Notarizing Out-of-State Documents

Map United States with state namesNotarizing Out-of-State Documents

A Colorado notary may notarize out-of-state documents, as long as the notary is completing the notary act within his/her authorized geographical boundaries, and according to the laws of Colorado. Notary laws vary by state. The notary does not need to know or follow the notary laws of the receiving jurisdiction.

A Colorado notary takes an affirmation of office to follow the notary law of Colorado, not the law of other jurisdictions.  A Colorado notary may also notarize federal documents and documents from foreign countries.

Colorado Notary Law

Notary Certificate Must Include All Required Elements

Questions arise when the pre-printed wording in notarial certificates included in out-of-state documents is different from the normal wording used in Colorado notarial certificates. If the included notarial certificate contains different wording or additional wording, the notary must make sure that all required elements for Colorado are included in the certificate.

Prohibited wording is not allowed, all facts stated must be true and correct, and the notary must not notarize his/her own signature. The signer of the document must appear before the notary to acknowledge or sign the document.

Recognizing Notarial Acts in Out-of-State Documents

According to the Uniform Recognition of Acknowledgments Act (URAA), adopted by 14 states, under CRS 12-55-203, notarial acts may be performed outside of Colorado, for use in Colorado, by the following officials:

a notary public, judge, clerk or deputy clerk of any court, officer of the foreign service of the U.S., a consular agent, any other person authorized by the U.S. Department of State to perform notarial acts, a commissioned officer in active service, any other person authorized by the armed forces to perform notarial acts if the act is performed for a member of the armed forces, or any other person authorized to perform notarial acts in the place in which the act is performed.

Twelve states follow the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (ULONA or revised RULONA), or other acts, which have similar provisions for accepting out-of-state documents by authorized officials. RULONA states that a notarial act performed by an authorized notarial officer in another state, or performed under federal law, or under the authority of a federally recognized Indian tribe, has the same effect under the law as if performed by an authorized notarial officer of a RULONA state.

Alternate Forms of Acknowledgment Accepted in Out-of-State Documents

In Colorado, the URAA, in CRS 12-55-208 states, in addition to the statutory short forms of acknowledgment listed, the use of other forms of acknowledgment is not precluded.

Additional notarial elements that are sometimes requested are the official’s title or rank, notary’s place of residence, and notary ID number.

A California all-purpose acknowledgment includes a consumer disclosure notice, “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.”

It also includes a perjury clause for the notary, “I certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing paragraph is true and correct.”

The extra wording in the California acknowledgment is not required under Colorado law and is not prohibited.  It may be crossed out, or the word California may be replaced with Colorado.

If the included notarial certificate does not comply with the notary laws for Colorado, the notary can make a correction by crossing out the inappropriate wording, inserting the correct wording, and adding the notary’s initials and date. Or, the notary can draw a diagonal line through the unused, incorrect certificate, attach a loose certificate with the correct wording, and add a note “see attached notarial certificate“.

For security, the loose certificate should include a description of the document, the document date, and the number of pages. The notary should staple the loose certificate securely to the document, and make a note in the notary journal that a loose certificate was attached.

Public Records Requirements

For out-of-state documents that will be recorded in public records, such as real estate deeds, the county clerk and recorder may reject documents that do not follow local requirements for document recording.

To avoid document rejection problems, the notary should accommodate requests to follow recording procedures, as long as they do not violate notary laws. Do not place the notary stamp, seal, signature or other writing in the 1-inch document margin. Notary stamp impressions and writing must be clear and legible. Names of signers must be spelled correctly.

Any loose notarial certificate must be the same size as other document pages, should follow the signature page, must be legible for reproduction, and should be attached in the same place and manner as other pages.  Choose a selection for every option presented in the notarial certificate such as signer/signers, is/are, I/we, he/she, his/her.

Use a dark ink, preferably blue, for signatures and initials, to distinguish an original document from a copy. Avoid making corrections.  If corrections are needed, have the signer initial corrections in the document.  The notary should initial corrections in the notarial certificate or attach a corrected notarial certificate.

Beware of Potential Compliance Problems

The venue in the notarial certificate must show the state and county where the document was notarized, not where the out-of-state document is going or where it will be recorded. If an incorrect venue is already filled in, the notary must cross out the incorrect venue, add the correct venue, and initial and date the correction.

Some state laws require exact wording to be used in a notarial certificate, no alternative wording is allowed.

Some states prohibit the use of a hybrid certificate, which combines elements of an acknowledgment and a jurat.

Some states do not require a notary to use an embossed seal or rubber stamp. But the laws in the receiving state may require a seal or stamp.

Some states authorize notarial acts that are not authorized in other states. These acts include making a certified copy of a document, performing a marriage, notarizing for a family member, signature witnessing, taking a deposition, proof of execution, notice of dishonor, protest for non-payment of negotiable instrument, marine protest, certification that an act or event has occurred, vehicle identification number (VIN) verification, safe deposit box content verification, and others.

Constitution We the PeopleFull Faith and Credit Clause

Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution is known as the “Full Faith and Credit Clause“. It reads, “Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

Its purpose is to extend recognition and enforcement to rights claimed by individuals by virtue of the laws, public records or judicial decisions of another state or “jurisdiction”. This helps to harmonize interstate commerce by unifying acceptance of public acts and records across the country.

Under the doctrine of states’ rights, any political rights or powers that are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution to the exclusive or shared concurrent authority of the federal government are retained by the individual states or the people. The Tenth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The U.S. Constitution does not mention notaries.  Each state is free to write its own notary laws.  Notaries are state officials and take an oath of office to follow the notary laws of their home state, even if the document originated in or is going to another state. The notary is not required to know or follow the notary laws of other states.

Some state laws expressly accept notarial acts done out-of-state under the full faith and credit clause, while other state laws are silent on the subject and interstate acceptance is implied.

Under federal law, 28 U.S. Code § 1738, State and Territorial statutes and judicial proceedings; full faith and credit, the authenticated laws, court records and judicial proceedings of one state shall have the same full faith and credit in every court within the United States as they have by law or usage in the courts of the originating state.

Notary law expert, speaker, and author Michael Closen states in his book, Professor Closen’s Notary Best Practices, Chapter 27, Interstate Recognition of Notarial Acts, that this matter has never been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. But, he and other notary experts and judges believe that a notarization performed lawfully and correctly under the laws of one state must be recognized in another state, and no authorities are known to disagree.

Under the Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Clause 2, the U.S. Constitution and federal laws written in pursuance thereof are the supreme law of the land and have the highest legal authority, superior to state notary laws.

Citation: In a noted 1912 case (Nicholson v. Eureka Lumber, 160 NC 33; 75 SE 730 [NC 1912]), the principle of full faith and credit was recognized when North Carolina accepted a notarization lawfully performed by a female notary in Texas when North Carolina did not allow women to serve as notaries at that time.

The court ruled “When the certificate of a notary public is sent to this state from another under a notarial seal, our courts cannot go back of it to inquire into the qualifications of the officer. It cannot be doubted that a notary public is a public office, and full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.

Legislation: In December 2006, during the George W. Bush presidency, the House of the 109th U.S. Congress passed H.R. 1458, To require any Federal or State court to recognize any notarization made by a notary public licensed by a State other than the State where the court is located when such notarization occurs in or affects interstate commerce.  The matter died when the Senate took no further action and the session adjourned on January 3rd.

Compatibility Statutes for Out-of-State Documents

Some states include compatibility laws that describe conditions for accepting notary acts done out-of-state. To avoid document rejection, an accommodation may be made to follow the conditions required by the receiving state or county, if the required conditions do not violate the laws of the notary’s state.

If a customer is requesting the notary to make an accommodation to follow required conditions at the receiving jurisdiction, the customer should provide the notary with a copy of the text of the relevant law or the statute number for research and review.

Notaries should follow the law and act with reasonable care when notarizing out-of-state documents.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only, and is not legal advice.  For legal advice, contact an experienced attorney.

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Image Credits

  1. USA Map of states, Wikimedia Commons, [CC BY-SA 3.0]
  2. We The People, U.S. Constitution

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