No matter how careful we are, mistakes happen. But a mistake on a Notary certificate could potentially cause real problems —rejection to a delayed transaction to legal consequences for the Notary, the signer or others. So how do you handle a mistake on a certificate?
The answer depends on a combination of circumstances and your state’s requirements. Here are 4 tips for making sure you get the corrections right:
Tip 1: Double Check The Certificate While The Signer Is Present
Catching the mistake before your signer leaves is the best-case scenario. It will minimize any inconvenience, and all the information you need to make the correction will be available.
Here are some things to keep in mind when carefully reviewing the certificate:
Many documents have pre-printed certificate wording, such as the venue or date of the notarization, or the names of the signers. You must check to ensure the preprinted information is correct.
Double check all the information you wrote, such as the spelling of the signer’s name and the date, and make sure it’s correct.
If the document requires you to enter your commission number or expiration date, double check that all the required information is there and is correct.
Make sure your seal has been affixed legibly.
When you’ve done all this, it can’t hurt to do it again because it’s better to get it right the first time.
Tip 2: Never Send Unattached Certificates Or Corrected Copies
Fixing a mistake after the signer and document are gone is more challenging. First, you’ll need to confirm that your state allows you to correct a notarial certificate after the notarization. If you are in a state where the law requires the certificate to be completed contemporaneously with the notarization, you may be out of luck. In this case you won’t be able to correct the mistake without getting the parties together to re-notarize the documents.
In California, Notaries are not allowed to correct certificates after the signer has left their presence. The only way to fix a mistake is for the Notary and signer to meet again to complete a new certificate.
If you can fix a mistake after the notarization is complete, there are other potential issues. Notaries often are asked to simply send a replacement certificate or make corrections to a faxed, photocopied or emailed copy of the original certificate. While these are the simplest, most convenient solutions, they open the door to fraud and may violate the Notary laws of your state. Make sure to check your state’s requirements to verify what you can do.
Your state, for example, may have a law that requires the certificate to be part of or attached to the document being notarized. That means anyone asking you to correct a certificate will have to send you the entire document with the original certificate. Then you’ll be able to review the document to ensure it contains your signature and cross-check your journal entry for the notarization to verify the particulars of the notarization before making the appropriate correction.
Tip 3: Correcting The Original Certificate
When it comes to making a correction itself, the process is as follows:
Line through the incorrect information;
Print the correct information in a legible manner;
Initial and date the correction; and
Make a notation in your journal entry.
Legibility is crucial. If a receiving agency cannot read the corrected information, they may reject the document. Also, make sure you conform with any other requirements for the document. Some state recording laws, for example, have specific requirements for margin width; any information that protrudes into the margins could cause the document to be rejected.
And never let anyone else correct a certificate you completed. The certificate is your statement about what took place with the notarization you performed. No one else may certify the facts of a notarization you performed. The notarial act will be undermined if anyone else changes the information on the certificate.
Tip 4: Using A Replacement Certificate
If there is not enough room to properly make the corrections on the original certificate, you may attach a separate, replacement certificate. Simply line through the original certificate, write “see attached certificate,” initial and date the original then complete and attach the new certificate.
If possible and if permitted by your state, use the same certificate wording that was on the original. This will reduce the chances of the document being rejected. Also, use the same date as the original.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to fix any mistakes that crop up.