What Are The 5 Steps To Successful Notarization


A proper California notarization requires five steps: the signer must make a personal appearance, the notary must review the document, verify signer’s identity, willingness and awareness, record a journal entry and complete the notary certificate.


Personal Appearance

All notarizations in California require a personal appearance by the signer of the document.  Some other states have adopted webcam notarizations, but California still requires the notary and the signer to meet face-to-face.  This personal appearance helps protect everyone involved against fraud or abuse.  For more information, please read my article on webcam notarization.

Review The Document

Once the notary and the signer have met face-to-face, the notary must scan the document.  The notary must make sure the document is complete and free of any blank spaces.  An incomplete document cannot be notarized.  Before hiring a San Diego mobile notary, make sure to check that your document is complete.  An incomplete document could be more prone to fraud, so it is important to make sure your documents are complete before meeting with a San Diego mobile notary.  While reviewing the document, the notary must also make sure that a notarial certificate is included in, or attached to, the document and that the certificate contains the proper California specific language above the venue information. If the document does not contain a certificate, the signer may tell the notary which certificate to attach.  However, the notary cannot tell the signer which certificate is needed.  This would be considered the unauthorized practice of law and is illegal.  For more information about mandatory California notary certificate language, see my previous article.

The California notary public certificate language is: 

“A notary public or other officer completing this certificate verifies only the identity of the individual who signed the document to which this certificate is attached, and not the truthfulness, accuracy, or validity of that document.”

Verify The Signer’s Identity

After checking the for completeness and the proper certificate, the notary must make sure the name on the document matches the name on the signer’s identification and that the signer is signing the document knowingly and willingly.  If the name on a signer’s identification card does not match the name on the documents to be signed, the notary might not be able to complete the notarization.  For more information on proper identification, check out my article on proper identification.  If the signer cannot produce proper ID,, they may be identified using two credible witnesses.  Other states allow a notary to identify a signer based on a personal knowledge of who the signer is.  California does not allow this type of identification.

If a notary suspects a signer might not be willing and aware, they can ask some basic questions and look for some key signs.  This is particularly important when notarizing for the elderly or sick.

If the signer appears in person, verifies their identity and presents a complete document with proper California certificate, the notary may proceed with the notarization and move on to step four, making a journal entry of the notarial act.  

Completing The Journal Entry

The journal entry should include:

  • The date

  • Type of notarization

  • Any pertinent notes about the notarization

  • The location of the signing

  • The name and address of the signer

  • The signer’s personal information found on their ID card

  • The fee charged for the notarization

  • The signer’s signature or signature by mark

  • The signers thumbprint (if required)

Completing The Notary Certificate

Now, the notary can move on to the final step, completing the notarial certificate.  If the document does not contain a notarial certificate, the signer may tell the notary which certificate is needed and the notary may complete the certificate.  It is important that the signer knows which certificate is needed.  The notary will check the certificate to make sure all the necessary information is properly filled out.  Next, the notary will sign and stamp the certificate to complete the notarization.