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Name Discrepancies

Name Discrepancies (ALL STATES)  

Every now and then, it happens. The name listed on someone’s ID does not exactly match either the name on the document or their signature. When this happens, you – as the notary – have a few options:

Determine if the Discrepancy is Acceptable

The general rule of thumb when determining if a slight discrepancy is acceptable, is the “less, not more” rule. If there is a discrepancy between a document and an ID, it is acceptable for the document to have “less, not more” detail. For example: If “Michael James Smith” (as listed on his ID) wants to sign a document “Michael J. Smith,” he may do so, because the signature contains less information than his ID. On the other hand, if his ID stated only “Michael J. Smith,” he would not be able to sign a document for “Michael James Smith,” since there is no way to prove whether the “J” is his name actually stands for “James.” This rule also applies to nicknames. “Rebecca” as listed on her ID could sign a document as “Becky.” On the other hand, if her ID says her name is “Becky,” she may not sign a document for a “Rebecca.”

Ask for Additional Identification

Another way of handling name discrepancies is to ask for additional means of identification. Your safest bet as a notary is to ask for another form of identification that is satisfactory according to your state regulations (meaning a form of identification that can completely replace the one initially presented to you). While this is your best option, it is not always feasible. In such instances, you may ask for supplemental identification. This would not replace the signer’s primary ID, but would substantiate the name variation seen on the document. These forms of ID might be anything from credit cards to social security cards, but ones with features similar to the primary ID’s – for example a photograph and signature – are preferable.

Decline to Notarize

If, after everything, you are not satisfied with the signer’s claim, you retain the right to decline the notarization. Trust your instincts. You’re always better safe, than sorry.


It is a common misconception that if the above conditions are not met, there is another option: The AKA affidavit. The AKA affidavit, while another means of clarifying a name discrepancy, is NOT meant to replace specified methods of satisfactory identification. In most instances, an AKA affidavit is used by lenders and title companies that want to have on file all the legal names a person has claimed in their lifetime. For example: They want to know that the once single “Mary Johnson,” is the same person as the now married “Mary Lopez.” An AKA affidavit can account for this. It can NOT account for a person whose ID document reads “Mary Lopez” attempting to sign a document as “Mary Johnson.”