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Providing and Preparing Legal Documents

Must I be concerned with whether a document is properly completed or prepared when it contains a correct notarial certificate?

The notary is not responsible for the content of documents or whether they are in compliance with statutory requirements. It is not the notary’s responsibilities to make sure documents are properly completed or prepared. 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. The duties and responsibilities of a notary public are restricted only to the execution of proper notarial procedures.

I have been in the legal field for 25 years, but I am not an attorney. Can I prepare legal documents?

No. A notary public who is not a licensed attorney may not prepare legal documents because the office of notary public does not come with such authority.

Can I prepare a document for my neighbor that will allow her daughter to travel to Mexico and then notarize it?

No. A notary public who is not an attorney cannot prepare legal documents for anyone. If your neighbor brings you an already prepared and complete document, then you can notarize it.

Can I prepare legal documents—such as wills, powers of attorneys, and deeds—similar to the forms I download from the Internet?

No. A notary commission does not impart any legal authority whatsoever. A notary public not licensed to practice law may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. The preparation of legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney, and deeds constitutes the unauthorized practice of law because the formats of such legal instruments are prescribed by states statutes. The Internet forms may not suffice the statutory requirements, which may render the documents invalid. In addition, a notary public commits an offense if he or she solicits or accepts compensation to prepare documents. In most states, a notary public assisting, giving advice, and preparing legal documents may be convicted of a criminal offense for the unauthorized practice of law.

Can I help a signer fill out his or her legal documents?

No. A notary public, who is not an attorney, must not assist anyone in completing his or her legal documents because such service constitutes the unauthorized practice of law, which in most states is a criminal offense.