The Meaning and Benefits of “Notarization”

Most adults will require the services of a notary at some point in their lifetimes. For many members of the public, the requirement that a document be "notarized" seems like an inconvenience, but society depends on notarizations to safeguard transactions.  

A proper notarization has four primary benefits:

1- Notarization assures the document recipient that the signer personally appeared before the notary and was properly identified.

The official notary seal and signature on a notarial certificate assures the receiving party that the document was notarized on the date printed on the notarial certificate regardless of the document date and the notary confirmed the identity of the signer either by requesting to see a government-issued photo ID, by referring to their own personal knowledge of the signer, or by relying on the oath of a credible witness.

2- Notarization assures the document recipient that the document was signed willingly.

To ensure this, the notary must observe the signer’s behavior and look for signs of coercion. The notary may make eye contact and directly ask the signer, “Are you signing this document of your own free will and for the purposes stated therein?” If the notary suspects any coercion, he or she should refuse to perform the notarization.

3- Notarization transforms a private instrument into a public instrument.

Notarization takes place when the notary has completed a notarial act and has attested to that act in full compliance with the law. For example, when a client presents a notary with a power of attorney to notarize, the notary takes the signer's acknowledgment, completes the notarial certificate, and affixes his or her official notary seal and signature. The POA document will now be accepted because it has been attested by a state official authorized to preside over the execution of documents. That instrument may be recorded in the official records, authenticated or apostilled for use overseas, or presented to any person or entity as proof that the document was properly sworn to or acknowledged before a public officer. A notarial certificate is considered definitive proof of the notarial statements made therein.  

4- Notarization reduces instances of forgery and fraud.

Without notarization, forgeries and fraud would be rampant in many industries. While anybody can witness a signature, only an officer authorized by the laws of their state can be deemed competent to determine that a document was executed by the proper person, freely and voluntarily. The officer, as an unbiased third party, should have no reason to lie about the circumstances surrounding the execution of a document, whereas a private individual, who is receiving some benefit from the document's execution, would have every reason in the world to misrepresent the facts in court.

The Limits of Notarization

Notarization only proves that the signer took the necessary oath or voluntarily acknowledged the execution of an instrument. It does not prove that the contents of the document are correct, nor does it confer any legalization on the document. A document that is incorrect, false, or fraudulent before notarization will remain so after notarization.

As a notary, you play an essential role in deterring identity theft and other forms of crime. When you verify a signer’s identity and confirm they understand what they are signing, you help to protect yourself and the public from harm.

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, 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 on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.