It’s quite common for banks, courts, and government agencies to mandate the notarization of certain legal documents before receipt. Despite the increasing need for document notarization, the average individual typically doesn’t understand the notarization process nor do they understand the need for an official notary. Unfortunately, one simply complies without question and surrenders to the system.
If someone has requested you submit a legal document or documents with an affixed notary seal, there are specific reasons behind their request. Before you mindlessly recruit a notary, understanding why a legal document needs to be notarized is an important first step. Once you’re ready for more information about a notary public in your area, click here.
For a basic overview of why legal documents need to be properly notarized and the main points of the actual notarization process, read on. Don’t stumble into the notarization process uninformed. Do your research.
Solidifies the Terms of a Will
When one or more parties sign a legal document, there’s a very strong chance the document requires a legal commitment of some sort from all applicable parties. For instance, a will serves as the legal basis for the distribution of someone’s wealth and possessions, upon their death. With such high stakes, i.e. the distribution of assets, you won’t want to toy with a document of this magnitude.
In the case of a will, the courts are only going to abide by the terms of said will if they know the document was signed by the individual making their final “will and testament.” Without proper notarization from the person in question who is now deceased, the validity of a will should be ascertained by a professional notary.
Protects the Individual
Documents need to be notarized for the protection of all individuals who have an interest in the document in question, whatever it might be. They need protection in the form of an assurance that the signed documents aren’t associated with fraudulent activities. Imagine how important it would be to assure that a real estate sale document is not fraudulent, before investing in a home that is priced at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Responsibilities of the Notary
The notary public’s responsibility is threefold. First, they need to verify the identification of each of the document’s signatories. Second, they’ll be responsible for determining if all signatories seem to be of sound mind during the signing process. Finally, a notary is bestowed with the responsibility of observing the document signing process to scope out any signs of duress in the said process.
By contrast, a notary public isn’t required to attest to the content of the legal document in question. This specific responsibility falls on the shoulders of the government, banks, courts, and attorneys, where applicable. The notary public is only attesting to the document signing process rather than the actual contents of pertinent documents.
Purposes of a Notary Public
Since the government and court systems don’t have the administrative and financial resources to verify signatures on legal documents, they outsource this task to third parties. The responsibility for verifying signatures is delegated to a “notary public.”
For more background, here’s one of the acting definitions of a notary public, as set forth by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “a public officer who attests or certifies writings (such as a deed) to make them authentic and takes affidavits, depositions, and protests of negotiable paper.”
How to Become a Notary
To become a notary public, a person needs to be 18 years of age, reside in the state in which they are seeking certification, and they must have a clean criminal record. Applicants must also enroll in a notary course and complete the applicable notary test of their state before certification. After passing the required test, the individual will receive certification as a notary public within their state of residence only. If an aspiring public notary relocates, he or she will have to retake the test to be certified in their new state in which they reside.
Notaries come from all walks of life. Banks usually have notary publics on staff to notarize bank documents in-house. Many attorneys and accountants will maintain notary status as a matter of convenience for their clients. In some cases, some entrepreneurs will set-up shop and provide notary services as their primary line of business.
The Notarization Process
When a legal document requires notarization, the document signers must appear before a certified notary with the document in question. The signers will need to provide proof of identification before signing the document. When signing the document, the notary public must serve as a witness. Proof of identification might include a driver’s license, birth certificate, or passport, depending on the state where the document is being signed.
After the identification verification process, the document signer or signers will sign the document with the notary public actively observing. Once the signatures are in place, the notary will attach their notary seal and attest to the legal signing with their signature. The notary will record the transaction in their notary’s log for prosperity.
If a document has already been signed before meeting with a notary public, the signing parties will need to re-sign the document in front of the notary. Remember, notary publics are strictly prohibited from notarizing signatures after the fact.
It’s important to keep in mind that the legalities surrounding the notarization process may vary state-by-state. Some states require notaries to secure an oath from signers before the signing process. Along with varying legal procedures, notary fees tend to vary from one jurisdiction to the next.
A notarized document grants the document better standing as an official legal document. Notarization erases any doubt surrounding the identity of the signers and the circumstances pertaining to the signing of the document. With the supervision of a notary, banks, government agencies, and the courts won’t need to question the validity of signatures, bolstering the credibility of your official documents.