Notary Terms and Definitions

Notary Terms and Definitions

Before finalizing your estate plan, you should become familiar with some of the notary terms that are associated with the act of signing your documents.

What is a Notary?

“Notary” or “Notary Public” means any individual appointed and commissioned to perform notarial acts [C.R.S. 12-55-102(3)] Because the definition in the Colorado Revised Statutes is so brief, the following information has been included to further describe what a Notary is. Various definitions/synonyms for “notary public” can be drawn from other states’ statutes.
The following list is representative rather than all-inclusive.
A notary is a verifier, authenticator, person of integrity appointed to the office, person commissioned to seal documents, impartial agent for the state, public recorder of acts, public servant.

The notary acts as an unbiased/disinterested/official WITNESS, to the identity of the person who signs a document. 4 In this context, while notarizing, a notary is responsible not to a customer or a supervisor, but to the people of the State of Colorado through the Secretary of State, the elected representative of those people.


What are a Notary’s Powers?

For notaries, powers = duties; they are two sides of the same coin. Colorado notaries have three powers or duties that every notary should know and be able to perform.

The Act [C.R.S 12-55-110(1).] lists the powers/duties and divides them somewhat repetitively and apparently randomly under seven subsections [(a)-(f), including (d.5)]. The three main powers that the notary will be exercising are the administration of oaths and affirmations, acknowledgments, and copy certifications.

It is important to note that notary laws vary from state to state, sometimes widely. Some states’ notaries have only two powers, and some have four or five.


Acknowledgment: An acknowledgment is a signed statement by the notary that the signer (1) personally appeared before the notary, (2) was positively identified by the notary, and (3) acknowledged having signed the document. Acknowledgments are executed on deeds, documents affecting property, and the like. (The notary does not have to actually see the person sign the document. Nonetheless, the document must be notarized while in the physical presence of the signer.)

Affiant: The person who subscribes his signature to an affidavit. The person to whom an oath or affirmation is administered.

Affidavit: A written declaration made under oath or affirmation before a notary public or other authorized officer, in which the signer swears or affirms that the statements or declarations in the document are true.

Affirmation: A solemn declaration that the information contained in the document is true and accurate, made by persons who decline taking an oath for religious or conscientious reasons. An affirmation is equivalent to an oath and is just as binding.

Apostille: Apostille (pronounced ah-po-stee) is a French word which means a certification. In notarial usage, it refers to a certificate used to authenticate the signature of a notary public and other public officers, placed on documents that are to be sent overseas. The Apostille certifies that the notary’s commission is current and the notary is in good standing, and it is signed by the Secretary of State. This type of authentication is accepted for legal use in all the nations that are members of the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961. Authentication: This term refers to either an Apostille or a Certificate of Magistracy.

Certificate of Magistracy: A certificate used to authenticate the signature of a notary public, placed on documents that are to be sent overseas to countries that are not members of the Hague Convention of October 5, 1961.

Certified Copy: A document that is signed by a public official as a true copy of the original document that is held in the office of the public official, or a copy of the original which is certified to be a true copy by a notary public. Certified copies of some documents can only be obtained from the office of the public official in which the original is held. Examples include birth certificates, death certificates, and marriage certificates. Colorado notaries cannot certify copies of these documents.

Credible Witness: A person who is personally known to the notary and who swears or affirms to the identity of another person, unknown to the notary, who is signing and attesting to a document.

Competence: The mental ability to distinguish right from wrong and to manage one’s own affairs. A notary should be certain that all parties understand what they are signing and swearing or affirming to.

Execute: To make a document valid by signing one’s name to it.

Instrument: A legal document, such as a contract, deed, will, or mortgage, which is to be signed.

Journal: A notarial journal is an official record of notarial acts performed by the notary public. A notarial journal entry is required for all notarial acts.

Jurat: A jurat is a signed statement by the notary stating that the signer (1) personally appeared before the notary, (2) signed the document in the presence of the notary, and (3) took an oath or affirmation administered by the notary, e.g. “Do you swear that the statements in this document are true, so help you God?” or “Do you affirm that the statements in this document are true?”. This act must be stated clearly on every notarial certificate.

Oath: A solemn, formal declaration or promise to tell the truth, made before a notary public, under penalty of perjury. Traditionally, the oath invokes reference to a deity (“under God”) as witness.

Notarial Certificate: The required statement that appears at the end of a document that is completed and signed by the notary public. This statement includes the jurat, the venue or location where the notarization occurred, the date of the notarization, and the notary public’s signature, seal, and commission expiration date. This is sometimes also called simply the “notarization”.

Notarial Seal: Official seal of a notary public. The Colorado Notaries Public Act, C.R.S. 12-55-112, describes the mandatory requirements for the Colorado notarial seal. Perjury: A false statement made under oath. Perjury is subject to punishment by fine and/or imprisonment.

SS.: An abbreviation of the Latin word silicet, (to wit) meaning “in particular” or “namely”. Commonly referred to as “jurisdiction”. Traditionally included to the right of the venue in a notarial certificate.

Subscribe: To sign.

Venue: The location in which the notarization was performed. This must include the state and county. Examples are: “State of Colorado, County of Adams” or “State of Colorado, City and County of Denver”.

State of Colorado Notary Handbook.

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