A jurat is a certification on a legal document which provides information about when and where the document was signed, and who witnessed the signing. Lawyers and notaries can both generate jurats which can be used to validate legal documents. A jurat is usually necessary before a document can be legally recognized.
A basic jurat includes a statement from the official who witnessed the signing of the document indicating that the person the document concerns signed it in the presence of the official. The official notes the date and location of the signature, and signs the document or affixes a seal. In some cases, a signature and seal are used. The jurat statement often begins “Signed before me on this date...” although the language can change, depending on regional preference. In some cases, people can sign a document elsewhere and bring in proof of identity to have a jurat attached to the document after the fact.
A classic reason to use a jurat is when a document needs to be notarized. Someone might need, for example, to notarize a letter to formalize it. The person brings the letter to someone who can act as a notary, and signs the letter in the presence of the notary. The notary verifies identification, and then affixes a jurat to the document to indicate that the person signed it in the notary's presence and that the person's identity was verified.
Jurats are also attached to documents such as affidavits which may be used in court as evidence in a trial. The certification allows evidence to be brought in when a witness cannot attend court, and certified documents can also be used as standalone evidence. For example, if people are in a dispute about a contract, a jurat demonstrating that both parties signed the contract in the presence of a lawyer can be used to prove that both parties were aware of their rights and responsibilities under the terms of the contract.
In some regions of the world, the term “jurat” refers not to a certification, but to a person. In these regions, jurats are public officials who may be elected or appointed. Their roles can vary, depending on the society, but may include passing laws, making judgments, assessing fines and fees, and so forth. Jurats can be seen in locations like Jersey, and in some areas, they have formal garments which they wear on duty to indicate their office and position.