In most states, documents requiring acknowledgments do not have to be signed in the notary's presence but the signer must personally appear in front of the notary when it is acknowledged. Clearly there are risks associated with this, thus the preference is for the signer to sign the documents in front of the notary. Many important documents, such as recordable documents, loan agreements and powers of attorney require acknowledgments.
In contrast, a jurat certifies the person who signed the document did so personally, and physically, in front of the notary on the date indicated and in the county indicated. In addition, the notary must also administer an oath or affirmation by the signer to confirm the statements and content in the document are correct.
Jurats are often attached to affidavits and depositions. Documents requiring a jurat must be signed in the notary's presence, as dictated by the typical jurat wording, "Subscribed (signed) and sworn to before me…"
While it is important for a notary to understand the difference between an acknowledgment and a jurat, notaries do not determine which type of certificate is used. To do so would be considered practicing law without a license. A notary can only ask which form is preferred or required if one is not provided.