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Public Notaries - What Do They Do?

Corbin James

Many people may not be exactly sure what a notary public does. First and foremost a notary public can go by several different names: public notary, notary public, notaries public, etc. A notary public is a person who is an official who is sworn in, and bonded in the U.S. state where they are a resident by the Secretary of State. Depending on the state, the process of becoming a notary public can vary slightly, but for the most part is very similar from state to state.

The most common task, or transaction that a notary will perform is to witness the signing of documents, typically known as the execution of a document. The notary will verify that person present signing the particular document is who they claim to be. In order to verify the person’s identity the notary public will check the person’s photo identification. They will also confirm that the person signing the document, or documents fully understands what they are signing, and is not being forced (or also known as being under duress).

A notary works independently, is expected to use their best judgment, and to follow the state law. If a notary suspects that a signer does not understand what he/she is signing, is being “tricked”, or coerced, is not of sound mind, it is the job of the public notary to refuse to notarize the document. By doing this the notary is serving the purpose their job was created for, to protect the general public.

A notary public may also verify that a signer has sworn to an oath regarding the affirmation of truth contained in a document; this may be more commonly known as a sworn statement.

After documents are signed in many states the notary will then place his/her notary seal on the papers. Some states do require a notary to have a notary seal, but more important than the seal is the notary’s journal. In the notary’s journal, the notary will record the name, signature, and the date of the signer that has appeared before them to sign the document, or documents. In addition to collecting this information, in many states the notary is required to take the thumbprint of the signer as well. This step is very important, because if in the future is ever disputed that a particular document was, or was not signed by that particular person, the finger print can be used as proof since it is unique.

You may be saying to yourself “this is a lot of information for me to have to know to get a document notarized.” Well, there is no need for you to remember all this information. When you seek out the services of a notary public, they will walk you through all these steps mentioned above, and explain to you what is going on.

If you need to find a public notary, they can typically be found very easily during the course of your normal day. The first thing to ask when you receive documents that need to be notarized “is there someone here who can notarize these for me”, if not they can most likely point you to someone nearby who can notarize the documents for you.

Other places notaries can be found are: Banks, Insurance Offices, Post Office, Real Estate Offices, Mortgage Offices, and the local UPS store.

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