Notary In Public: Addressing the Top 10 Questions

Table of Contents

Notary In Public: Addressing the Top 10 Questions

1. What is a Notary In Public and What Do They Do?

A Notary Public is a public officer appointed by the government to serve as an impartial witness in the signing of important documents. The primary role of a Notary Public is to verify the identity of the parties involved in a transaction and ensure that they are willingly and knowingly entering into an agreement. Notaries play a crucial role in preventing fraud and ensuring the legality of documents.

Understanding the Notary Process:

The process of notarization involves several key steps to ensure the validity and legality of documents:

  1. Identification: Notaries verify the identity of individuals through government-issued IDs, ensuring they are who they claim to be.
  2. Witnessing Signatures: Notaries witness the signing of documents to confirm that the parties are willingly entering into the agreement.
  3. Notary Seal: After verification, a Notary Public affixes their official seal and signature to the document.

Common Documents Notarized:

Notaries are commonly involved in the notarization of various documents, including:

  • Real estate transactions: Deeds, mortgages, and lease agreements.
  • Legal agreements: Contracts, affidavits, and settlements.
  • Financial documents: Loan agreements, promissory notes, and powers of attorney.
  • Estate planning documents: Wills and trusts.

2. How Do I Become a Notary Public?

Becoming a Notary Public involves a straightforward process, but requirements can vary by jurisdiction. Here’s a general guide:

Steps to Become a Notary Public:

  1. Check Eligibility: Ensure you meet your state’s eligibility requirements, which often include age, residency, and a clean criminal record.
  2. Complete Application: Fill out the application provided by your state’s Notary regulating body.
  3. Education or Exam: Some states require Notary education or passing an exam to ensure understanding of the role and responsibilities.
  4. Pay Fees: Pay the application and any required education or exam fees.
  5. Bond and Oath: Obtain a surety bond and take an oath of office.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements can differ, so individuals aspiring to become Notary Public should check their state’s regulations.

3. What Documents Can a Notary Public Notarize?

Notaries can notarize a wide range of documents, but there are limitations. Here’s a breakdown:

Documents Commonly Notarized:

  1. Real Estate Documents: Deeds, mortgages, and lease agreements.
  2. Legal Agreements: Contracts, affidavits, and settlements.
  3. Financial Documents: Loan agreements, promissory notes, and powers of attorney.
  4. Estate Planning Documents: Wills and trusts.

Documents Not Typically Notarized:

  1. Incomplete Documents: Notaries cannot notarize incomplete or blank documents.
  2. Illegal Documents: Any document that involves illegal activities or goes against public policy.
  3. Personal Relationships: Notaries should avoid notarizing documents for close family members to maintain impartiality.

It’s important for individuals seeking notarization to ensure that their document falls within the legal purview of a Notary Public.

4. How Long Does Notary Public Commission Last?

A Notary Public’s commission duration varies by jurisdiction. In most cases, commissions last between four and ten years. Renewal procedures also differ, requiring Notaries to reapply, pay fees, and, in some cases, undergo additional training.

The duration of a Notary Public commission is an essential factor, and Notaries must stay informed about their commission’s expiration date to ensure seamless continuation of their services.

5. Can a Notary Public Refuse to Notarize a Document?

Yes, a Notary Public has the right to refuse notarizing a document under certain circumstances. Common reasons for refusal include:

  • Lack of proper identification: Notaries are obligated to confirm the identity of individuals through valid government-issued IDs.
  • Signer’s unwillingness or inability to comprehend the document: Notaries must ensure that signers understand the content and implications of the document they are signing.
  • Suspicions of fraud or coercion: If a Notary has reason to believe that a signer is being coerced or the document is fraudulent, they have the right to refuse notarization.

Notary Publics act as gatekeepers of the legal system, and their refusal powers are critical in maintaining the integrity of notarized documents.

6. How Much Can a Notary Public Charge for Services?

Notary fees are regulated by state laws and can vary widely. Notaries may charge a set fee per signature or a flat fee per notarization. Some states also allow travel fees for mobile notary services. It’s essential for Notaries to be aware of and adhere to their state’s fee regulations.

Factors Influencing Notary Fees:

  1. State Regulations: Each state establishes its fee structure, outlining the maximum fees Notaries can charge.
  2. Type of Notarization: Fees may vary based on the complexity of the document or the type of notarial act performed.
  3. Additional Services: Mobile notary services or travel to a location outside regular business hours may incur extra charges.

Notaries should be transparent about their fees, providing information to clients before rendering services to avoid misunderstandings.

7. Can a Notary Public Notarize Documents for Family Members?

Notaries are generally advised to avoid notarizing documents for close family members to maintain objectivity and prevent conflicts of interest. While it may not be explicitly prohibited in all jurisdictions, it’s considered best practice for Notaries to notarize for impartial parties.

Reasons to Avoid Notarizing for Family Members:

  1. Objectivity: Notaries are expected to remain impartial, and notarizing for family members may compromise this objectivity.
  2. Avoiding Conflicts of Interest: To prevent any perception of favoritism or bias, Notaries often refrain from notarizing documents for family members.

By adhering to professional standards, Notaries can uphold the integrity of their role within the legal system.

8. How Does Remote Online Notarization Work?

Remote Online Notarization (RON) allows Notaries to perform notarial acts over the internet. The process typically involves audio-visual technology to confirm the identity of signers and witness the document signing. Notaries must comply with state-specific RON laws, and signers may need to use approved platforms for online notarizations.

Key Components of Remote Online Notarization:

  1. Identity Verification: RON platforms use advanced methods to verify the identity of signers remotely.
  2. Audio-Visual Interaction: Notaries and signers communicate in real-time through audio-visual technology.
  3. Digital Notary Seal: Instead of a physical seal, Notaries use a digital seal to authenticate online notarizations.

RON offers convenience and flexibility, but Notaries must stay informed about the specific laws governing online notarizations in their jurisdiction.

9. Can a Notary Public Provide Legal Advice?

Notaries are not licensed attorneys and, therefore, cannot provide legal advice. Their role is limited to witnessing signatures and verifying identities. If individuals need legal guidance, they should consult with a qualified attorney.

Distinction Between Notaries and Attorneys:

  1. Legal Training: Attorneys undergo extensive legal education and training.
  2. Scope of Practice: Notaries focus on notarial acts, while attorneys provide legal advice and representation.

To avoid unauthorized practice of law, Notaries should refrain from offering legal advice and encourage clients to consult legal professionals when needed.

10. What Happens If a Notary Public Makes a Mistake?

Notaries are human and may occasionally make mistakes. If a Notary Public becomes aware of an error, they should take steps to rectify it:

  1. Contact Signers: Inform the parties involved about the mistake as soon as it is discovered.
  2. Complete Affidavit: In some cases, Notaries may need to complete an affidavit detailing the error and the steps taken to correct it.
  3. Report to Authorities: Certain jurisdictions require Notaries to report errors to the appropriate regulatory body.

By promptly addressing and rectifying mistakes, Notaries uphold their commitment to accuracy and maintain the trust of clients and the legal system.

By addressing these common questions, individuals can gain a comprehensive understanding of the role, responsibilities, and intricacies of Notary Public services. Whether exploring the process of becoming a Notary or seeking notarization services, this guide provides valuable insights into the world of Notary Public.

11. How Secure and Tamper-Proof Are Notarized Documents?

The security and integrity of notarized documents are paramount. Notaries take specific measures to ensure documents are secure and tamper-proof:

Security Measures:

  1. Official Notary Seal: Notaries use an official seal that typically includes their name, commission number, and the words “Notary Public.” This seal leaves an impression on the document, making it easily recognizable.
  2. Journal Entries: Notaries keep a record or journal of each notarization, detailing the date, type of document, the identity of signers, and any fees charged. This journal serves as an additional layer of security.
  3. Signature and Seal Placement: Notaries carefully place their signature and seal in designated areas of the document to prevent alterations.

Anti-Tampering Features:

  1. Embossed Seal: Some Notaries use an embossed seal, creating a raised impression on the paper. This makes it difficult to alter the document without detection.
  2. Seal Overlapping Signatures: Placing the seal over the edge of the signatures makes it challenging to remove or replace pages without damaging the seal.
  3. Use of Watermark or Special Paper: Notaries may choose to notarize on special paper or use a watermark, making it evident if the document has been tampered with.

These security measures and anti-tampering features contribute to the overall reliability and authenticity of notarized documents.

12. What Changes Have Occurred in Notary Practices Due to Technology?

Advancements in technology have significantly impacted notary practices, leading to the introduction of remote online notarization (RON) and other digital tools:

Technological Changes:

  1. Remote Online Notarization (RON): RON allows Notaries to perform notarial acts online, enabling secure and convenient transactions.
  2. Electronic Notary Seals: Some jurisdictions permit the use of electronic notary seals, adding an extra layer of authenticity to digital documents.
  3. Digital Journals: Notaries may maintain digital journals, enhancing record-keeping efficiency and accessibility.
  4. Identity Verification Tools: Technology facilitates advanced methods of verifying the identity of signers in online and in-person notarizations.

While technology has streamlined notary processes, Notaries must stay informed about the legal requirements and standards associated with digital notarization.

13. Can a Notary Public Notarize Documents for Non-Citizens or Foreign Nationals?

Notaries can notarize documents for non-citizens or foreign nationals, provided they meet identification and legal requirements. The notary’s primary concern is verifying the identity of the individual, regardless of their citizenship status.

Key Considerations:

  1. Acceptable Identification: Notaries typically accept government-issued identification, such as passports or driver’s licenses, regardless of the individual’s citizenship.
  2. Understanding the Document: Notaries must ensure that signers understand the content and implications of the document they are signing, regardless of their nationality.
  3. Compliance with Local Laws: Notaries should be aware of any specific regulations or restrictions regarding notarizing documents for non-citizens in their jurisdiction.

Notarizing documents for non-citizens is a common practice, and Notaries play a crucial role in facilitating legal transactions for individuals from diverse backgrounds.

14. Is Notary Public Different from a Notary Signing Agent?

While both Notary Publics and Notary Signing Agents perform notarial acts, they serve different roles:

Notary Public:

  • General Notarizations: Notary Publics witness signatures, verify identities, and notarize a variety of documents.
  • Impartiality: They must remain impartial and avoid conflicts of interest.

Notary Signing Agent:

  • Specialized in Loan Signings: Notary Signing Agents specialize in notarizing loan documents, particularly in real estate transactions.
  • Mobile Services: They often provide mobile services, traveling to the location of the signer.
  • Additional Training: Notary Signing Agents may undergo additional training to handle loan documents.

While Notary Publics have a broader scope, Notary Signing Agents focus on a specific niche within the notarial profession.

15. Can a Notary Public Notarize Documents in a Foreign Language?

Notaries can notarize documents in a foreign language, but certain considerations apply:

Considerations for Notarizing Foreign Language Documents:

  1. Understanding Content: Notaries must ensure that they understand the content of the document, even if it is in a foreign language.
  2. Communication with Signer: The notary should communicate with the signer to verify their understanding of the document.
  3. Notary Certificate in Local Language: The notary certificate, including the notary’s official seal, may need to be in the local language of the jurisdiction.

Notarizing foreign language documents requires additional attention to ensure accurate communication and adherence to local regulations.

16. What is an Apostille, and How Does it Relate to Notary Public Services?

An Apostille is a specialized certificate that authenticates the signature and seal of a Notary Public on a document. It is typically used for documents intended for use in foreign countries.

Key Points about Apostilles:

  1. International Recognition: An Apostille is recognized by countries that are parties to the Hague Apostille Convention.
  2. Simplified Legalization: It simplifies the process of legalizing documents for international use.
  3. Issued by Competent Authority: The Apostille is issued by a competent authority designated by the country where the notarization took place.

Notaries may be asked to provide an Apostille for documents that need to be used abroad, and understanding the process is crucial for those dealing with international transactions.

17. Are Notary Public Services Available 24/7?

While traditional notary services often follow regular business hours, the demand for flexibility has led to the availability of 24/7 notary services:

24/7 Notary Services:

  1. Mobile Notaries: Some Notaries offer mobile services, traveling to the location of the signer at any time.
  2. Online Notarization: Remote online notarization allows for notarial acts to be conducted at any hour, providing convenience to signers.

Notaries embracing modern practices, such as mobile and online services, contribute to the accessibility and availability of notary services beyond traditional working hours.


Navigating the world of Notary Public services involves understanding the roles, responsibilities, and regulations that govern this essential profession. From the fundamental question of “What is a Notary Public?” to the intricacies of notarizing foreign language documents and obtaining Apostilles, each inquiry sheds light on different aspects of the notarial process.

As the notary landscape continues to evolve with technological advancements and changing global needs, staying informed about these developments is crucial for both Notary Publics and those seeking notarization services. This comprehensive guide aims to address the most commonly asked questions, providing a valuable resource for individuals on their journey through the world of Notary Public services.


About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *