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Notary 101: What Is a Notary and What Does a Notary Do?

There are more than 4.4 million notaries in the U.S. This number continues to rise in 21 states. 

Do you need a notary or do you want to become a notary? Are you wondering what does a notary do?

If so, keep reading to find out what do notaries do and more about this profession and why it’s so important.

What Is a Notary?

A notary helps serve as an impartial witness to prevent fraud when signing important documents. The state government typically appoints this person. 

Notaries are expected to follow written rules. 

What Does a Notary Do?

Notaries will witness and manage signatures for official documents. These duties include:

  • Affirming the state of mind of all signees
  • Identifying any fraud
  • Documenting legal signatures
  • Verifying identities of all participants
  • Administering any needed oaths
  • Handling marriage certificates, contracts, loan documents, affidavits, and any other legal documents
  • Completing the notarial certificate on the documents
  • Maintaining a notary journal
  • Bearing witness to items added to a safe deposit box or something equivalent

In addition to these duties, the notary must be present at the document signing, so this could mean traveling and setting appointments.

A notary must be impartial. This means they can’t act in personal matters. A notary can also not deny a person based on sex, religion, sexual orientation, race, or nationality.

Notaries certify that life-changing documents of citizens are executed properly.
Examples of these documents include powers of attorney, real estate transactions, and prenuptial agreements.

Why Are Notaries Needed?

Notarization helps deter fraud. It also helps determine that all signees are willing to sign a document and know what they are signing.

This helps determine the signature is made willingly and by the person named on the document.

The notary asks for a current ID that has a photo and physical description. These IDs include a driver’s license or passport.

A notary is not an attorney or judge.

How to Become a Notary

If you are interested in becoming a notary, you will need to meet the eligibility requirements in your state. The processes do vary between states but typically include:

  • Filling out an application
  • Paying the application fee
  • Taking a course (and sometimes passing an exam)
  • Filing your bond and oath
  • Buying your office supplies like notary stamps

You will also have to take a background check. You also need to be a legal resident of your state.

The skills to be a notary are similar to those of a legal secretary. These skills include:

  • Record-keeping
  • Compliance
  • Verification
  • Flexibility
  • Knowledge of legal documents

This is why many legal secretaries are also notaries. In addition, there is a need for notaries with loan officers and bankers. This is why many times people in these professions are also notaries.

Understanding Notary Duties

Now, you know the answer to what does a notary do? Notaries help prevent fraud by witnessing signatures, ensuring the parties understand what they are signing, and also verifying the identities of all parties involved.

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