To acknowledge is to admit, affirm, declare, testify, avow, confess, or own as genuine. Admission or affirmation of obligation or responsibility. Most states have adopted the Uniform Acknowledgment Act.
The partial payment of a debt, for example, is considered an acknowledgment of it for purposes of tolling the statute of limitations—the time set by law for bringing a lawsuit—based on a person's failure to repay a debtor. State law usually gives a creditor six years from the date a debt is due, according to the creditor's contract with the debtor, to sue for nonpayment. If, on the last day of the fifth year, the debtor repays any part of the loan, the STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS is tolled or suspended. The creditor then has another six years from the date of partial payment to sue the debtor for the balance of the loan. The debtor's partial payment indicates acceptance of responsibility to pay the loan. If the debtor had not paid anything, he or she would have escaped liability six years after the date the loan was due.
An acknowledgment of PATERNITY means recognition of parental duties—such as financial support of an illegitimate child—by written agreement, verbal declaration, or conduct of the father toward the mother and child that clearly demonstrates recognition of paternity.
The requirement for acknowledgments on certain documents—such as deeds transferring the ownership of real property, wills giving the ownership of property to a decedent's heirs after death, or documentary evidence that is to be admitted in a legal proceeding—is established by state law. If such documents do not contain acknowledgments, they are ineffective and cannot be used in any legal proceedings.
Any or all of the parties to a document may be required to acknowledge it. Only those persons specified by law, a NOTARY PUBLIC, for example, may take an acknowledgment. Usually, a person making an acknowledgment does not have to explain the contents of the document to the person taking the acknowledgment. A person who ordinarily takes an acknowledgment might be disqualified from doing so if that person stands to gain some benefit from or has a financial interest in the outcome of the transaction. For example, state law requires a person making a will, a testator, to make an acknowledgment to a certain number of witnesses that the document is the genuine expression of how that person wants his or her property disposed of upon his or her death. Suppose the state requires two witnesses. If the people selected as witnesses have financial interests in the person's will, they will be disqualified for purposes of acknowledgment. This is done to deter dishonest people from fabricating a document that is beneficial to them. Such a will is legally ineffective; once the testator dies, his or her property will be transferred according to the laws of DESCENT AND DISTRIBUTION.
A certificate of acknowledgment, sometimes referred to as the acknowledgment, is evidence that the acknowledgment has been done properly. Although its contents may vary from state to state, the certificate must recite: (1) that acknowledgment before the proper officer was made by the person who completed the document; (2) the place where the acknowledgment took place; and (3) the name and authority of the officer. The certificate may be on the document itself or may be attached to it as a separate instrument.