An acknowledgment is a witnessed signature made by a person signing a formal document. This document is typically a deed, mortgage, or last will.
The witness to the signature of the document at hand must be legally authorized to do so. This most typically is done by signing the document with a notary but may also be certified by an appointed court official. By offering acknowledgment, you provide testimony that the signatory signed the document of their own free will.
Example of Acknowledgment
An example of an acknowledgment is if Eric was planning for his future and decided to have a will drawn up. Eric's will contains information on his end-of-life care, estate, and potential heirs. This information is sensitive and contains directives that impact Eric's own well-being and the lives of those he named in the will.
Once a certified official draws up Eric's will, Eric needed to take the will and accompanying acknowledgment certificate to his local notary. Once there, the notary asked Eric for his identification and confirmed that it was in fact Eric who was present. The notary spoke with Eric, and coming to the conclusion that Eric was not under the influence or otherwise incapacitated, she declared him to be of sound mind.
In addition to being mentally capable, the notary must also confirm that Eric understands the contents of the will fully. Once Eric and the notary agreed that Eric met the requirements to sign, the notary witnessed his signature on the acknowledgment certificate. She then placed her seal on the document. The notary signs and includes her certification information and Eric can now take the will knowing it will be much easier to prove as legal and binding after Eric's death.
Significance of Acknowledgment
Acknowledgments are an important step in finalizing any legal document, especially in documents dealing with property ownership. A primary function of completing an acknowledgment in front of a notary is to confirm all parties' identification. The secondary function allows the notary to assess if all parties involved seem sound of mind. This process ensures that no signing party is being coerced, or otherwise unwilling, and can be held accountable for the contents of the signed document.
Acknowledgment vs. Jurat
As stated above, an acknowledgment is a declaration that the signatory has signed a legal document of their own free will, and was present enough to do so. A jurat is similar in that it also requires a signature or marking and confirmation of identity, but adds the addition of a verbal sworn oath. A jurat is the sworn statement that the document at hand is truthful to the extent of the signatory's knowledge.
As with an acknowledgment certificate, a jurat requires a notary to be present. The notary will also request identification and confirm that the party present is the intended party. Once that takes place the swearer may then sign the document and say their verbal oath. This oath may or may not be accompanied by a raised right hand.