What Is a Notary Public and What Do We Do?

Since you are here, it’s safe to assume that you already know what a Notary Public is. Or is it? Because, you know what happens when you assume, right? Well, in case you are wondering exactly what my job is, let me give you a brief overview so we are all on the same page.

What is a Notary Public?

In simple terms, a Notary Public is an official representative appointed (commissioned or licensed) by each state government, often by the Secretary of State, to serve the public in relation to the signing of important documents.

On one hand, a Notary Public ‘notarizes’ (signs, stamps, and/or seals) documents that are going to be presented in some official capacity (in court, in buying a home, etc).

On the other hand notaries are NOT lawyers. We cannot, in any way, provide legal advice as that would be out of the scope of practice. Notaries are expected to follow the written rules of their state and not doing so can lead to having our commission cancelled, in addition to paying hefty fines and even jail time. Basically, this is serious business.

What does a Notary do?

The job of a notary public is to deter fraud by overseeing the signing of important legal documents, ensuring that they are completed in the correct manner and that the people signing are who they claim to be. We screen the identification of the signers to make sure they are valid, ensure the signers are signing of their own free will, and make sure the signers understand the documents they are signing.

In some instances, certain documents also require the Notary to put the signer under an oath, while declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct.

Some documents that require notarization are:

  • Deeds

  • Powers of attorney

  • Affidavits

  • Contracts

  • Loan documents

  • Trusts

These legal documents are recorded in courts, with banks, or with local governments, therefore it’s important they are notarized properly.

So, the next time you are in need of a Notary Public, make sure you choose one that has a current commission on file. You can confirm a notary’s status here. If not, you risk your documents being invalidated, and that can hurt you legally and financially.