Most people are under the impression that notaries “just notarize signatures” when there is really much more to this appointed position. With the amount of fraud and identity theft going on today, Notary Publics are an important part in the prevention of fraudulent transactions. A notary must know and follow their state’s laws, while also maintaining keen eye during transactions and having sound judgment with regard to their signer’s state of mind and understanding of each document they are signing.
While the majority of duties a notary performs involves the signing of important documents, there are other tasks they can perform (depending on which state they are in) such as administering oaths, taking/certifying affidavits and depositions, and performing civil marriage ceremonies just to name a few.
Notaries are “appointed” or “commissioned” usually by their state’s Governor’s Office or Secretary of State, which means that this is a privilege subject to disciplinary action if the laws of the state are not followed. Each state has it’s own requirements for becoming a notary, but most require an applicant to be a minimum of 18 years old, a resident of the state, and have a clean criminal record. Many states are now requiring applicants to show their knowledge of the state’s notary laws by passing an exam.
The term of a notary tends to be four years, but can vary according to state. Every time a notary performs the act of acknowledgement, they must include their commission number and expiration date, either handwritten or stamped depending on state requirement.
When an individual signs a document in the presence of a notary, the notary then completes a notarial certificate attesting to this, including the date and personal identification given. The notarial certificate can be attached as a separate sheet, but it most commonly appears at the end of the document with and acknowledgement stating along these lines: “Acknowledged before me by (signer’s printed name) this (day)th day of (month), (year), whom provided (type of photo ID, ex. Driver’s Licence)/or is personally known to me and who did/did not take an oath.” It is absolutely most important that the person is physically in front of the notary and executes their signature in the presence of that notary. No alternative – however creative it might be – is acceptable.
It sounds like a lot of responsibility, doesn’t it? So why would you want to become a notary? Well, if you are in employed in a position that often requires signatures to be notarized (such as a bank, government office, real estate or insurance business), your being the in-house notary will obviously make you a more valuable employee. Officers or executives of your company may also notice you more, since those are the people typically needing a notary most.
If you are hunting for a job, being able to add Notary Public to your resume is another plus in your favor. If you are self-employed, this can also add income if you make it a service, or it may be a convenience you want to add to keep customers coming back.