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Hypothetical scenario: Alan Jones and Peter Piper both live in the United States and are good friends. Alan uses the screen name J7 in a computer account, and a need has developed for Alan Jones to sign a document using the name J7 and acknowledge it before a notary. Alan has no intent to deceive anyone. Peter is well aware of the screen name. Peter is a notary, is not related to Alan, and has no financial interest relating to the document. Alan and Peter both live in a state that allows the use of personal aliases for non-deceitful purposes, and allows notaries to identify signers on the basis of personal knowledge.

So is Peter allowed to take the acknowledgement of J7 and complete a certificate of acknowledgement listing the signer as just "J7"?

"J7" is a personal alias, it is not a name for a business.

The question is inspired by postings on notary forums and blogs where the notaries/authors assert that a person's true legal name is whatever appears on the legally acceptable identification document they present to the notary and the name on the certificate of acknowledgement should exactly match the name on the ID credential, regardless of how the name appears in the document being notarized. The implicit assumption in these postings is usually that the signer and notary are strangers.

  • I don't know anywhere that would have that type of contact... Usually it would be "Allen Jones aka A7" or "herein after A7" with the legal name first. – Ron Beyer Feb 3 at 23:11
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Unless the notary personally knows the signer, the notary should, and normally will, ask for identification, and the name that the notary puts in the notarization certificate should be copied exact6ly from whatever ID is presented. For Alan Jones to sign as J7, he would need some sort of official proof, acceptable to the notary, that he is "J7". What would that be? I doubt that any notary would certify such a doccument.

(If the document is signed as "Alan Jones" but the ID says "Alan J Jones" I am not sure if the notary must follow the ID or may follow the document, assuming that the notary is convinced that the two are the same person. Many notaries in practice will follow the ID.)

I agree that the normal way would be for the document to say "Alan Jones, also known as 'J7'", and possibly include wording such as "I Alan Jones, am the person who posts on site XYZ.com as "J7", and specifically who posted a message starting {quote} at {timestamp}." (Or it could give the secure hash of the message, or of several messages.) This would clearly est6ablish a link between the document and the online conversations/acts that it is meant to refer to.

The questions says:

a need has developed for Alan Jones to sign a document using the name J7

I doubt that doing such a thing is either required or helpful. Rather I suspect he will need to sign a document in which he acknowledges being the particular "J7" involved in the matter.

  • I disagree that a notary notarizing for a stranger should copy the name exactly from the ID to the notarial certificate. The name should be copied exactly from the name stated in the notarized document to the notarial certificate, and if the notary isn't sure the name in the notarized document belongs to the signer, the notary should refuse to act. – Gerard Ashton Feb 4 at 2:05
  • David Siegel, you doubt doing such a think is required or helpful. Maybe, but I think it's useful as a hypothetical discussion, because if a convincing case for "J7" could be made, then the same argument would apply to forms of the signer's name that bear a closer resemblance to the name that's considered to be the "true name" (to the extent that "true names" really exist). – Gerard Ashton Feb 4 at 2:14
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    @Gerard Ashton a) I don't think an even moderately convincing case for 'J7" cna be made; b) I think that the issue of alternate forms of the signers name can more easily be addressed directly. It is not that hard to establish that "David Siegel" and "David E. Siegel" are the same person. It would be much harder to establish that either is "Q17". More traditional pen names might be an easier approach:Could Issac Asimov have notarized a document as "Paul French" .or Donald Westlake as "Richard Stark"? I doubt that too, but it might have been possible. – David Siegel Feb 4 at 2:56

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