A notary public is a public officer who is authorized by the local state government to act as an impartial third party witness in the signing of important documents. Notary publics play an important role in authenticating a wide range of important legal documents, ranging from business transactions to family documents. In some states, notary publics may also administer certain oaths.
Notary Public vs. Notary at Law
It’s important to make the distinction between notaries public and notaries at law. In the United States, notary publics have powers that are limited to witnessing the signing of legal documents and administering certain oaths, while in other countries, they may require far more extensive training and have more wide-reaching legal powers. Civil notaries, also known as notaries at law, are lawyers who have been admitted to the bar and are qualified to provide legal advice and to prepare legal documents. These public officials are restricted from providing legal advice or preparing legal documents.
What types of documents are notarized?
The specific types of documents commonly notarized is almost limitless. The most common types of documents which require notarization include:
Last Will & Testament
Powers of Attorney
Foreign and International Business Documents
Escrow and Real Estate Closings
Mortgage and Lending Documents
In addition to authenticating the validity of these documents, notary publics are also commonly enlisted to administer certain oaths and take affidavits.
Why do these documents require notarization?
Notaries act as a third impartial witness essentially to ensure that the transaction taking place is valid, to ensure the documents are properly executed and that no parties are disadvantaged. Notaries check the identification of each party by viewing their government issued photo IDs and, often, by recording individuals’ fingerprints. This ensures all the parties are indeed who they say they are, preventing any potential fraud from taking place. The notary also observes the persons involved to ensure all parties are of sound mind and judgement and are entering into agreements willingly.
How do you hire a notary?
Notary publics can be found at most city offices, including postal offices and courthouses. At these public offices, notary signing services are generally free for the public. Notary services are also often available at banks and law offices, although to obtain these services you must generally be a client or customer. For last minute transactions, frequent business transactions or sensitive legal matters, mobile notaries are available in many areas to come to the location where a transaction is taking place. Several reputable notary directories are available online, making it easy to search for a mobile notary in your area.