One of the primary functions of a Notary Public is to identify an individual who is signing a document. In all states, clear guidelines are given on how to confirm that identification.

Unfortunately, many times individuals are still confused on what documents can be used to verify a person’s identity.


I recently came across a situation wherein the signer presented his work identification and birth certificate and was told by the title company that these documents would be sufficient for proper identification. Much to the title company’s dismay, I could not, and would not, accept these two documents as a primary form of identification. Secondary, yes, but not primary. This assignment was eventually reassigned to another Notary Public who was willing to disregard the statues of the State of Michigan, as well as the oath they took to “…uphold the constitution and perform their (your) duties with reasonable care”.[1]


So, what forms of identification can be used for primary identification? Pursuant to Michigan Notary Public Act 238 of 2003, MCL 55.285, Section 25 (6)(c) “Identified on the basis of a current license, identification card, or record issued by a federal or state government that contains the person’s photograph and signature.”[2] In layman terms, you can use the following forms of identification: Driver’s License, State ID, Passport, US Alien Registration card. In some cases, I have seen on the US Patriot Act form the acceptance of a Military ID. The main purpose if the primary identification is to have a photograph of the signer and their signature.


What does this mean for you as an individual that currently needs (or possibly in the future) a document notarized? Make certain that you keep your Driver’s License, State ID, Passport and/or US Alien Registration card current at all times; do not allow them to expire. Additionally, when going to have a document notarized, make certain that you have within your possession that valid form of identification.


Finally, you might ask ‘what difference it makes’ for a Notary Public to “just notarize” a document like in the scenario above. Because the title company “knows” the person, or say a Power of Attorney needs to be notarized and the signer’s identifying document is expired but other individuals at the location “can confirm it is them”, it then creates a desire to assist these individuals. However, legally this cannot be done. The penalties for doing such could range from loss of commission to financial penalization, or even possibly incarceration.

(Michigan Notary Public Act 238 of 2003, MCL 55.300a, MCL 55.301 Section 40a & 41, and MCL 55.309 Section 49) [3]