- September 16, 2022

What’s In a Name?

What follows may seem obvious to some of you, however, it isn’t to everyone, so we have taken the time to explain it as clearly as we can.

When we witness someone sign a document, we have to identify the person to ensure that the person that is named in the document is the actual person that is signing the document.

The only way that we can identify a person is by examining their valid government-issued photo identification. All notaries must abide by this legal requirement. We cannot, for example, identify someone on the basis of their verbal statement, someone else’s statement, a business card, reputation, etc.

Summary of what we consider to be valid ID:
1. The ID must not be expired
2. The ID must contain a photo
3. The ID must be issued by a government (examples include, but are not limited to, Driver’s license, Passport, PR card, etc.)

Finally, note that we require original ID. We cannot rely on photocopies, images on phones, etc.

As stated, the name on the document and the name on the ID must match. In the event of a mismatch, the document should be changed to reflect the person’s current legal name. If the name on the ID isn’t the person’s legal name, then the ID must be updated.

A situation we sometimes encounter is where the document contains a person’s former name. For example, the document might state the name as “Mary Thompson” (a maiden name) but the ID lists “Mary Tay” (a married name). We cannot witness the signature of “Mary Thompson” because she no longer exists, for our legal purposes. We can only witness the signatures of individuals under their current legal name, not under their former legal name. The solution here is to modify the document to “Mary Tay” and to sort out the name change with the recipient party, perhaps by providing the recipient with a statutory declaration that explains that “Mary Tay” was formerly known as “Mary Thompson” and that she changed her name as a result of a marital contract.

The presence or absence of middle names also matters. If a document lists a middle name, then the ID should also list the middle name. If the middle name is missing from the ID, it’s a problem. If the middle name is included on the ID but it’s missing from the document, it is much less problematic. Here’s a summary of this:

ID lists: John Smith
Document lists: John Alexander Smith
Problem. The document needs to be modified.

ID lists: John Alexander Smith
Document lists: John Smith
Less problematic. It would be ideal to resolve the discrepancy but we can proceed with the notarization even if the discrepancy is not resolved.

The order of middle names also matters. The first name must appear first on the document, the middle name must appear in the middle, and the last name must appear last. People sometimes get confused because their last names appear first on their driver’s license. Note, however, that on a driver’s license the last name is followed by a comma (“,”) denoting that what follows (i.e. the first name) is in fact what ought to precede and that, therefore, the name that appears first is actually the last name. It is for this reason that “John Alexander Smith” and “Smith, John Alexander” indicate the exact same name.

If you have any questions about any of the above, we encourage you to contact one of our offices, or to email us directly at info@walkinnotary.com.

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