The Names Have to Match

The Names Have to Match

One of the core responsibilities of a Notary Public is to certify (write down) the identity of the person(s) signing a Notarized document.

So, when the Notary does not already know you personally, they must see proper I.D., which is defined in Tennessee as Driver License, State-issued I.D. Card, Military I.D. or Passport.

The I.D. MUST have at least as much of the signer’s name as the document being Notarized. In other words, the name on the document can be less than the name on the I.D., but not more.

So, if your I.D. shows you are, for instance, Jo ANN Smith, you can’t sign a Notarized doc that has your name as Jo ANNA Smith — even if you sometimes use Jo Anna as a nickname.

One extra letter means your identity has not been “proven on the basis of satisfactory evidence to be the” same as the person who is supposed to sign the document.

You can sign as Jo A. Smith, as that is less than what the I.D. shows.

If your I.D. shows you as Jo A. Smith, you can not sign the document as Jo Anna Smith, as that is more than the I.D. shows.

If your I.D. shows you as Jo Smith, you can only sign as Jo Smith or J. Smith — not Jo A. Smith or Jo Anna Smith.

If your I.D. has your first name, middle name, and married name (a total of 3 names), you can not sign with your first, middle, maiden and married name (a total of 4 names).

No matter how often this is explained, some people just don’t seem to understand.

Notarizing without satisfactory proof of your identity is a violation of the laws that govern Notaries, as well as Notary ethics and  rules and laws against fraud that are in place to protect the public.


About Tim Gatewood

55+, male, widowed. Mobile Notary Public and Signing Agent, Freelance Writer, and Ordained Minister. Willing servant to cats. Science fiction and fantasy fan, avid reader, Founder of the Darrell Awards. Author of _Getting Started As A Notary Signing Agent_ (available from Please be kind to one another.
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2 Responses to The Names Have to Match

  1. Eileen says:

    I recently did a signing in Colorado where the name on the loan docs was (example) Jane Doe-Smith, but her ID said Jane Doe. I followed the rule of the ID needing to have more of the name than on the loan docs, and requested additional back-up IDs. Yet, I was told by my client that since the longer name (Doe-Smith) appeared on the Name/AKA Affidavit as one of her aliases (based on their credit check), I could and should use that document to verify their identity, since it’s a sworn statement that the two name variations are the same person. I’m concerned about being asked to rely on the AKA affidavit to verify someone’s identity, since it’s certainly possible a person could be running around using fake names that appear on their credit report. Obviously it’s slightly harder to forge a birth certificate, SSN, etc. My client is concerned I would walk out of a closing if the person doesn’t have additional ID in a name discrepancy situation, and thus they want me to agree to always rely on the AKA Name Affidavit in that situation (assuming there is one). What are your thoughts?


    • Tim Gatewood says:

      My thoughts are that you are right to be concerned about this demand from your client. You need to be sure it does not violate the rules & laws in your state.

      For instance, here in Tennessee, there’s a list of acceptable forms of i.d. and an affidavit is not on the list. If your state does not have a list, it’s your call as to whether you accept it. Check the laws and the Attorney General Opinions and/or Secretary of State opinions to know whether there is a list.

      For me, if the name on the i.d. is less than the name as shown on their document, they have not shown satisfactory evidence that they are the person described in the documents. Additional documents only changes that if the additional document is on the list of acceptable i.d.

      Title and escrow companies and lenders have their own processes for verifying identity, but we as notaries must follow the laws and rules in our own state.


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