What is a Notary Public?

A notary public (or notary, or public notary) is tasked with verifying the authenticity of your most important transactions. Their consent is often the final step in establishing power of attorney, closing on a home, or opening a retirement account.

So what is a notary public? Who are the people that stamp your documents, and what does it take to earn their (literal) seal of approval?

What Does a Notary Public Do?

A notary public is a public official appointed by a state government to help deter fraud. Notary publics witness the signing of important documents and verify the identity of the signer(s), their willingness to sign the documents, and their awareness of the contents of the document or transaction.

These documents include:

  • Estates
  • Deeds
  • Powers of attorney
  • Affidavits
  • Licenses
  • Contracts
  • Loan documents
  • Trusts

Administering oaths and affirmations;Notary publics offer a legal service that impacts numerous institutions. Their responsibilities include:

  • Taking affidavits and statutory declarations;
  • Taking acknowledgments of deeds and other conveyances;
  • Protesting notes and bills of exchange; and
  • Providing notice of foreign drafts.

The term “notary public” only refers to common-law notaries and should not be confused with civil-law notaries, which are lawyers who have passed their bar exam. A common-law notary who is not a lawyer is forbidden from providing legal advice.