What is a Testimonium Clause?
Notary certificates will often have wording that is beyond what may be strictly required, especially under the laws of your state. This extra or surplus wording is called surplusage.
This is not to be confused with wording that is wrong, such as when the certificate states the signer is “known to be” when you do not know them personally or states that Mary Jones and Bob Jones appeared before you when only Mary Jones is present. In those instances, you have the authority and the responsibility to correct the notary certificate so that it is a true statement of the facts of the notarization — and you do not need to ask permission from anyone to do this, as it is an inherent power of the office of notary public.
Just as the signer is executing the document and acknowledging and/or swearing/affirming to the contents of the document, you are executing the notary certificate and attesting to its accuracy by your signature. So, if it states something that is factually untrue, fix it by striking through the incorrect portion and draw a line from that to the nearest blank space and print the correct wording and initial it.
Examples of surplusage include the “SS” that appears next to the venue (it stands for an ancient Latin phrase and is not required in most states), the “he/she/they” and “his/her/their” (only one of those is true in each case), and the testimonium clause. According to the Notary Law Institute, notaries can ignore the surplussage as long as it is obviously extra and does not change the meaning of what the notary is certifying to by signing the certificate. In other words, we do not have to strike out the surplus wording and initial it.
One type of surplusage that I have seen quite often is called the testimonium or testimonium clause. Here are some examples of that:
Witness my hand and official seal.
Given under my hand and seal of office this __________ day of __________, ________.
WITNESS my hand and Notarial seal at office the day and year above written.
I certify under PENALTY OF PERJURY under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing paragraph is true and correct.
California requires that exact testimonium clause on their notary certificates for documents notarized in California. So, if the document was prepared there or if the lender or title company is located there, you may expect to see that one, even if you are a notary in another state. In this case, even though it is surplusage, you should either strike the entire clause (if your state does not require such a statement about perjury, which most states don’t) or just strike out “California” and add your state and initial the correction.
A testimonium clause at the end of the notary certificate may be required if the date of the notarization does not appear elsewhere in the notary certificate. The Appendix of this book contains common forms of notary certificates, none of which have a testimonium clause. This is because they were taken from model laws and the forms which I have seen most often. You should be familiar with the standard wording of notary certificates in your state. If your state requires a testimonium clause on notary certificates for documents notarized in your state and the document has a pre-printed certificate without one, it is your responsibility to add the testimonium above your signature or to attach a loose certificate with the complete and proper wording.
The term “testimonium clause” is also applied to the sentence or clause at the end of deeds and other documents that starts off “In witness whereof” or “Witness my hand.” Basically, the testimonium is there to say that you authenticate the contents of the statement by your signature below. In other words, it connects what is in the document (or the notary certificate) to the signature and says that you signed it to show you are aware of, agree with, and attest to the accuracy of the statements written in the document.
(This is an excerpt from the first draft of American Notary Basics: What Every Notary Needs to Know™, which will be published in 2016.)