It’s a common assumption that “notarization” and “attestation” refer to the same type of act. While a state-commissioned public notary can only perform notarial acts, attestations are required for certain documents. So if you’re struggling to understand the difference between a notarization and attestation, keep reading for a thorough explanation of these acts and their respective purpose.
The act of notarization the signatures on a document can only by a legal public notary. Requirements for obtaining this title vary from state to state; however, it usually involves paying a fee, taking an oath, and being sworn in by the respective state’s Secretary of State. Some states also require notary publics to pass a test before they are allowed to perform notarial acts.
Attestations, on the other hand, can be performed by anyone, regardless as to whether or not the individual is a state-commissioned public notary. It’s not uncommon for documents to require witness attestations, which basically means that a third-party must bear witness to the document’s signing. The third party attests that the document was signed by the said person. The term “attestation” can also be used in the context of validating the contents of a document.
Another key difference between notarial acts and attestations involves the way in which they are executed. When a notarial act is being performed, the public notary is usually required to place his or her official stamp on the document. Someone who’s attesting the signatures on a document and/or its contents, on the other hand, are not required to place a stamp or seal on the document.
Not every state requires public notaries to stamp/seal notarized documents. If a state requires it and the notary public fails to do so, however, the document may be deemed invalid. This is why it’s important for public notaries to follow their state’s protocol step-by-step to ensure clients’ documents are handled in the correct manner.
If a notary public attests a document by acting as a witness, he or she may not notarize their own signature. Remember, public notaries don’t notarize documents, but instead they notarize signatures on the document. Some documents require one or more signatures from credible witnesses, which must be notarized in addition to the primary signer’s signature. Assuming the state allows, the notary public may sign as a credible witness, but he or she may not notarize their own signature. In this case, another notary public must notarize the signature.
Notarial acts and attestations are similar, but they have a few key differences as noted above. For starters, only state-commissioned public notaries are legally allowed to perform notarial acts. This prevents just anyone notarizing documents. Attestations, however, can usually be performed by anyone, depending on the particular circumstance. Notarial acts are also a bit more laborious, requiring ID validation and stamping the document.