“What does attest mean on a contract” is a common question. Attest is a legally used term referring to someone swearing to or confirming the truth or validity of something. This can be done a few different ways, including:

  1. Swearing, under oath, that any testimony or information given will be factual and true. We typically see this in court cases, when a witness takes an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, etc.
  2. Serving as the witness to the signing of a legal document, usually by signing it themselves, too. A common example is serving as a witness on a marriage license. Another example is the witnessing of the signing of a will, wherein all states require at least two people to attest to the validity of the will itself, and the mental and emotional capacity of the creator of the will.
  3. If being permitted to view sensitive or protected information, you may be asked to sign a document, attesting to the fact that you understand the parameters in which you are being granted permission to view the information, meaning that you understand that you are not permitted to use the information in any unlawful way.

Essentially, attestation results from one providing a signature or oath as it pertains to legal proceedings or the execution of legal documentation.

Attestation vs. Notarization

It may seem on the surface that attestation and notarization are basically the same thing. While some similarities may exist, they are quite different. Some of the key differences between attestation and notarization include:

  1. Only someone who is a registered notary, per the requirements and guidelines of their jurisdiction may serve as a notary. Sometimes, this may involve paying a fee or even being sworn in by your state’s Secretary of State.
  2. There are generally no guidelines or requirements as to who may serve as a witness, provided they are over the age of 18 and deemed of sound mind and body.
  3. Notarization, more often than not, requires the notary to not only sign the document, but also affix a stamp that includes their notary identification number.
  4. There are not any required stamps or identification required for an attestation; generally, just the signature of the person offering the attestation.
  5. When obtaining notarization, you will generally be required to provide photo ID or other proof of identity; this is generally not required for those providing attestation, except in those cases in which a document requires both notarization and attestation, in which case, the notary will usually need the identification of anyone involved in the signing and/or witnessing of the document.

Different states have different requirements regarding what kinds of documents require either a notarization or attestation. As such, it is important to ensure that you are clear as to what is expected to be done with any legal documentation you may be involved with. Failure to adhere to your jurisdiction’s requirements can often result in the document being considered null and void.

It is worth noting that the same person cannot serve in both capacities. Whoever acts as the notary cannot also serve as the witness providing the attestation. As such, should both be required, you will want to ensure that you have two different people fulfilling these roles. Additionally, if you’re a registered notary, you are not permitted to notarize your own documents.

As the legal requirements can vary from state to state, and may further vary depending upon the exact nature of the document, if you are at all uncertain as to what is expected, it is always wise to consult an attorney that specializes in business or contract law.

Providing Attestation to a Contract

In many cases, particularly with business contracts, a witness is not required for the contract to be considered legally enforceable. There are some legal contracts that do in many states, however, including:

  1. Signing of a marriage license
  2. Signing of a last will and testament
  3. Entering into real estate agreements or deals. This is especially true in commercial real estate, as most states do require that attestation be provided regarding deeds or mortgages and that it is provided to the proper jurisdiction.

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