Category: 

What is a Notary Public?

A notary public must witness the signing of legal documents.
When attesting the signing of a document, a notary public asks each party to take a sworn oath of authenticity.
Notary publics may formalize business contracts.
Many legal documents require notarization.
Notary publics witness and certify legal documents.
A Notary Public legally witnesses signatures on important documents.
Article Details
  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Waking up in the middle of the night is normal for humans.  more...

October 31 ,  1984 :  Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, was assassinated.  more...

A notary public (sometimes called a notary or a public notary) is an individual authorized by state or local government to officially witness signatures on legal documents, collect sworn statements and administer oaths. He or she uses an embossing tool to verify his or her presence at the time the documents were signed. Most states issue a unique identifying number to each notarized person in order to prevent fraudulent use of the embosser.

An attorney or other public figure can be granted notary public status, but no legal training is required to apply for the position. Certain legal documents are required to be 'notarized' in order to be recognized in court, so a notary public spends most of his or her time observing routine signatures. Because identities are critical, someone in this position may also spend some time verifying the names of the parties involved in the signing. Generally, all parties provide some form of official identification (driver's license, birth certificate, passport, etc.) in order for the notary public to feel comfortable about certifying the signatures.

Ad

A notary public can charge a nominal fee for his or her services, but this fee cannot be seen as excessive. A large law firm or a government office may have a need for a someone working in this position full-time, but it's more common for licensed notaries to offer a number of other services as well. If the owner of a local grocery store happens to be a certified notary public, for example, he or she can legally post a sign stating that notary services are available.

One misconception about this job is that the official signature and/or embossing stamp automatically makes a document 'true and legal'. The truth is, a notary public cannot give legal advice to anyone unless he or she also happens to be a licensed attorney. What he or she does is witness the signing of the documents and ask each party for a sworn oath of authenticity. The document itself could still be declared fraudulent or unenforceable later in court proceedings. A notary public can only attest to the identities of the signatories and their own affirmations of authenticity at the time of notarization.

The process getting notarized varies from state to state. Some states request applicants take a proctored test on policies and procedures before certification. Others allow anyone over the age of 18 with only one day of residency to apply, as long as local references can be obtained. There are national organizations which oversee this profession, but participation in these groups is voluntary. In general, someone wanting to get notarized should have a high level of integrity and respect for the legal process. Several organizations offer courses on the legal and social aspects of the job. Notaries cannot discriminate on the basis of race, sex, creed or religion, for example. A notary public can reject a client if fraud is suspected or identification cannot be verified.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon13778
Post 2

what jobs include being a notary public?

anon408
Post 1

Why would a corporation require me to prove the expiration date of the Notary Public that was used in the process of my retiring? This request was made after the fact that the Notary signed and sealed my retirement papers.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email