Every day some situations require us to place our signature authorizing business deals, banking transactions, insurance papers, etc. These documents, sealed with a notary stamp, are legally binding and cover a wide variety of topics and issues.
To ensure the person presenting the paperwork is not being forced into any deal the paperwork requires the signature (and stamp) of a notary. The last thing you want after a lengthy contract review and negotiation is to slip up on the legalities of signing.
Let’s take a more in-depth look at what a notary is, what it entails, types of notary, and what type of deals require a notary.
What Is a Notary
According to whatever state you reside, a notary is a person of integrity that is appointed by the state to oversee the signing of official documents. They are required to follow a strict set of rules regarding processes and procedures.
They must also keep strict records of each transaction they oversee. These rules help to maintain the honesty and integrity that goes under the title of a notary.
This position is a commissioned one that must be renewed every two years as they are acting as a minister of the state and must maintain active licensure.
Types of Notary
Many documents may require a notary. Let’s take a look at a few of them here.
Copy certification is used to help verify that any copy of an official government document is, in fact, just that—a real copy. The most common types of materials that require copies are items that generally come with a seal on the original document.
Everything from drivers licenses, marriage licenses, diplomas, social security cards, leases, medical records, vehicle titles, etc. The document custodian must present the official document to the notary who then makes a photocopy and places their notary stamp upon it certifying that it is a real copy.
This service of copy certification seems like an everyday occurrence many would benefit from; however, only half of the States allow such a notarization.
This part of the process is the most common type of notarization. This type of notary is where the document custodian will present the notary with documents and a photo id before signing.
Once the notary has verified that the person presenting the documents is who they say they are, they then witness said person placing their signature on the record. This document will then require that the notary put their notary stamps, name, and date on the document as well.
Other types of notary may require an oath recited before signature; however, when it comes to signature witnessing, this is not the case.
Slightly different from signature witnessing oaths and affirmations are used in a situation where the document custodian is legally stating that their intentions are true and honorable.
The most common type of situation that would require this type of notary is a wedding.
Very similar to signature witnessing, oaths, and affirmations, Jurats combine all of the above at the time of signature. The document custodian presents the documents and identification, and once verified by the notary; they must then swear an oath that the information in the papers is accurate to the best of their knowledge.
Should, for whatever reason, the documents be found to contain false information or the signature is a forgery, the document custodian can find themselves in a courtroom under penalty of law.
Parameters of Notarizations
As stated above, there are parameters that a notary must abide by as they are legally binding. Each notary undergoes testing for their state licensure, so they are fully aware of the legal ramifications of their actions.
The most common thing to happen when a notary is found to have violated their duties is that they can be fined or that their license is stripped away. However, due to the nature of the documents that many notaries handle, there could be legal consequences as well should they be charged with intentionally attempting to defraud others.
You are not allowed to notarize any documents for family members when you are in a position to receive benefit from the document. Distant family members where you have no financial interest are okay; however, if you want to stay above the letter of the law, then I would simply point them to another notary.
Messing up the signature processes on loan documents is one area that opens you up for liability. Should a notary mess up the signatures on a loan document, then this could spell trouble for the borrower.
Common Mistakes Notaries Make
Always avoid being in a hurry, as this leads to many mistakes. Here are some of the most common ones that occur during notarization.
Your signature on the documents not matching what is on your notary commission.
Having the wrong venue on a document.
Most notary documents require that you state the location where you notarized the document. If you’re in a hurry, then you run the risk of putting in the wrong address, and this can cause issues down the line.
Incorrect dates on documents
We all do it from time to time when writing out the date. The numbers get jumbled somewhere between our brains and our hands, and we thrust ourselves back in time a week/day/year. It happens.
Stamping the paper incorrectly
Yes, there is such a thing. Placing your notary stamp upside down, diagonal, crossing out and replacing a commission date, etc. These are all prime examples of common mistakes notaries make when stamping a paper.
Tips for Notaries
Honestly, once you have your notary commission, it’s a pretty simple process. No matter the types of notary that are in front of you, there are a few things you can do to ensure success.
Stay calm, read carefully, don’t rush, and be prepared. Those four tips are crucial to making sure you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s.
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