What Is A Notary Public

ContractA notary public, is someone who has been appointed by a government authority to officially witness signatures on legal documents, collect sworn statements and also administer oaths. To verify their presence at the time the documents were signed, they use a seal  that has a unique identifying number issued by certain states. The powers of a notary public usually vary from state to state, and so do the requirements for becoming one.

Here are a few things a notary public can and cannot do:

What Can A Notary Public Do?

A notary public can:

  • Attest documents and certify their execution for use in the country, or abroad
  • Prepare and certify Powers of Attorney, contracts, deeds, wills and numerous other legal documents
  • Administer oaths for local and international documents
  • Witness signatures to statutory declarations, powers of attorney, affidavits, contracts and other legal documents
  • Certify copy of documents for use in the country or abroad
  • Prepare official documents for use abroad

A notary public cannot:

  • Translate into any other language, the title Notary Public
  • Offer legal advice, or modify any terms on a document
  • Notarize blank or incomplete documents
  • Notarize signatures of people who are not present
  • Certify or notarize documents such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, filed documents in a court proceeding, death certificate and many others

How To Become A Notary Public

A notary public is expected to follow a written set of rules without any personal discretion. This is what distinguishes their duties from judicial duties.

To become a notary public:

  • A person must be at least 18 years old.
  • A person must be a resident of the state where they are applying; or have a business in the state.
  • A person must be of a good moral character, as well as having a good reputation.
  • They must also have a clean record; having been convicted of a felony considerably reduces the chances of becoming a notary public.
  • The person must be clear with regards to the state’s notary law. They may be required to pass an exam.

Every state has set its own requirements for notaries public. Once these requirements have been satisfied, an oath of office has to be taken. Some states, for example, require a person to be able to read, write and have a good grasp on English to become a notary public.

Also, in several states, a notary commission cannot be revoked for misconduct.

It is very important for notaries public to be aware of the specific rules of the state they operate in, so they know their limitations. They can then avoid notarizing any documents which they have no authority of. A lack of such knowledge can jeopardize their commission while affecting their reputation negatively.


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