How to Become a Notary Public

How to Become a Notary Public

If you’ve ever used notary services to obtain a mortgage, draft a will, receive a structured settlement or for other transactions, you know the importance of the notary public’s role in executing the documents. A notary professional serves as an impartial witness in certain transactions to protect against fraud in the signing of critical paperwork and, as such, is an official of high integrity. The job is rewarding and will keep you busy, so check out what you need to do to become a notary public.

General Requirements:

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and does not have a criminal record may become a notary public. In addition, you must be a legal resident of the state where you’re seeking a notary commission in order to qualify to provide notary services. As part of the application process in your state, you’ll supply this information under oath, swearing as to the accuracy of the statements.

As a practical matter, you should be fluent in reading and writing English to properly perform notary tasks, which involve communicating with the people who will be signing the documents. You’ll also need to arrange for your notary seal or stamp in order to officially certify a notarial act.


State-Specific Requirements:

Each state has different laws regulating notary public services, so you should check with your jurisdiction to find out exact requirements. In most states, you work with the Secretary of State’s Office to file your application, pay fees, receive your commission and handle renewals.

In some states, you may have to complete training and/or pass an exam regarding your position as a notary public. Other states have such requirements as:

  • Filing a passport-style photo with your application;
  • Obtaining a copy of your fingerprints;
  • An application fee;
  • Proof of bond coverage in the designated minimal amount, usually around $15,000; and,
  • Keeping a notary journal to track all transactions where you’ve provided notary services.


Your Job Once You Become a Notary Public:

Upon receiving your notary credentials and meeting all requirements of the state where you’re commissioned, you’re now ready to notarize. Your job will include:

  • Verifying the identity of parties executing documents;
  • Ensuring that the signatories are acting on their own, and not under duress or intimidation; and,
  • Making sure that the people signing the documents know what the contents are before signing.

Situations where you may be called upon to provide notary services also vary by state law, but typically include conveyances of real estate, execution of will and estate planning documents, powers of attorney, structured settlement paperwork and some court documents. Plus, there are other transactions where parties may seek notary services, even if not required by law.

Your role as a notary public is an important one, which is why there are general and state-specific requirements in order to be certified to provide notary services. Once you’ve obtained your notary public credentials, you can work for any one of a number of professional notary services to advance your fulfilling, satisfying career.

Items That Don’t Require a Notary, but Probably Should

What Items Require A Notary?

You’re probably aware that certain transactions and items require notary services to execute the necessary documents. However, there are many scenarios where a notary public is not required by law, even though there are many compelling reasons that verification services would be beneficial to all involved parties. When you consider the purposes of using a notary public, you can see that there are advantages of having one in certain transactions – despite the lack of a legal requirement.


Purposes of Retaining a Notary:

The role of the notary public is to verify the true identity of parties executing important documents, to assess their willingness to sign under their own free will and to ensure that the signatories are aware of the contents of the documents. In doing so, the notary professional helps reduce the risk of fraud in various transactions. A notary public is duty-bound to be impartial in notarizing documents, so all screening tasks must be conducted without self-interest. Transactions that require notary services vary by state, but commonly include:

  • Documents conveying title to real estate, including the mortgage and other agreements between a buyer and seller;
  • Wills, trusts and certain estate planning documents;
  • Prenuptial agreements;
  • Structured settlement documents;
  • Powers of attorney for property; and,
  • Healthcare powers of attorney;


The Notarization Process:

There are five essential factors for notary services:

  1. The parties must be physically present.
  2. The notary will verify what the document is and ensuring it’s complete (i.e., no blank spaces).
  3. The notary will screen the signers’ identity and make sure they’re signing of their own free will.
  4. In some states, the notary professional will record the transaction in their journal.
  5. Applying the notarial seal and certification.


When to Consider a Notary for Document Execution:

In addition to those transactions where a notarization is legally required, there are other circumstances where you may want to consider retaining notary services. The notarization process is intended to help reduce the risk of fraud, so employing a notary professional would be useful in any situation where there’s a potential for fraud. Some examples would be:


  • Purchasing a car to verify title and ownership;
  • Online transactions for sale and purchase of products;
  • Agreements for personal loans; and,
  • Business agreements.

In general, use a notary for any life-changing, important document where verifying the identities of the parties and their willingness to sign is critical to ensuring a smooth transaction. Retaining the services of a notary public is a small price to pay when considering the alternative: You stand to lose considerably – whether it be money, personal rights or other interests – if fraud is present.

Whether your circumstances require notarization will depend on the laws of your state, but – regardless of the legal standards – there are benefits to retaining a notary public in certain transactions. Prevention of fraud is key and notaries greatly reduce the risk of falsification of documents and/or identity. When you do decide to work with notary services, make sure to choose a company that provides premium customer care and will ensure proper execution of all documents.

Why We Need Notary Services in the Internet Age

Notary Services for the Internet Age

Advancements in technology have enabled us to move beyond a simple purchase of a product online. These days, internet users are able to arrange a home mortgage, obtain a car loan, draft a will and complete other transactions that we never thought would be possible a few years ago. However, despite the ease of handling business online, there are still legal standards that require notary services to execute relevant paperwork. Plus, there are a number of reasons that you should consider retaining a notary public – even if it’s not required by law. Here’s why we still need notary services in the internet age.


The Notary Public’s Role:

A notary public is a person appointed by state government to act as an impartial witness in the execution of important documents. The intent of notarization is to deter fraud by those signing paperwork, so proper verification of identity is a key task for notary services. A notary also assesses the signatory’s willingness to sign the document without threats or intimidation, and ensures that the signer is aware of the contents of the paperwork.

When looking at the functions of a notary public, you can see why the role is still essential in the Internet Age: These tasks must be performed by the notary while in the physical presence of the signatory. Obviously, this isn’t the case for online transactions, so notary services aren’t going away.


A Notary Public May Be Required by Law:

There are certain documents that must be notarized by law, even if the majority of the transaction, negotiations and communications take place online. The exact requirements vary by state, but you’ll likely need notary services to execute:

  • Documents related to the conveyance of a real estate, including the mortgage, deed and any other agreements;
  • Wills, trusts and certain estate planning documents;
  • Prenuptial agreements;
  • Structured settlement documents;
  • Powers of attorney for property;
  • Healthcare powers of attorney; and,
  • Others according to state law.


Other Times to Consider Notary Services:

Fraud is widespread in online transactions, so there are situations where you might retain a notary public to ensure a document signer is who they claim to be. Retaining a notary professional would be useful in such online transactions as:

  • The purchase/sale of a vehicle, to verify title and ownership;
  • Online transactions for the purchase/sale of expensive products;
  • Agreements for personal loans; and,
  • Business agreements.

In general, consider retaining the services of a notary public whenever the risk of fraud is present – whether online or not.

The convenience and speed of completing transactions online appeal to many people who want to transact business via the internet. But it’s important to understand that legal requirements for notary services don’t go away simply because documents can be executed online. There are also benefits to retaining a notary – even when not required under the law – in order to protect yourself from fraud. Contact a notary public directly for more information on the laws in your state and other requirements for completing online transactions.

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