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Offering Legal Advice

If a person needs help formulating a document, can I give advice?

No, a notary public may not assist in formulating a document because such action constitutes the unauthorized practice of law. A notary public must never, either orally or in writing, mislead the public to believe that he or she has duties, rights, powers, or privileges that are not granted by notary laws.

If I know the answers to some legal questions, may I provide the answers to my clients in connection with a notarization?

No, unless you are an attorney.

Can a notary public provide his or her customers with general information regarding their legal documents?

No. Any information regarding the customer’s legal document may be construed as legal advice because of your office as a notary public. The office of notary public is in principle a ministerial office that does not involve legal judgment or judicial discretion with regard to the notarial acts being performed.

If my sister needs advice drafting her document, can I help her if I know the answers?

No. A notary public who is not also a lawyer may not prepare, draft, select, or give advice concerning legal documents. Such violation constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, which is a criminal offense.

I recently overheard another notary in my office explaining in great detail a document to the signer who presented it. The signer had no idea what the document was for, and the notary went to great lengths to tell her. I was under the impression that notaries were not supposed to explain documents. Is that true?

A notary public who is not also an attorney may not give legal advice, prepare legal documents, or provide any other legal assistance that could be considered practicing law without a license. When an individual is requesting legal assistance from a notary public regarding his or her document, the notary must direct the individual to an attorney for legal advice.