If you’ve ever bought a house, sold a plot of land, or transferred the title on your car, you’ve likely done so with the help of a notary public. These individuals are legal representatives who make sure that the signatures on contractual dotted lines are legitimate. In order to become a notary public, there is a certification process to go through.
Who is a Notary Public?
A notary public is a sworn-in public servant who oversees signing of documents in non-contentious legal matters. In order to become certified, notaries must pass a test, obtain a bond, and pay filing fees. Once they are appointed, they need to keep their certifications current by renewing their appointment every one to four years. Rules vary depending on the state a notary practices in. Notaries may be independent contractors, or they may work for businesses such as title agencies, banks, or car dealerships.
Notary Publics’ Golden Rule
In order for notaries to legally uphold their duties, they must abide by their “Golden Rule.” This rule states that signers must be physically present. Alternatives such as video conferencing and phone calls are not acceptable replacements. To assure identities, notaries require each signer to present some form of photo ID such as a driver’s license, and then to sign in a record book. Also individuals involved in the signature process must verbally acknowledge that they understand the content of the document they’re signing, and that they are willing doing so.
What Tasks Do Notaries Perform?
Notaries are able to perform different tasks, depending on the state they’re appointed in and the business they work for. They may preside over the signing of many different types of legal documents, such as:
- Powers-of-attorney: This is a document that legally gives another individual power to sign legal documents. The power may be one-time acts or one for overall financial or legal transactions.
- Deeds: Deeds are legal documents that verify ownership of assets or property.
- Estate planning: Wills and other documents for estate planning are legal documents requiring notaries’ oversight.
- Affidavits: An affidavit is a written statement about an event, often used in a court of law or police matter.
- Oaths/Affirmations: Oaths and affirmations are legal promises and/or pledges about some sort of future behavior.
- Real estate transactions: When purchasing or selling houses, condos, land, or commercial property, a notary public must oversee signatures on contractual documents. Both buyers and sellers must have notarized signatures on all paperwork.
- Vehicle title transfers: When a car, truck, or motorcycle is bought or sold, the title must be transferred to the new owner. Without this crucial step in a vehicle sales transaction, legal ownership can’t be verified.
- Conveyances: To convey means to legally transfer a piece of property to another owner.
- Prenuptial Agreements: A prenuptial agreement is a legal document between spouses-to-be certifying the ownership of assets and distribution of financial resources, should a divorce occur.
- Loans: Commercial and/or personal loans, especially those in large sums, are often notarized in order to protect lender and borrower.
An important part of a notary public’s job is to use proper language. Appropriate legal wording is a must on oaths, affirmations, and other pledges, as signatures are witnessed and stamped by the practicing notary. During the process, the public servant will verbally ask questions that must be answered aloud. The documents can’t be signed ahead of time, but must be penned in the presence of the notary public. Language in oaths and affirmations may include “God,” such as, “I swear this is the truth, so help me God” or may remain secular and be simply stated, “I affirm this is the truth.”
Oaths and affirmations are not always needed during signings. This depends on the paperwork being signed, as well as the state that the event is taking place. Even without the pledge, the process is similar. Signers will need to present photo identification, sign the notary’s record book, and verbally answer questions about understanding content. After the signing ceremony has been completed, the notary fills out the paperwork which includes a certificate. Day, month, and year of the signing must be included on the document, as well.
Individuals who are penning their names on the dotted lines of contracts, powers-of-attorney, title transfers, and other binding legal documents would be wise to take the proper steps in signature certification. Without the stamp of approval by a certified notary, signatures can be questioned and stir up huge legal snafus. In order to find a qualified notary, query your bank, credit union, or do an online search for a local service provider.