Form of Certificate

The proper form of the certificate of acknowledgment depends largely upon the requirements of the applicable state statute, which may set out a prescribed form. However, in the absence of a mandatory statute, even where statutes prescribe a form containing the averment of several facts in a certificate of acknowledgment, strict compliance with such statutory form is not required.

If it is provided by statute that a declaration of adoption must be acknowledged but no form of acknowledgment is prescribed, then the acknowledgment provided for ordinary conveyances can be followed.  The form of acknowledgment must show the person appearing and acknowledging the instrument was known to the officer.[i]

If an individual’s intent to acknowledge the document s/he signed is evident in the certificate of acknowledgment, then the exact words and phrases recited in the statute are not required.  For example, in Tennessee, no specific form or wording is required in a certificate of acknowledgment. Thus, it is no longer in Tennessee that the language in a certificate of acknowledgment is prescribed and a probating officer has little if any discretion to vary the form of the certificate.[ii]

Substantial compliance is regarded as more important than literal compliance.  The form for a certificate of acknowledgment must substantially comply with statutory language. Such language is prescribed and a probating officer has little if any discretion to vary the form of the certificate.[iii] Certificate of acknowledgment is liberally analyzed and upheld if they are in substantial compliance with the statutory requirements although they lacks literal conformity.[iv]

[i] Maitland v. Republic Refining Co., 109 Okla. 55, 56 (Okla. 1925)

[ii] Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-22-114

[iii] In re Anderson, 30 B.R. 995 (M.D. Tenn. 1983)

[iv] In re Orlando Coals, Inc., 6 B.R. 721 (Bankr. S.D. W. Va. 1980)