What Is a Notary? Notarial Acts Or Notarizations

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A notary, commonly known as a notary public, is a public servant of integrity who is appointed by the state government and tasked with different fraud-deterrent acts. These acts typically involve witnessing the administration of oaths and the signing of important papers.

The fraud-deterrent acts performed by a notary public are typically known as notarial acts or notarization. In the majority of cases, notaries are usually the secretary of state. Since they are publicly commissioned, there is a set of rules they have to abide by.

Types of notaries


There are two common types of notaries – civil-law notaries and common-law notaries. Civil-law notaries are lawyers and therefore can give legal advice. Common-law notaries, on the other hand, are not lawyers, which is why they are forbidden from offering legal advice.

What service does a notary public provide?


The main duty of a notary public is to deter fraud by witnessing the signing of important documents, as well as verifying their genuineness. Notaries are also tasked with verifying the identity of the individuals signing the documents, their willingness to sign the papers, and also their awareness of whatever was contained in the transactions or documents.

Such documents include:

  • Loan documents
  • Affidavits
  • Deeds
  • Powers of attorney
  • Trusts
  • Licenses
  • Estates
  • Contracts

The services that notaries can provide are not limited to witnessing the signing of documents. A notary public can also offer legal services that impact different institutions. Such legal services include the following:

  • Giving notice of foreign drafts
  • Affirming the state of mind of the individuals who are supposed to sign particular documents
  • Administering oaths and affirmations
  • Maintaining notary journals
  • Handling affidavits, marriage certificates, and other legal documents or statutory declarations
  • Acknowledgements of conveyances such as deeds
  • Disapproving notes and bills of exchange
  • Scheduling related appointments
  • Witnessing the items within a safe deposit box or the equivalent of that
  • Identifying coercion or fraud
  • Completing the notarial certificate on documents

One thing to be kept in mind is that a notaries public are common-law notaries, and are therefore different from civil-law notaries who are lawyers. As mentioned above, common-law notaries cannot provide legal advice as they are not lawyers.

How do notaries verify the identity of the signer?


The process of verifying the identity of any individual supposed to sign a document is actually simpler than you may think. All that a notary is required to do is ask for a government-issued verification document such as a driver’s license or an identification card.

The document must contain a clear photograph of the individual, some information that describes that person, as well as a signature.

Do notaries prepare or assist in the preparation of documents?


A notary public cannot prepare or assist in the preparation of any documents. Doing so would be considered an unlawful practice of law. The main reason for preventing the involvement of notaries in preparation of documents is to ensure that they remain impartial witnesses to the signing.

Can notaries certify a document copy?


Though laws vary depending on the location, notary public are, in most cases, not authorised to certify copies of documents. For documents such as marriage or birth certificates, it’s recommended that one visits local agencies that are tasked with holding such documents.

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