The services of a notary public are required for a variety of transactions, including auto purchases, land sales and certain business filings. As a public servant, a Michigan notary public may take acknowledgements, administer oaths and affirmations, and witness or attest to signatures. A notary has strict guidelines she must follow, and the wording she uses is important to legally protect the validity the documents she notarizes and herself.
The wording for the two types of notarial acts in Michigan, jurat and acknowledgement, require slightly different language that helps specify if a document was signed before the notary or an identity verified.
Acts of a Notary
Two types of notarial acts, jurat and acknowledgement, apply to documents in Michigan, and the wording for each is slightly different. The customer must know which type is needed before going to a notary, as the notary should not decide. If she must administer an oath, then it is considered a jurat notarization. If the purpose is to simply verify the signer's identity and signature, then it is an acknowledgement type.
Witnessing a Transaction
Attesting to the contents of a document, such as an affidavit or a court pleading, requires a jurat notarization. Wording for a typical jurat contains the following phrase: "Subscribed and sworn to by [signer's name]." If the words "sworn to me before" appear, then the notary must administer an oath. When executing a jurat, she guarantees that the person signing the document personally appeared before her and she gave him an oath or affirmation attesting to the truthfulness of the document.
Notarizing the document also indicates he signed it in her presence. The Michigan Secretary of State office recommends a generic wording for instances where specific wording is not required. For example: "If no other wording is prescribed in a given instance, a notary may use the following language for an affidavit or deposition: Do you solemnly swear that the contents of this affidavit (or deposition, document, etc.) subscribed (signed) by you are correct and true, so help you God? Or, do you solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the statements made by you are true and correct?"
An acknowledgement merely confirms the identity of the document signer. A signer can sign the document out of the presence of the notary, but he must personally appear before her in order for her to confirm the signature and notarize the document. The typical wording for an acknowledgement includes the words, "Acknowledged by [signer's name] before me on..."
On all records that a notary notarizes, she will sign her name exactly as it appeared on her application for commission as a notary public. Near her signature she must "print, type, stamp, or otherwise imprint mechanically or electronically sufficiently clear and legible to be read by the secretary and in a manner capable of photographic reproduction all of the following in this format or in a similar format that conveys all of the same information:
- The name of the notary public exactly as it appears on his or her application for commission as a notary public.
- The statement: Notary public, State of Michigan, County of ___.
- The statement: _My commission expires __.
- If performing a notarial act in a county other than the county of commission, the statement: 'Acting in the County of ****.'
- The date the notarial act was performed.
A notary needs to take care when advertising her services to make sure that she does not represent herself as a lawyer if she is not a licensed attorney. If advertising in a language other than English, she must include the following statement: "I am not an attorney and have no authority to give advice on immigration or other legal matters." She also cannot use the term "notario publico" or any equivalent non-English term on any business card, advertisement, notice or sign.