Notary Do's & Don'ts

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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.

Do:

  • 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

Don't:

  • 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.

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