The duties of a notary public are clearly outlined in state law, but these laws often vary from state to state. As a notary, it is your responsibility to learn the laws of your state and to perform only the notarial acts that you are legally permitted to perform.
Your role as a notary public is to verify the identity of the signer of a document. Your main job is to authenticate signatures, which helps prevent forgery and ID theft. And unless you're a licensed attorney, the most important mistake to avoid is giving legal advice to a signer.
Read on to learn some important do's and don'ts that every notary should remember and follow.
- Explain what documents you can notarize when asked
- Verify the identity of the document's signer(s)
- Affix your notary seal to the document you notarize
- Learn what you can and can't do as a notary
- Memorize the proper wording your state requires for jurats and certificates of acknowledgment
- Familiarize yourself with your state's notary laws
- Provide legal advice or attempt to explain what a law means
- Proceed with a notarization if the signer cannot be positively identified through personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of identification, such as a driver's license or passport
- Offer an opinion about the legality or effect of a document
- Draft a document for signers or assist them in creating one
- Recommend the type of notarization required
- Backdate or forward date a notarization
- Fill in information on a document on the signer's behalf
- Sign and seal a blank notarial certificate
Once again, it is critical that you never offer legal advice or prepare legal documents unless you are a licensed attorney. Doing so could make you criminally liable for practicing law without a license. Remember that you are subject to the laws of your state and that you must always adhere to them.