfulness or fidelity on the pain of penalty for perjury. As with an acknowledgment, if the notary does not know the individual, he must present sufficient documentation to the notary confirming her identity. This act is commonly used with affidavits and jurats, voluntary, written sworn statements made by individuals in the presence of a notary public. In some states, such as Michigan and New Jersey, affirmations are also used with verifications, which are sworn, written declarations that the attachment and statements contained in that attachment are true and accurate.
A copy certification occurs when a notary public is presented with a document and identical copies of the document. Upon inspection, if the notary public determines the copies are in fact duplicates of the original, the notary public can certify the copies are complete, accurate and identical to the original. However, most states do not permit notaries to certify copies of such vital records as birth certificates, death certificates and marriage certificates.
Witnessing and Oaths
Notaries can witness or attest to signatures provided that the notary knows the identity of the person signing or the person who has provided the notary with sufficient identification confirming his identity. Additionally, notaries can administer oaths, provided the oath is not an oath for office or in a military setting. Often these oaths are given to deponents during depositions.
In Florida, Maine and South Carolina, notaries can perform marital ceremonies and certify the same.