I'm trying to figure out how notaries public in the USA could use Microsoft Word and the popular X.509 digital certificates to notarize a document. Lets make four assumptions about the state law:

  1. The notary gets to pick the technology; the state government does not restrict this.
  2. The notary and the signer meet in person with their computers.
  3. The signer and the notary each have their own digital certificate and their own computer.
    1. The notary is required to apply a seal after the signer has signed, and the seal is a jpeg image.

The problem is, the notary isn't allowed to add the seal image until after the signer has signed. But if the notary adds the seal image after the signer signs, Microsoft Word considers the document invalid because the addition of the image is an alteration.



1 Answer 1


I feel like the JPEG seal is the problem. why is it being used? the digital signature should be more than sufficient. the seal does nothing but complicate the whole process.

But lets assume you MUST add the seal. One solution is to keep them segregated. instead of appending the seal to the document, have both parties digitally sign the document. then afterwards have the notary edit the seal with the documents name and author name and date. then he can digitally sign that as well. sending both of these documents together as separate entities.

EDIT: on a side note, most notaries for any documents that I have used have a sort of cover letter they draft up stating they have indeed seen and verified the documents. This perhaps is the best place to put that seal. Since it already has the document name date and notarized author. A natural fit for the segregation method I stated earlier.

  • $\begingroup$ Nalaurien's answer illustrates why the wording of the state law is critical. Keeping the seal in a separate document (and maybe adding the SHA-256 of the first document to the seal document) would logically associate them, which might be satisfactory, but I'm looking for a way that will work even if the seal must appear in the same document as the signer's signature. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2017 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ If that's the case i don't know of any way this can be done, you cant digitally sign a document then add something to it and have that hash validate to the same signature hash. that's kind of the point of signatures. Is it absolutely unacceptable to have the document on the client's computer then hand him a seal saying "only valid if signed by notary" and then have client sign and notary sign? $\endgroup$
    – Nalaurien
    Jun 9, 2017 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ States usually specify the exact wording that is contained in the seal. In some states the seal must be created by an approved seal manufacturer, who will follow the state rules exactly. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2017 at 17:02
  • $\begingroup$ The only other thing i can think of is to employ some kind of workaround, like having the client sign it, hand to notary who then seals it (which invalidates the first signing) then notary signs it, hands it to client, he signs again. Just seems like a lot of work just to make sign before seal work. $\endgroup$
    – Nalaurien
    Jun 9, 2017 at 17:30

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