What Does a Notary Do? Articles

What is a Notario Publico?

by American Association of Notaries
In its simplest form, the term notario publico translates to notary public. On a deeper level, however, the difference between a notario publico and a U.S. notary public is vast, and therefore it can be problematic for notaries to use this particular terminology in the United States. While a notary public in the United States is authorized to perform specific notarial acts and practice limited discretion, a notario publico in many Latin American countries is an individual who has received the equivalent of a law license and who is authorized to represent others before the government. (more...)

Understanding Affidavits

by American Association of Notaries
An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed statement made before a notary public or any public official who has the authority to administer oaths. It is made under penalty of perjury, and the official must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer(s), witness the signing of the document and certify it by placing his official signature and seal and completing the notarial certificate called a jurat. (more...)

What to Do When There Is No Pre-Printed Notary Certificate

by American Association of Notaries
If you provide notary services long enough, you will encounter people who have letters or statements or other documents that lack a pre-printed notary certificate. These are often the result of someone being told that they need a notarized statement or release or authorization in order to accomplish some purpose they have chosen. (more...)

Notary Journals Raise Issues about Public Records versus Privacy

by American Association of Notaries
Notaries public have access to many items of personal information in order to do a proper job of notarizing. We have to see the entire document to make sure the signer is able to freely and willingly sign. We have to briefly review the document to gather some specifics to record in our notary journals. We have to examine the satisfactory evidence presented that establishes the identity of the signer and record details of that evidence in our journals. Other specific information about the circumstances of the notarization (as covered in other articles in this series) has to be written into the journal as well. (more...)
Also listed in: Notary Journals

How to Handle Documents with Pre-Printed Notarial Certificates

by American Association of Notaries
If a document has a pre-printed notarial certificate, that certificate serves two purposes: (more...)

The Contents of a Notary Journal

by American Association of Notaries
There are three primary types of notary journals. One has minimal space per entry; one has more generous space per entry but fewer entries per page; and one is designed for notary signing agents and has frequently-seen real estate documents pre-listed in it. Each of these three types can be found in paperback or hardback. Which type you choose is your decision. It is important to see a sample page of the journal before you buy it, as you will be using it for some time. (more...)

Why a Notary Journal Is Required

by American Association of Notaries
Almost no one likes to do paperwork, especially if they don't have to do it. So, if you tell them that paperwork is not required, most people will be happy to believe you and skip it. When it comes to the notary journal, skipping the paperwork is not an option. Keeping a notary journal is required for the following reasons: (more...)

Notary Public Seals or Stamps

by American Association of Notaries
The need for a trusted and impartial witness who can write down commercial and other agreements has been recognized since the time of the ancient Romans, who created the office of notarius or scribii to fulfill this need. If the parties to the agreement could not write, they used a metal or clay disk with a distinctive design or coat of arms (a private seal) pressed into melted wax in place of a signature. In the following centuries, as paper making became more widespread and written agreements became longer, the pages of a document were bound together by making holes in the margins, tying the pages together with a ribbon, and pouring wax over the ribbon's knot. If the document were to be notarized, the notary would press his official seal into the wax, thereby sealing the pages of the document together. (more...)

A Notary Signature is Essential on All Notarized Documents

by American Association of Notaries
The most critical of the five notary-specific elements on a notarized document is the notary signature. The lack of a notary signature is fatal to the notarization. It is essential that the notary always signs every notarial certificate that he or she notarizes. By signing the notary certificate, a notary is verifying that the venue, notary commission expiration date, and the notary certificate are true and correct. (more...)

The Importance of Including Your Notary's Commission Expiration Date on Notarized Documents

by American Association of Notaries
A notarial certificate indicates what actions the document's preparer wants the notary to perform. The venue states that the notarization took place in a particular location that lies within the jurisdiction of the notary public. The presence of a notary commission expiration date shows that the document was notarized at a time when the notary held authority to notarize. (more...)

Essential Facts about Notary Certificates

by American Association of Notaries
A notary certificate is a statement completed by the notary specifying the details of the notarization. It must contain the date of the notarization and refer to where the notarial act took place. The most commonly used notarial certificates are jurats and acknowledgments. (There is a third form in those states that allow notaries to certify copies. Please see the articles about certifying copies for information on that form.) (more...)

The Importance of the Venue on a Notarized Document

by American Association of Notaries
With a few exceptions, notarized documents contain five notary-specific elements: venue, the notary certificate, commission expiration date, notary signature, and notary seal. This article covers the venue. (more...)

A Notary Should Know How to Handle Acknowledged Statements

by American Association of Notaries
As stated in a previous article, sworn statements and acknowledged statements are the two most common types of notarized documents. The primary difference between the two types is that a sworn statement is made under penalty of perjury and requires an oath or affirmation while an acknowledged statement lacks these elements. If a document does not contain language about being duly sworn or upon oath, and if it has a notary certificate that does not mention an oath or affirmation or being sworn, then you are dealing with an acknowledged statement. (more...)

Notaries Should Know How to Handle Sworn Statements

by American Association of Notaries
Once you have confirmed the identity of the person seeking your notary services and verified that they are prepared to sign freely and willingly, the next duty of a notary public is to determine what type of document they have presented to you. The two most common types of notarized documents are sworn statements and acknowledged statements. Sworn statements are often (but not always) called affidavits. (more...)

What it Means to Sign a Document Freely and Willingly

by American Association of Notaries
A notary public is an official witness to someone signing a document freely and willingly. "Freely and willingly" is one of those phrases that people use without really considering the meaning. This expression has been in use for so long that everyone thinks they know what it covers, but most people do not actually know. (more...)

Verifying the Identity of the Signer

by American Association of Notaries
The most important duty of a notary public is to verify the identity of the person signing the document. How this is done will depend upon the law in the notary's jurisdiction, so please check the following general principles against your state's laws and rules. (more...)

Personal Appearance of the Signer Before a Notary Is Required

by American Association of Notaries
It should go without saying that the signer has to personally appear before the notary public. Unfortunately, people will test this bedrock principle, either out of ignorance or arrogance. (more...)

Notary Serves as an Official Witness to Transactions

by American Association of Notaries
A notary public is an official witness. To serve as an official witness, you must follow several important steps. (more...)
Also listed in: Duties of a Notary

What Does A Notary Public Do?

by American Association of Notaries
If you tell someone that you are a notary public, you can often expect that he or she will nod knowingly, as if fully aware of what that means. However, most people know only that a notary is "someone who stamps documents." Why those documents are stamped and what is involved in the process is not as well-known by the general public. Some people will admit that they don't know and will come right out and ask you, "What does a notary public do?" To answer that question, you have to first understand what a notary public IS. (more...)
Also listed in: Duties of a Notary
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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.
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