Frequently Asked Questions What is a notary? A notary public is an official appointed by the State to serve the public as an impartial and unbiased witness, with duties prescribed by law. What is a surety? A surety is an individual or entity willing to accept financial liability for the notary’s debts and defaults of obligations up to the amount of the surety bond. In Alaska, the bond amount is $2,500. An applicant may choose one of two options for a surety: Commercial Bond: A bond may be purchased through an insurance agency in which case the notary would be commercially bonded. Private Bond: A business, organization, or private individual may act as a private surety on behalf of a notary, in which case, the notary would be privately bonded. One cannot act as one’s own surety. What does notarization mean? A notary public is a public officer constituted by law to serve the public by taking acknowledgments, administering oaths and affirmations, and performing certain other official acts depending on the jurisdiction. Any such act is a notarization. Am I required to keep a notary journal? EFFECTIVE AS OF JANUARY 1, 2021 In accordance with the passage of HB 124 (PDF) that goes into effect January 1, 2021, notaries commissioned by the State of Alaska shall maintain a journal in which the notary public chronicles all notarial acts that the notary public performs under AS 44.50.075. The notary public shall retain the journal for 10 years after the performance of the last notarial act chronicled in the journal. A notary public may create a journal on a tangible medium or in an electronic format. A notary public shall maintain at least one journal in a tangible medium to chronicle all notarial acts. Acceptable forms of a notary journal: A notary public may maintain one or more journals in an electronic format to chronicle all notarial acts. If a journal is maintained in an electronic format, the journal must be in a permanent, tamper-evident electronic format complying with the regulations of the lieutenant governor under AS 44.50.072. Journal entry requirements: the date and time of the notarial act a description of the record, if any, and type of notarial act the full name and address of each individual for whom the notarial act is performed if identity of the individual is based on personal knowledge, a statement to that effect; if identity of the individual is based on satisfactory evidence, a brief description of the method of identification and the identification credential presented, if any, including the date of issuance and expiration of the identification credential; and the fee, if any, charged by the notary public. If a notary public’s journal is lost or stolen, the notary public shall promptly notify the lieutenant governor upon discovering that the journal is lost or stolen. Upon resignation from, or revocation or suspension of, a notary public’s commission, the notary public shall retain the notary public’s journal for 1o years after the performance of the last notarial act chronicled in the journal and inform the lieutenant governor where the journal is located. Journal entries should be sequentially numbered and any journal or recording system where the pages are not physically bound together (or logically bound in the case of electronic notary journals) in a manner that prevents them from being inserted or removed from the journal by the notary should be avoided. If a notarized document is lost or altered, or if certain facts about the transaction are later challenged, the journal becomes valuable evidence. It can both protect the rights of citizens and help notaries defend themselves against false accusations. What is the procedure for notarizing a document? Ask the signer for the document that contains (or will contain) the signature to be notarized. While you scan the document for any printed title or other document identification, ask the signer to describe the document to you as well (use both sources of information to describe the document in your journal). If the signer is unable to describe what the document is, or is having a difficult time conveying that information, it may be an indication that they are not competent to sign. If signer is not personally known to you, request identification as required by law. Ask the signer if the document is complete while screening it to locate the Notarial certificate. If the document contains a Notarial certificate, read it completely and screen for any errors that will need to be corrected. If the document does not contain a Notarial certificate you will not be able to proceed with the notarization until the omission is addressed. Record information about the act in your Notary journal and have the signer sign your journal. Pay attention to how the signer signs your journal. It should be an easy fluid movement. Any awkwardness related to the making of the signature may be an indication of attempted forgery. Administer any required oath and have the signer sign the document if it hasn’t already been signed. Jurat notarizations (those involving oaths) must be signed in the presence of the notary. Carefully compare the signature on the document against the signatures on the ID card and your journal. Complete the Notarial certificate, being careful to make any necessary corrections. Take care to indicate the expiration date of your commission where it is requested. If you are not prompted for the expiration date of your commission as part of the notarial certificate it must be included anyway, either as part of your notary seal or by indicating “My commission expires (date)” near your signature on your notarial certificate. Sign the Notarial certificate. Affix your Notary seal on the document. Place the seal in a blank space as near as possible to your signature. Never place the seal over any signatures or document wording. If using an embossing seal, take care to shade over the raised portion of the seal so that it complies with the requirement that it be “photographically reproducible.” If any elements of the seal are illegible, print the missing information so that it is legible. Must I sign my name exactly the way it appears on the certificate? Yes. You must sign your name as it appears on the certificate and seal. Where do I place my notary seal on a document? The notary seal should be affixed on the document where it can easily be read, and so that it legibly reproduces under photographic methods as to comply with Alaska Statutes. The seal cannot be affixed over the notary’s signature or other printed matter. If the document bearing the notarized signature will be submitted for recording please avoid placing your seal within two inches of the top margin of the page and within one inch of the remaining margins of the document. The recorders office charges a $50.00 non standard document fee for any documents submitted for recording that do not meet their margin requirements. How should I notarize a document that contains no notarial certificate? You should not. A notarization is incomplete without notarial wording. It is not the notary’s role or obligation to decide what type of notarial act is needed for a given document. This is a legal decision. The signer should be asked to find out what kind of certificate is appropriate. This information may be acquired through an attorney or from the issuing or receiving agencies of the document. If the constituent provides the appropriate notarial wording, the notary may affix the notarial certificate as a courtesy. Is it necessary for a signer to appear before the notary? Yes. The personal appearance of the signer before the Notary during the act of notarization is required by law. What should I do if there is not enough room for an embosser seal or rubber stamp information on a document? In most instances, a separate notary certificate may be affixed to the document. This is called a loose certificate, and the notary should place the seal half on the loose portion of the certificate and half on the original document. However, the loose certificate is not always accepted and the person requesting the notarization is responsible for making sure with the receiving agency of the document that a separate notary certificate attached to the document is acceptable. In other instances, the notary should carefully place the rubber stamp information and embossed seal on the document in a place so as to cover the least amount of print as possible. What are the limitations of notarization? Notarization does not guarantee the truthfulness or accuracy of statements in a document. The notary has no obligation to verify a document’s contents. Notarization does not “legalize” or “validate” a document. May I notarize my own signature or the signature of relatives? You may not notarize your own signature. Alaska Statutes do not specifically forbid notarizing the signatures of relatives but do prohibit Notaries from performing a notarization if they are named in the document or “will receive directly from a transaction connected with the notarial act a commission, fee, advantage, right, title, interest, cash, property, or other consideration exceeding in value the normal fee charged by the notary for the notarial act.” If there is any reason to believe that a document may be contested, or if the actions related to the document may prove controversial, it would be best in those situations to avoid performing notarizations for relatives. If you are unsure about the wisdom or propriety of involving yourself in a notarization for a relative it would be best to refuse to participate in the notarization. May I charge for notarizing a document? If so, how much may I charge? Alaska Statutes do not address this subject for notaries without limitation except that a published fee schedule must be provided to the signer prior to the performance of the notarization if a notary intends to collect a fee for their services (AS 44.50.062 (4)). Statute does state that Limited Governmental Notaries may not charge for notarization. May I notarize documents outside the State of Alaska? No. A notary may perform notarizations only within Alaska’s geographical boundaries. What are the most crucial elements that a document must contain in order to be notarized? The most crucial element is a personal statement by the signer that forms the document’s text and indicates the signer’s agreement with and willingness to be obligated to certain terms. Is it necessary to require the signer to take an oral oath or affirmation? Alaska Statute requires oral oaths for affidavits, depositions, and other sworn statements. What is the correct wording for a simple oath or affirmation? Oath: I do solemnly swear that the statements in this document are true, so help me God. Affirmation: I do solemnly affirm that the statements in this document are true. Is it proper for the notarial certificate to be an attachment to the document? Yes. However, the notarial certificate should be identified in some way as belonging to that document. You might, for example, write in the margin, “This certificate is attached to a _________________ (name document) dated __________________, and signed by _____________________.” What is a signature-by-mark notarization, and what does it require? When a physical handicap or illiteracy prevents a signer from writing his or her signature in the normal fashion, a mark (usually an “X”) may be used. This type of signature requires two witnesses in addition to the notary. What three things should a notary screen for? a. Identify b. Willingness c. Competency What forms of identification should a notary request? Unless the signer is personally know to the Notary, Alaska Statute requires persons appearing before a notary to produce government-issued identification containing the photograph and signature of the person signing or government-issued ID containing the signature of the person signing without a photograph and another valid identification containing the photograph and signature of the person signing. (AS 44.50.062 (c)) How can I determine willingness? If you suspect a person is being forced to sign a document, you should refuse to notarize the document. If you fear violence, you might notarize and then contact the police. How can I screen for competency? The constituent should be able to communicate with you in some fashion and have the ability to indicate a basic understanding of the contents of the document. If there is doubt about competency, you may consult an available expert, such as the constituent’s doctor or attorney. However, your common sense should prevail. If the constituent cannot communicate intelligibly, the notarization should not be performed. What are the three types of discrepancies that commonly cause recorders to reject notarized documents? a. Missing or illegible seal impression b. Missing or illegible signature c. Improper or incomplete notarial certificate. What should a notary do if asked to notarize a signature on a document written in a foreign language? First, the notary and the signer must be able to communicate directly without the assistance of a translator. If the notary and signer can’t communicate directly the notary must decline the notarization and the signer should find a notary fluent in their language. If direct communication with the signer is possible but the notary can’t read the body of the document, notaries have the discretion to either continue with the notarization or they may decline the notarization for reasons discussed below. Either way, every document bearing a notarized signature must also contain a notarial certificate and the notarial certificate must be in a language that the notary understands. If you decide that you are unable to perform the notarization please try to assist the signer in finding a notary that can work with them or direct them to contact the notary office for assistance. In some cases, foreign language documents may be drafted such that the notary’s name is embedded in the body of the document. Alaska law specifically prohibits notaries from performing notarizations if they are named in the body of the document. The safest course of action for the notary is to defer the notarization to a notary fluent in the language the document is constructed in. We have a resources web page where we list Alaska notaries who are available to perform foreign language notarizations. If you speak a particular language and would like to be listed as a resource for persons requiring notarial services in that language please contact the office. If you speak a particular language and are having difficulty finding a notary fluent in that language, please consider applying for a notary commission and making yourself available to assist others who need assistance with that language. What is the difference between a jurat and an acknowledgment? A jurat is part of an affidavit in which the notary states that the affidavit was signed and sworn to before the notary. When a document contains a jurat, it must be signed in a notary’s presence, and the document signer must swear to the truthfulness of the statement in the document. An acknowledgment is a declaration by a person before a notarial officer that he or she has signed a record for the purposes stated in the record and, if the record is signed in a representative capacity, that the individual signed the record with proper authority and signed it as the act of the individual or entity identified in the record. When a document contains an acknowledgment, it does not have to be signed in a notary’s presence, but the document signer must still appear before the notary to acknowledge that he or she signed the document and agrees to the contents. But this practice is not recommended because any discrepancy between the date of the signature and the date of the notarization may cause those unfamiliar with this aspect of notary law to question the validity of the notarization. To avoid this potential problem it is recommended that all signatures take place in the presence of the notary during the notarization.