If you’ve ever retained the services of a notary public in connection with a mortgage, real estate transaction, estate plan, structured settlement or other transaction, you know the importance of this role. The position of a notary public in society dates back centuries; it’s such an honored, respected profession that notaries were instrumental in our early days as American colonies, and then later as a new nation seeking to cement itself as an international trade resource. Today, the job is rewarding and will keep you busy as you act as an impartial witness to execution of important documents. Fortunately, the requirements to become a notary public are straightforward.
A notary public is a professional granted credentials by state government to act as a witness to the execution of important documents, to reduce the risk of fraud in certain transactions. Typically, paperwork related to transfers of real estate, estate planning documents, powers of attorney and some loan documentation will require a notary public seal. If you require notary services often, you probably have questions about the cost of a notary public, especially if your needs are ongoing. There are a few factors to consider when looking at how much it costs to retain a notary professional.
As an adult caregiver for a loved one, you take on many responsibilities that generally fall into two categories: Health and medical care, and financial matters. While you may focus time and effort on physical well-being, you must also handle appropriate arrangements for money and property. If the person in your charge has difficulty getting around, it can be very difficult to execute necessary documents. Mobile notary services can solve typical problems with transportation, so it’s important to understand how they work.
Notary history has come a long way from the scribes of Ancient Egypt to the mobile notary services of today. However, one central theme has prevailed throughout the years: The role of the notary public has always been highly regarded and worthy of a respected public official. Historical figures had different reasons for involving notary professionals, even before they were used to prevent fraud – which is primarily what they do today. Here’s a look back at the notary public from the early ages and some other historical references to notarization.
Fraud can be widespread when executing some documents, but it’s preventable when you have a notary public present at the time of signing. The notary public will require signatories to prove their identities and check the documents for certain details, as well as ensure that people aren’t signing due to threats or intimidation. However, having to head to an off-site location for notarization can be a hassle. Consider using a mobile notary public, which offers several benefits to all involved parties.
There are many lifestyle changes you’ll experience when you get to be a certain age, and one of them is the types of ID you keep handy. Some seniors choose not to drive, which means the driver’s license – one of the most common forms of identification people carry – isn’t available. Lack of proper ID can become an issue if you need to execute and use a notary public for important documents, like those dealing with real estate or estate planning. Check out this list of valid ID’s for seniors to ensure you’re never without the proper paperwork.
Many people are aware of the notarization requirements to complete a power of attorney, sell or buy real estate, obtain a loan, or execute a will. If you’re like many others, you may not be familiar with the strict standards set in place by the US government and foreign nations when couples are seeking an international adoption. In many ways, an adoption is among the most enjoyable reasons to retain a notary professional. It’s rewarding because a child become part of a new family. However, there are some stringent requirements that make an international adoption challenging. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a child from another country – or if you’re a notary professional looking to get involved with international adoptions.
Federal Law on International Adoptions
Because an international adoption takes place across national borders, the US Department of State is involved with the process. In general, documents used in conjunction with international adoptions – or any international transaction – must be “authenticated” or “legalized” before they’re considered valid in another country. The process typically involves placement of seals or stamps, possibly including notarization. Paperwork that may be involved for an international adoption includes:
- Powers of attorney;
- Birth, death and marriage certifications;
- Affidavits, oaths and affirmations, particularly those appearing on application materials;
- Deeds; and,
- Other legal records related to the adoption transaction.
The specifics needed for authentication depend on the governing law of the foreign country, but your adoption is likely to follow one of two proceedings:
- Home Country is a Signatory to The Hague Convention. Obtaining a special apostille certificate will generally meet the authentication requirements for an international adoption.
- Home Country is not a Signatory: If the home country of the child you want to adopt isn’t a signatory to The Hague Convention, which covers adoptions, you may need to go through the “chain authentication method” where you literally follow a document through various phases of validity.
- For notarized documents, you must follow the proper procedures according to your state’s laws on authentications.
- Documents at the state level, such as those that originate in a state court or are maintained by the state, must be authenticated by your Secretary of State’s office. The Secretary of State’s office is also responsible for verifying the authentication of notarized documents listed above.
- Documents issued by federal agencies must be certified by the US Department of State Authentications Office.
- Any documents under seal of a federal court must be first verified by the Justice Management Division of the federal court system. From there, they must also be authenticated by the US Department of State Authentications Office as mentioned above.
- A foreign embassy located in the US is usually the last link in the chain authentication method. A consulate or embassy can only authenticate the seal of the US Department of State, which is why there are various steps before you can obtain the final, properly executed document for an international adoption.
The Role of a Notary Professional in International Adoptions
The notary public’s job when executing documents related to international adoptions does not differ greatly from other transactions. As a state-appointed official, a notary serves as an impartial witness in performing tasks intended to deter fraud that might otherwise be widespread in the execution of critical documents. In the context of international adoptions, the role of a notary is to:
- Follow the laws and rules of the state where they’re commissioned, without inserting personal judgment or discretion into the process.
- Verify the identities of the parties who are signing important documents, such as the records required to complete an international adoption within the confines of the law.
- Ensure that the parties are signing through their own free will, and without intimidation.
- Make sure the people signing a document are aware of the contents and the overall transaction – though a notary cannot express on opinion of the material itself.
- At times, the laws of a state may require a notary to place the signer under oath to affirm the truth of the statements contained in the documents.
The duty of impartiality is a key component of a notary professional’s responsibilities. They cannot act when they have a personal interest in the transaction or documents, and they cannot refuse services based on up race, ethnicity, religion, politics and other factors.
Requirements of the Notary Public
In order to properly take on the role of a notary and perform the functions the job requires, a notary public must abide by certain standards. As with most tasks related to notary services, the exact requirements are defined by state law. However, there are certain elements that are common across most jurisdictions.
- The signers of all documents required to be notarized must be present before the notary when executing.
- A notary public should review the documents for make sure it contains the necessary language for certification purposes. Scanning the paperwork will also help identify blank spaces or incomplete information.
- The notary public must verify the identity of the signatories, which usually is accomplished through checking state issued ID. The notary professional will also assess willingness to sign.
- Once all parties have signed, the notary public is required to complete the notary verification within the document, including the date and seal.
- In some states, a notary should also record the transaction in a journal.
Certain additional rules apply when an international adoption is involved:
- In many states, a notary should have more than a year remaining before their commission expires. This is because it can take several months for officials in the child’s home country to review all the necessary documentation.
- Some adoption agencies may require documents to be embossed, regardless of state requirements for a photocopy-able ink stamp.
- All documentation is subject to review and approval by your state Secretary of State or other government agency, in order to obtain the apostille or other authentication paperwork. This process is intended to verify that the notary public has a valid, unexpired commission in the appropriate jurisdiction.
Choosing a Notary Service
Finding the right notary service for any important transaction is important, but it may be even more critical when dealing with an international adoption. If documentation is incomplete or contains errors, improper notarization can actually delay the process – or even result in denials. Therefore, you should look for services that have obtained the proper credentials and training in your state. It’s also essential to understand how notary professionals charge for their services.
It’s often useful to consider mobile notary services to assist you with notarization for an international adoption. There are a number of benefits that make a mobile notary public a wise decision:
- You’ll Save Time: A notary in an international adoption must verify the identities of multiple signatories; these individuals must be present during execution and supply proof of identification. A mobile notary service can be onsite as necessary to expedite the process.
- You’ll Save Money: When you save time, you save money – because your time has value. Instead of spending a day traveling to a notary’s office to obtain authentications, you can have the professional come to your home or office.
- You Still Get the Same Reliable Service: A mobile notary public has the same qualifications and training as any notary public in your state. You’ll never have to worry about the quality of the work or whether the job was completed in full. The only difference is that you schedule a mobile notary public in advance so they can accommodate your schedule.
The international adoption process requires certain authentication of the documents involved, which means you must rely on a notary public that has the credentials and training to handle these transactions. Choosing the right notary professional can make or break the process so look for companies that know the relevant rules and provide top customer care, including the mobile services that make your life easier.
Notary professionals take their jobs very seriously, recognizing that the role of a notary public is of grave importance in avoiding fraud in the execution of important documents, such as wills, deeds, loan documents, powers of attorney and other paperwork. But once in a while, it’s fun to learn about famous notaries throughout history and modern times – some of which actually existed and others that were the creation of a script writer or poet.
Notaries in History
Since the role of a notary public has been around for centuries in some form, there are many historical figures that served to authenticate documents. Many more, while not notaries themselves, touched on the profession in their pursuits.
- Ancient Egypt: In the times of the pharaohs, notaries were known as “scribes.” Their role was established as early as 2750 BC, to chronicle events and handle official communications. Because they could read and write, these scribes were highly respected and occupied their own class within Egyptian culture. These early notaries drafted and authenticated letters, proclamations, tax records and other documents. King Tut was even buried with the writing equipment of scribes – in case he needed to write in the afterlife.
- Order of the Knights Templar: This order of monks was established in the 11th Century for the purpose of protecting Crusaders along the route to the Holy Land. Within two hundred years, they were quite powerful in their influence and created our modern financial and banking systems. Due to their level of education, the highest echelon within the Order became notaries to authenticate all official Templar documents and proclamations.
- Inspiration for William Shakespeare: Historical records show that Shakespeare worked at a notary office in Warwickshire, England. He also had contact with a number of other English notaries within his professional network. It’s said that his play, The Merchant of Venice, was based upon his experiences. The story revolves around a man who needed to borrow money from a friend in order to court a wealthy heiress. Shakespeare drew from his experience as a notary to describe the loan transactions and required documentation.
- Keeping Christopher Columbus Honest: Notary professionals traveled with Columbus during all his voyages; as a rule, nearly all Spanish explorers were required to bring a notary. The reason is that King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were concerned about theft of the treasures that explorers discovered. When Columbus first landed in the Bahamas, notary public Rodrigo de Escobedo took care of the documentation.
Notary Professionals in American History
The official role of a notary public has been around since colonial times, as these professionals were essential for trans-Atlantic shipping. Both buyers and sellers in commerce relied upon notaries to protect against fraud or losses related to cargo. These officials were highly respected, but they didn’t always enjoy prosperity: Some were killed as conflicts began to arise between the American colonies and England.
- Thomas Fugill: America’s First Notary: Fugill was appointed in 1639 in the New Haven Colony, a territory that would eventually become the State of Connecticut. Unfortunately, he failed to abide by his notarial duties, thereby upsetting business people on both sides of the Atlantic. He was eventually thrown out of office for falsifying the documents he was entrusted to authenticate.
- John Coolidge, The President’s Father: John Coolidge’s credentials as a notary public rose to fame when he was 78 years old in 1923. His son Calvin had served as Vice President for President Warren G. Harding starting in 1921. However, Harding passed away two years later. When Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President, he became the first and only to take his oath as administered by his father.
- Presidential Power in Washington, DC: From the late 1790s through the early 1900s, notaries public for the District of Columbia were appointed by the President of the United States. Their credentials were for five year terms, and they could be removed at the whim of the sitting President. As of today, the Mayor of DC handles appointments for notaries operating within the territory.
Our modern history also includes a few tales of notable notaries.
- Pete Rose’s Oath: When he was approached by the makers of Wheaties to appear on the cereal box, executives had one interesting condition: Rose was required to sign under oath in the presence of a notary that he’d been eating Wheaties since he was a young child.
- Mark Twain in Public Service: Samuel Clemens, the man behind Mark Twain’s pen name, became a notary public in Nevada in 1864. It was the only public office he ever held.
- President Richard Nixon’s Notary: California attorney and notary public Frank DeMarco, Jr. was involved with one of President Nixon’s scandals. He had fraudulently backdated tax forms related to papers donated by Nixon to the National Archives. DeMarco resigned his notarial credentials in 1970, but not before the fraudulent documents were brought to the attention of the Special Prosecutor handling the Watergate case.
Notary Public Professionals in Pop Culture
While the role of a notary public in society is an important and essential one, the job doesn’t exactly inspire huge excitement. Still, there are some notary public references in pop culture that add a little drama to the position.
- Tom Cruise in Collateral: In this 2004 thriller, Cruise plays a contract killer needing to complete five “jobs” before heading to the airport; Jamie Foxx’s character is the cab driver hired to transport him to the five stops and then on to LAX. During one of the scenes, Tom Cruise poses as a notary public in order to gain entrance to a victim’s home, lying that he needs some documents signed.
- Edmond O’Brien in O.A.: This 1950s classic film centers on O’Brien’s character, Frank Bigelow, a notary public who leaves his small town for a week of fun in San Francisco. After a night of partying, he wakes up feeling hungover; however, doctors inform him he’d been poisoned the night before – and there’s no known antidote. The movie goes through the last days of Frank’s life as he tries to track down his killer.
- Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant in “Notary Publix”: This web-based series takes a humorous view of the life of a notary public. Set in 1980s New York City, the videos are brimming with big hair and thick accents as they follow the notarial exploits of Gina Fra Diavolo and Erin Oatmeal. These two women are rivals in the notary public world, and the hilarious intensity will have you on the edge of your seat.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie”: Longfellow borrowed an idea from friend Nathaniel Hawthorne for his epic poem, which follows the adventures of Evangeline, an Acadian girl searching for her lost love. The story is set during the Expulsion of the Acadians from Canada, part of the British Empire’s campaign against the French. In it, Evangeline is encouraged to marry a notary public’s son – but she refuses, still in search of her beloved Gabriel.
- Carl Sandberg, “Do You Want Affidavits?”: Sandberg’s humorous poem is a conversation between two people, one of whom makes outrageous claims and will prove his/her point by asking of the other: “Do you want affidavits?” The short piece concludes when the speaker offers to tell the truth, “in the monotone of a notary public…”
As you learn about some of the famous notary professionals, both real and created, you can see how important these officials have been throughout time. They’ve played an important role in society, going back to Ancient Egypt, during the Crusades and in our nation’s history. They can also be a source of entertainment, as demonstrated by reference to the job in pop culture. If you’re in need of notarial services, make sure to consider your options carefully. It’s essential that you retain a company with strong professionalism, proper training and credentials, and a dedication to excellent customer service.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.