Showing as to Identity, Character, Title, and Authority of Officer

A certificate of acknowledgment provides sufficient proof that the acknowledgment has been done properly.  Ordinarily, a certificate of acknowledgement shall state that the acknowledgment was made before the proper officer; the place where the acknowledgment took place; and the name and authority of the officer.  At times, statutes specifically stipulate that a statement of the official position or authority of the officer taking an acknowledgment is not essential to the validity of the certificate. Law often does not require literal compliance with the statutory forms of acknowledgements.  Most statutes call for a fair compliance and look into the underlying facts and circumstances of each case.  The general practice followed by courts is to uphold such certificates, “when substance is found, and not to suffer the proofs of instruments to be defeated by technical and unsubstantial objections.”[i]  Thus, where there are two certificates to a mortgage, “the certificates may be read in connection with the mortgage, and with each other, for the same purpose[ii].”

However, some statutes specifically mandate that the certificate of acknowledgement must show the official character of the person taking the acknowledgment and executing the certificate.  In such a scenario, the certificate lacking such information will be considered to be invalid.  For instance, the Pennsylvania statute requires that the certificate of an acknowledging officer shall include the officer’s signature, official seal, title of his /her office and, if a notary public, the date the commission expires.  Under this rule, certificates by someone not described as an officer of any kind, and not subscribing any official character, are fatally defective.[iii]

The official position or authority of the officer taking an acknowledgment can be sufficiently described through abbreviations or initial letters of official titles.  For instance, where an official witness to a document signs his/her name as a witness, followed by letters and words as follows, “N. P., State at Large,” the abbreviations sufficiently indicates the official character of the witness. [iv]

[i] Oney v. Clendenin, 28 W. Va. 34 (W. Va. 1886)

[ii] Frederick v. Wilcox, 119 Ala. 355 (Ala. 1898)

[iii] Schwab v. GMAC Mortg. Corp, 333 F.3d 135, 137 (3d Cir. Pa. 2003)

[iv] Solomon v. Dunlap-Huckabee Auto Co., 174 Ga. 782 (Ga. 1932)


Inside Showing as to Identity, Character, Title, and Authority of Officer