Notary Serves as an Official Witness to Transactions

A notary public is an official witness. To serve as an official witness, you must follow several important steps.

Firstly, you become a notary public by applying for official permission from a given state or county for authority to serve the public. Anyone can step up and help the public, but if you want to do so officially and with authority, you have to apply and be approved. So, the first step to serving as an official witness is to ask for and receive official permission from the government of the people to act as an agent of the people.

Secondly, as an official witness, you are a government official. This means that all the usual rules for government officials apply to your actions as a notary public. When you put on your notary hat (open your notary journal, pick up your notary seal, and sign a notarial certificate), you are doing so as an agent of the government of your jurisdiction and of the people whom that government represents. You are not allowed to discriminate against members of the public due to age, race, gender, religion, or other personal attributes while fulfilling the duties of the office. If the request is legal and reasonable, you are required to serve the public.

Thirdly, in order to be an official witness, you have to be present and observe the signing. Notaries public are strictly prohibited from notarizing if the signer is not present before the notary with his or her document at a place within the notary's jurisdiction. The venue (State of _, County of __) indicates where the signer and notary were both present for the notarization. The other specifics, such as the date of signing, are contained in the notarial certificate.

This article is part of the ongoing series begun in "What Does a Notary Public Do?"

If you need a notary journal or notary stamp, please visit the American Association of Notaries store at

-- Tim Gatewood is a Contributing Editor with the American Association of Notaries

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. 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 notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

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