Frequently asked questions - FAQ
What is a Notary Public?
A responsible person appointed by state government to authenticate the signing of important documents and administer oaths.
Why are documents notarized?
To increase public trust in transactions and to deter fraud. As an impartial witness, the notary ensures that the signers of documents are who they say they are. The Notary also makes sure that signers have entered into agreements knowingly and willingly. In a society in which business dealings between strangers are the norm, Notaries create a trustworthy environment where people can share important documents with full confidence in their authenticity.
Can any document be notarized?
For a document to be notarized, it must have the following:
(1) Language that commits the signer in some way.
(2) An original signature by the document signer.
(3) A notarial certificate which may appear on the document itself or as an attachment.
Is notarization required by law?
For many documents, yes. Documents like real estate deeds and certain affidavits are not legally binding unless they’re properly notarized.
How does a Notary identify a signer?
Generally, the Notary will ask to see a current form of identification that has a photograph, physical description and a signature. A driver’s license, military ID or passport is usually acceptable.
Does notarization mean that a document is “true” or “legal”?
No. Notaries are not responsible for the accuracy or legality of documents they notarize. Notaries certify the identity of signers. The signers are responsible for the content of the documents.
May a Notary give legal advice or draft legal documents?
No. A Notary is forbidden from preparing legal documents or acting as a legal advisor. Violators can be fined or jailed for the unauthorized practice of law.
A notary can not assist a client in drafting a document.
A notary can not give an opinion or advice about the contents or the effects of the transaction.
A notary can not tell the signer how to execute the document, advise the client about the need for witnesses, or choose the notarial act for the notarization. The signer will need to have an understanding what is needed to complete the document.
Can a Notary refuse to serve people?
Only if the Notary is uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness or general competence, or has a good reason to suspect fraud. Notaries should not refuse to serve anyone because of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the person is not a client or customer. Discrimination on any basis is not a suitable policy for a public official.
Do all signers need to be present with a notary?
First, and foremost, the signer must be present, meaning physical face-to-face presence for the notarial act. A notary should watch all parties sign the requested document. We will not notarize a document without the all signers present.
What is a Notary Bond?
Because of the potential for financial loss due to an improper action by a notary, many states require notaries to buy a surety bond, commonly called a notary bond. This notary bond is like a promise that protects the public. The bonding company says, "We will be the surety for you and guarantee to the public that you, as a notary public, will perform your duties in accordance with the law. And if you do not and there is a monetary loss, we will pay for that loss up to the amount of the bond."
Are Notaries required to notate the notary act in a Journal?
Washington state Notaries will be required to keep a journal of their notarizations under a new law taking effect July 1, 2018 Pursuant to Senate Bill 5081.
Can a notary notarize a document if it is blank or incomplete?
Notary have a duty to deter fraud. Notarizing when the document appears to have blanks that clearly affect the document’s completeness opens the door to fraud. The signer must decide how to address the blank space. The signer will need initial any changes he or she makes on the document. If the signer does not know enough about the document to be able to address blank spaces, we recommend that the signer seek help from the creator or recipient of the document or an attorney. Some forms might contain all the information that the signer has to put in it without filling in all the spaces, so be sure to ask the signer if the document is complete.
Can a notary notarize a document if they have a beneficial or financial Interest?
A notary must be totally neutral and impartial. If the notary is connected to the transaction, or if they stand to gain from the transaction, the notary cannot be neutral.
Can a photograph be notarized?
Notaries do not notarize photographs. As a notary, we do not have the authority to “certify” the authenticity of a photograph.
What ID is needed to verify identity?
1. Current driver's license or non-driver identification card from any state, Canada, Mexico, or United States Territory
2. Current U.S. passport
3. Current Identification card issued by any branch of U.S. Armed Forces
4. Current Identification card issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), such as a Permanent Resident Card (sometimes called a "green card")
5. Inmate identification cards issued in federal and state prisons
We can not rely solely on documents such as birth certificates, social security cards or credit cards as a primary identification document to identify you. Such cards may be of assistance ONLY in resolving a minor discrepancy between the name on the document and the name on the ID card. An example would be that the signer's middle initial appears in his name on the document but there is no middle initial on his driver's license. A secondary source of ID that has his middle initial may be used to solve this problem.
Does the document date matter?
The document's date is immaterial to the notary, even if it appears as a future effective date. The notary simply avoids confusing the document date with the date the notarial act is performed. The notary must always record the actual date of notarization.