Legal Responsibilities of a Notary Public

There are a number of transactions that require documents to be notarized by a certified notary public, from mortgages and car loans to will and powers of attorney. Considering the importance of these types of paperwork, you likely have questions about the legal impact of obtaining notarization. The laws regarding legal responsibilities of a notary public vary depending on the state, but there are some common factors.

Acknowledgement:

Under certain circumstances, a signer is required to formally declare their acknowledgement of execution of a document. This means that the signatory:

  • Understands the contents and intent of the paperwork;
  • Informs the witnesses that the signature is his/her own; and,
  • Signs the documents under free will and without coercion.

Documents that usually require a notary to obtain acknowledgement are deeds, powers of attorney, agreements that involve real estate and estate plans. A notary public can do so by making a statement as the signatory is executing the document, such as:

“Do you acknowledge or declare that you understand the contents of this document and have signed it of your own free will, without any coercion?”

Oath & Affirmation:

Some documents require the signer to swear to a notary that the contents are true. This constitutes a pledge to verify the statements made in the document, typically within a written affidavit where the signatory has supplied certain facts. Documents filed with a court commonly require that a litigant swear under oath that the statements made within are true and correct.

As with an acknowledgment, the notary must make a statement as the document is being signed, such as:

“Do you swear/affirm under the penalties of perjury, that the information contained in this document is the truth?”

Lawful Notarization: Key Elements

There are critical elements of a notarization in order to ensure the notary services are considered legally sufficient.

  • The signatory to the document must be physically present before the notary public. The purpose for physical presence is so the notary can properly assess the signer’s understanding of his/her actions and willingness to sign.
  • The person signing must be personally known to the signatory, which typically requires the notary public to review a government issued ID.
  • The document being signed and notarized must be an original, i.e., is completely unsigned before presentation to the notary. Any copies of a document that include a photocopy of a signature cannot be notarized because they would not be considered original.
  • There must be notarial language demonstrating that the notarial act occurred contemporaneously with the execution of the document, such as “Subscribed and sworn to before me this [date].”
  • The notary is required to apply their notarial seal alongside the notarial language.

It’s critical that you have an understanding about the legal responsibilities of a notary public and the role these professionals play when you’re executing important documents. As such, you should make sure to choose the right notary services to suit your needs. When considering your options to retain a notary public or notary signing agent, look for those that provide quality customer care and professionalism to ensure proper execution of relevant documents.


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