Conclusiveness of Certificate of Acknowledgment

The general rule is that an officer can take acknowledgment of an instrument and provide an acknowledgment certificate when the executor of the instrument appears personally before him/her and declares himself/herself as a voluntary signer of the instrument.  When there is no law against this general rule, the acknowledgment certificate is taken as conclusive proof for all matters provided in the certificate.[i] The certificate of acknowledgment can be impeached only by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof that the certificate is forged and fraudulent.[ii] The certificate cannot be discredited by proving that the recitals appended to the certificate are false.

A certificate of acknowledgment can be impeached only if there is clear proof of fraud, coercion, duress, or imposition participated in by the other party to the instrument.[iii] A certificate can also be discredited when the acknowledging officer does not have the authentication to take acknowledgment.  However, a certificate has the effect of only prima facie evidence in some states and can be impeached by clear and convincing evidence.[iv]

In order to have effect against third parties, instruments should be recorded after acknowledgment of their execution.  Third parties can rely conclusively on a certificate of acknowledgment when the certificate is not defective.  If the error is not apparent on the face of the document also, a third party can consider the certificate conclusive.  However, if the error is very evident from the document or the acknowledging party did not appear before the acknowledging official, the certificate will not be considered conclusive even as against third parties acting in good faith.[v]

[i] Evans v. Bottomlee, 150 W. Va. 609 (W. Va. 1966)

[ii] Hohndorf v. Watson, 240 Neb. 368 (Neb. 1992)

[iii] Alfieri v. Guild Times Pension Plan, 446 F. Supp. 2d 99 (E.D.N.Y. 2006)

[iv] Davis v. Hamblin, 51 Md. 525 (Md. 1879)

[v] Grider v. American Freehold Land Mortg. Co., 99 Ala. 281 (Ala. 1892)


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