Can Notaries Give Legal Advice?

You’re likely aware that notary services play a part in the execution of important documents related to home mortgages, car loans and in estate planning. Due to the legal nature of these transactions, you might assume that a notary public has the expertise to provide advice regarding the laws that govern the rights of the parties. However, it’s important to understand the role of a notary professional, and what they can and cannot do.

 

Limitations on Providing Legal Advice:

The duties of a notary public are clearly defined by statute in every state and, while the laws may vary by jurisdiction, a notary is only legally allowed to provide certain acts. Any action taken by a notary that constitutes exercising judgment or direction may be considered the unauthorized practice of law: offering legal services without being licensed as an attorney. It’s a fine line, as many of the documents that require notary services are legal in nature – a signer that asks a simple question might get a notary public in trouble. Some examples include:

  • Offering legal advice or saying what a law means;
  • Drafting or assisting a signer in drafting a document;
  • Offering advice as to the proper notarization process to perform in executing a document;
  • Providing a legal form or recommending that a certain document or form should be used for a specific transaction;
  • Representing a person in a courtroom or legal proceeding; and,
  • Charging a fee for what amounts to legal work.

 

How a Notary Public Can Avoid Unauthorized Practice of Law:

There are ways that a notary public can avoid being accused of offering legal advice, while still assisting signatories with execution of documents.

  • The notary should set proper expectations with the signers of a document, clearly explaining their role and what they can and cannot do in providing notary services.
  • A notary public can explain what documents they can notarize and what notary actions they take with respect to each type of document. For instance, a notary can explain the differences between an affidavit and an acknowledgment; however, the signers (or licensed attorneys) must still choose the document they’ll be signing.
  • The notary can refer signers to an attorney if they have questions or would like to know more about the legal impact of the document they’re executing.

 

Job Duties of a Notary Signing Agent:

The role of a notary public is to verify the identity of a person signing a document and ensure they’re signing under their free will. A notary signing agent may assist with the execution of documents related to real estate, and their role is more involved. The notary signing agent is allowed by law to review an entire loan package with borrowers who are obtaining a mortgage, ensuring that all signatures are in the right place and notarized as required by law.

Whether you require a notary public or a notary signing agent will depend on the transaction, your circumstances and the laws of your state. It’s essential to consider your needs when looking at options for notary services, so you’re sure to find the right fit. You should also seek out a notary professional that provides top customer service and can assist you with proper execution of documents.


Can a Notary Certify a Copy of a Passport or a Driver’s License?

Many people are traveling outside the US for both business and pleasure trips, and they must abide by the laws of various countries when crossing international borders. As we become more mobile, certifications of certain identity documents are necessary – including notary certification of passports and state-issued documents, like driver’s licenses and identification cards. While you might be generally aware of the role of a notary public, it’s important to understand how notarization of these documents is handled.

 

General Rules on Notary Copy Certification:

When travel requires you to submit  “a notarized copy” of your passport or government issued identification card, the term refers to a notary copy certification. Whether you can obtain a copy certification for these documents depends on the laws of the state where you reside. Please note that publicly recorded documents cannot be notary copy certified in any state. These would include birth and marriage certificates, certificates of naturalization/citizenship and records maintained by government offices. However, passports and government issued IDs do not fall under this rule.

 

States Where Copy Certification is Allowed:

In some states, a notary public does have the power to issue a notary copy certification of an ID document, including passports and authorized identification cards. Where allowed, the notary professional must follow the rules governing notarial activities within their state. Typically, this will require the notary public to verify the identity of a person presenting the copy of the passport or ID and supply the notarial seal.

 

States Where Copy Certification is Prohibited:

If you live in a state where notarial certification is not allowed, there are a couple of options that a notary public may offer – though these are not considered a notary copy certification.

  1. Request to Federal Government: You can contact the US Department of State Foreign Affairs (USDOSFA) obtain a copy of your passport records. When you submit your request, you’ll receive:
    • A cover letter verifying your birth place and date;
    • Your original passport application with color photo;
    • An official certificate bearing the seal of the USDOSFA, with a signature of the US Secretary of State that certified that the documents constitute a true and correct copy of your passport records.
  1. Sworn Statement of Requestor: You can present an affidavit along with your passport, wherein you swear, under oath and before a notary public, that the passport is a true and correct copy. It’s important to keep in mind that the notary public is only notarizing the affidavit and your signature: He/she is not providing a notarized copy of your passport.

Whether you can use the services of a notary public to certify your US passport or state-issued identification will depend on the laws of your state. If you do live in a jurisdiction where a notary public can legally certify these documents, you should choose the right professional to handle your transaction. Look for notary services that are dedicated to providing quality customer care and know the laws regarding proper execution of passports and state IDs.


How Mobile Notaries Save You Money & Time

Some of the most important transactions you’ll be a part of in your lifetime require the services of a notary public, including the purchase of a home, executing a will and creating powers of attorney. But when you consider the physical location where you need these notary services, you can see how the situation can be quite inconvenient. Fortunately, some companies offer mobile notary services when you need to execute critical documents and it’s impractical to go offsite. Here are some of the benefits

 

Mobile Notary Services Save You Time:

A notary’s job is to verify the identity of the parties signing documents, which requires all signatories to physically appear and offer proof of identification. For certain paperwork – such as signing healthcare directives when a person is in the hospital – it’s not possible to do so. Other times, it’s just inconvenient for all parties to go onsite at a notary’s office, such as when you’re purchasing a car. A mobile notary public can be where you need them to be, according to your schedule.

 

When You Save Time, You Save Money:

When you think about the value of your time, you can see how mobile notary services save you money. Instead of traveling across town to have your will notarized, you can hire a mobile notary public to come to your home or office. Rather than dealing with traffic and losing on business opportunities, you can retain a notary to visit you to handle the notarization process – which typically takes only a few minutes, as compared to the hour or more that you’d spend in your car.

 

Services Offered by a Mobile Notary Public:

A traveling notary has the same credentials and qualifications as any notary public; the only difference is that you arrange for their services in advance so they can be onsite when you need them. You’ll still get the best service, including attention to detail, following proper notarization process for your state and answering any questions you might have. You’ll also have the peace of mind of an insurance policy for any errors or omissions.

 

Choosing a Mobile Notary Service:

As with any professional service you might retain, it’s important that you research your mobile notary properly. Look for companies that employ notaries with the proper credentials and training for your state. You’ll also want a full explanation of the rates charged by a mobile service, such as whether the fees are hourly or on a flat fee basis – and whether you’ll have to pay for transportation/mileage.

Mobile notary services save you time and money when you need to notarize important documents, but the circumstances mean it’s impractical or impossible to head to a notary’s office. Plus, it’s easy to arrange for a mobile notary public – whether you need a one-time service or would like to work out a long-term relationship. When your situation calls for a traveling notary public, make sure to hire a service that possesses the proper qualifications and will deliver quality customer care.


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.


Using a Notary Service to Execute Loan Documents on High End Cars

Notary Services for High End Cars

As an auto dealer, your revenue is driven by sales and your time is best spent on the floor working with customers. The last thing you want to do during a busy day is chase down a fraudster who supplied false information to secure a loan on a high end car. Identity theft and fraud cost US businesses over $50 billion a year, and it’s relatively easy for shysters to create false identification documents to obtain financing. Using a notary service for car loans greatly reduces the risk of fraud and streamlines the loan process. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Insurance Against Fraud:

The primary reason to use auto notary services is to reduce fraud and it’s the notarization process that achieves this goal. There are five tasks a notary public will complete:

  1. Ensuring that parties are physically present;
  2. Scanning the documents to make sure they’re complete;
  3. Verifying the signers’ identity and ensuring they’re signing through their own free will;
  4. Recording the transaction in their journal (in some states); and,
  5. Applying the notarial seal and certification.

When the auto notary public accomplishes these tasks, there is almost zero possibility of the presence of fraud. Therefore, retaining a notary professional to notarize all documents related to the purchase of a high end car is a type of insurance policy to ensure your dealership doesn’t suffer losses due to fraud.

 

Notarizing Vehicle Title:

Notarization requirements vary by state, but there are several jurisdictions where you’ll need the services of an auto notary public as part of the sale process or when accepting a trade-in vehicle. Even where not legally required, it’s smart to retain a notary professional. Doing so ensures you’re not stuck with unfortunate circumstances and upset customers, such as:

  • You take possession of a vehicle for a customer’s trade-in value, but the title isn’t clear. You cannot sell this car to another customer, so you’ve lost the entire value.
  • A customer who has made a purchase returns because there are questions as to their title and ownership of a vehicle. You’re probably legally required to return their money or otherwise reimburse them.

In both cases, you’ve likely lost a customer – and your reputation suffers when they spread the word about poor service at your dealership.

 

Offsite Notary Services:

Of course, it’s impractical to head to a notary public’s office every time you sell a car or accept one for trade-in. Fortunately, there are nationwide mobile notary public services so you can complete notarization onsite at your dealership.

When you use an auto notary public to execute loan documents on high end cars, you reduce the risk of fraud and can save your dealership thousands. Plus, you save yourself the time and hassle of having to track down fraudsters to recover vehicles or make insurance claims for high end vehicles that were procured by fraud. Make sure you choose the right auto notary services by retaining a company that provides top customer care and professionalism.