What is a notary public? (with photos)

A notary public must witness the signing of the legal documents.

A notary public (sometimes called a notary or notary public) is an individual authorized by the 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 your presence at the time the documents were signed. Most states issue a unique identification number to each authenticated person in order to prevent fraudulent use of the printer.

A notary public legally witnesses the signatures on important documents.

A lawyer or other public figure can be granted notary public status, but no legal training is required to apply for the position. Certain legal documents need to be ‘notarized’ in order to be recognized in court, so a notary spends most of their time looking at routine signatures. Because identities are critical, someone in this position might also spend some time verifying the names of the parties involved in the signature. Generally, all parties provide some form of official identification (driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, etc.) so that the notary public feels comfortable certifying the signatures.

When attesting to the signature of a document, a notary public asks each party to swear an oath of authenticity.

A notary may charge a nominal fee for its services, but this fee cannot be considered excessive. A large law firm or government office may need someone to work full time in this position, but it is more common for licensed notaries to offer various other services as well. If the owner of a local grocery store is a certified public notary, for example, he can legally put up a sign stating that notary services are available.

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Many legal documents require notarization.

A misconception about this work is that the official signature and/or embossed stamp automatically makes a document ‘true and legal’. The truth is, a notary cannot give legal advice to anyone unless he or she is also a licensed attorney. What he or she does is witness the signing of the documents and ask each party for an oath of authenticity. The document itself can still be declared fraudulent or unenforceable later in court proceedings. A notary can only attest to the identity of the signatories and their own claims of authenticity at the time of notarization.

Notaries witness and certify legal documents.

The process for obtaining a notarized signature varies from state to state. Some states require candidates to take a proctored test on policies and procedures prior to certification. Others allow anyone over 18 with only one day of residency to apply, provided local references can be obtained. There are national organizations that oversee this profession, but participation in these groups is voluntary. In general, someone wishing to obtain notarization must have a high level of integrity and respect for the legal process. Several organizations offer courses on the legal and social aspects of work. 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 if the identification cannot be verified.

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