Acknowledgement and jurat certificates are the two most common notarial acts, yet there is confusion about the difference between these forms for many signers. Some notaries even find it difficult to remember which procedures apply to which certificate.
A jurat is used when the signer is swearing to the content of the document. The notary must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer in order to complete the jurat. A jurat also requires that the signer signs in the presence of the notary. It is possible to glean this information from the jurat certificate its self. The wording states “Subscribed and sworn to before me…” – subscribed meaning “signed” and sworn meaning that an oral oath or affirmation was given. “Before me” means that both were done in the presence of the notary public.
An acknowledgement is used to verify the identity of the signer and to confirm that they signed the document. They are not swearing to the truthfulness or validity of the document, they are simply acknowledging that they signed the document. For an acknowledgement in the state of California, a signer is not required to sign the document in the presence of the notary public, but they are required to personally appear in front of the notary to confirm their signature.
While it is important for a notary to understand the difference between the two, California notaries public are not allowed to determine which type of certificate a signer uses. To do so would be considered practicing law without a license. A Notary can only ask the signer which form they prefer; if they don't know, the notary will refer them to the originator of the document for an answer