When a client is required to have a document notarized, that document will usually require a notary to either complete an acknowledgment or administer a jurat.
The distinction between acknowledgments and jurats
The essential purpose of an acknowledgment is that when the document signer places his or her signature on the document, he or she is "acknowledging" to the notary that he or she is signing the document with an intent to "execute" statements within the document. Additionally, the document signer is also "acknowledging" to the notary that he or she is "authorized" to sign the document. While the notary must properly identify the document signer, California notaries are not permitted to require evidence that the signer is "authorized" to sign the document.
For example, if a document is being signed on behalf of a corporation, and the document is to be signed by a corporate officer, the signature alone is sufficient evidence to the notary that the document signer has the "authorized capacity" as a corporate officer to sign the document. This authorized capacity is assumed with the signature and the notary is not to require additional evidence such as Articles of Incorporation. In some states, a notary may be required to verify or know the capacity of a signer, but NOT in California!
Contrary to popular belief, when a document requires an acknowledgment, the document signer may have already signed the document before presenting it to the notary as long as it is the document signer who personally appears before the notary. Quite often a document requiring notarization will have been signed prior to presentation to the notary and as long as an acknowledgment is required, the notary should not require the signer to re-sign the document in front of him or her. Remember that the signer will "acknowledge" his or her signature before the notary at the time of notarization.
How? The notary simply has to ask the person presenting the document whether or not the signature on the document is his or hers. If the person say "yes", simply complete the notary process by competing the acknowledgment verbiage and verify the identity of the signer, in part by comparing the signature on the document with the signature on the identification.
The signing of a document requiring a jurat is very different. When a document requires a jurat, the signer must swear an oath or affirmation to the notary that the contents of the document are true. We sometimes refer to the signer of a document requiring a jurat as the "affiant" since he or she is in effect, signing an "affidavit". An affidavit is a statement which the "affiant" is required to formally swear that the statement is true. You should notice that our previous discussion concerning acknowledgments did not include any reference to the signer swearing to the truthfulness of the document statements. That is not the purpose of an acknowledgment but it is the essential purpose of the jurat.
While the identity of the signer must be verified, there is no verbiage requiring the document signer to "acknowledge" his or her signature or to "acknowledge" his or her authorized capacity as we found with the previous acknowledgment notary act. Additionally, the signature on a document requiring a jurat does not imply a request to "execute" the contents of the document. The sole purpose of the jurat is to require the document signer to swear to the notary that the contents of the document are true!
In this case, if a document was signed before presentation to the notary, the signer must re-sign the document after taking the oath or affirmation before the notary. If the document is already signed and it requires a jurat, the notary simply needs to require the signer to re-sign the document at the time the jurat is completed.
Let's look at the differences between Acknowledgment and Jurat wording.