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.

Using Credible Witnesses

As a notary professional, you know your job is a critical one intended to help prevent fraud in certain transactions. You are an impartial witness to the execution of documents in situations where wrongdoing may otherwise occur, such as by the signatories misrepresenting their identity for personal gain. This is why part of the notary process is to verify identity by checking identification, according to the acceptable ID list under the laws of each state.

However, situations often arise where one or more of the signers of a document doesn’t have ID, and it’s either impossible or impractical to obtain it. You can’t expect an elderly or disabled person to go get a driver’s license or state-issued ID, especially when the individual’s physical condition results in immobility. So what do you do as a notary professional? The answer is using credible witnesses to verify the identity of the signatory, and here’s how you do it.

A Guide to Notarizing for Physically Impaired Signers

The majority of the time, your job as a notary public is straightforward and there are few issues with checking for signatory identification, reviewing the documents and assessing willingness to sign. However, many notary professionals will be faced with a person who is unable to sign due to some physical impairment. You may have doubts about whether you can go forward with the notarial act under the circumstances, but the law in most states does make concessions for such a situation. There are multiple ways to notarize a signature and still stay within the confines of your jurisdiction’s law. Here is a look at a few options.

Handling Certified Copies of Public Records and Other Unusual Notary Requests

The majority of the time when you’re asked to provide notary services, the circumstances will be clear-cut and you have no concerns either notarizing a document – or declining to because it would be a violation of jurisdictional rules. However, there are times when a notary public may face unusual requests, such as asking for a copy certification of a record or identification paperwork. You should always contact the official agency that issues and maintains your notary credentials, but some background can help you understand what to do when a customer presents a document that you’re unsure about.

Mobile Notary Services vs. The UPS Store

From mortgages and prenups to statements and sworn affidavits, there are a wide variety of documents that will fail to hold any legal weight if a notary doesn’t verify your signature.

Although using a UPS notary may seem like your best (or easiest) option, there are plenty of reasons to choose a mobile notary instead.

If you’re trying to find a notary online, two defining factors are probably high on your list: their location and their validity. Knowing where to find a notary is only half the battle. Reaching them and finding the time to do so is the other half.

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