What Does a Notary Do

Written by: Mary Gerardine

Last updated:

When it comes to legal matters, the role of a notary is often crucial, ensuring the authenticity and integrity of various documents.

Whether it’s a real estate transaction, wills, powers of attorney, or other legal documents, a notary’s presence ensures trust and confidence in the process.

So, what does a notary do exactly? In this article, we will explore the key notary responsibilities and duties of a notary public and their role in our society.

Recommended: Interested in getting started? Have a look at the National Notary Association’s state-approved packages, which come with E&O insurance, notary supplies, and a surety bond.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($79+)

What Does a Notary Public Do?

A notary is a public officer appointed by the government who acts as an impartial witness during the signing of important legal documents.

Through their meticulous attention to detail and compliance with legal procedures, notaries help protect the rights and interests of individuals and organizations.

However, a notary is not the same as an attorney.

An attorney is a legal professional who provides legal advice, represents clients in legal matters, and can appear in court on behalf of clients.

A notary, on the other hand, is prohibited from providing legal advice or guidance on legal matters. Their role is limited to verifying the authenticity of a document notarized, witnessing a signature, and stamping a notarial certificate, ensuring the integrity of the notarization process.

Interested in getting started? We recommend having a look at our state-specific How to Become a Notary guide.

Notary Responsibilities

Notaries are entrusted with significant responsibilities to safeguard the authenticity and validity of legal documents and transactions. Below are some of the common duties and responsibilities:

  • Document verification: Notaries carefully examine identification papers, contracts, deeds, affidavits, and other official documents to ensure they meet all legal requirements. By confirming the identity of signatories and verifying the accuracy of the content, notaries provide an added layer of protection against fraud, forgery, and misrepresentation
  • Administering oaths and affirmations: When individuals need to make solemn statements under penalty of perjury, a notary can attest to the truthfulness of the statements made. Notaries have the personal knowledge to help maintain the integrity and credibility of legal proceedings
  • Witnessing signatures: The presence of a notary ensures that all parties involved in a transaction or agreement have voluntarily and knowingly entered into the arrangement. A notary verifies records of events to help prevent disputes and authenticates witness signatures to add an element of trust to the process
  • Maintaining detailed records: Notaries are required to keep a detailed journal of all the documents notarized. This journal typically includes the date, time, type of document, the names of the parties involved, and other relevant details. The journal serves as a permanent record that can be referenced in case of legal disputes or inquiries
  • Adhering to legal procedures and ethics: Notaries must stay updated on relevant laws, regulations, and best practices to ensure the integrity of their work. Maintaining impartiality, avoiding conflicts of interest, and protecting the privacy of clients are critical aspects of their ethical responsibilities

Notaries contribute to the overall credibility and trustworthiness of our legal system. Their role as impartial witnesses ensures that people and organizations can rely on the authenticity and integrity of their legal documents.

How to Become a Notary

Becoming a notary is a meaningful way to contribute to your community and play an important role in upholding the authenticity of important documents and transactions. Below is an outline of the general steps and requirements involved in becoming a notary.

Complete Education Requirements

The education requirements for notaries vary depending on your state. In some states, no formal education is required, and individuals can become notaries by simply meeting the eligibility criteria and passing any required exams.

However, in many states, aspiring notaries are required to complete a state-approved notary education course. These courses provide comprehensive training on notarial laws, procedures, ethics, and best practices.

The duration and format of the courses can vary, ranging from in-person classes to online modules. These educational programs ensure that notaries possess the necessary knowledge to fulfill their responsibilities accurately and ethically.

Notary Public Exam

The notary public exam is a test that aspiring notaries may be required to pass in certain states.

The exam evaluates your understanding of notarial laws, procedures, ethics, and relevant legal concepts. The content of the exam typically covers topics such as document types, identification requirements, notarial acts, record-keeping, and the responsibilities of a notary public.

Study materials and resources, including practice exams, are often available to help you prepare for the test. Successfully passing the exam demonstrates your knowledge and competency in performing the duties and responsibilities of a notary public within your state or county.

Surety Bond Requirement

A surety bond is a common requirement for notaries in many states; it is a form of financial protection for the public, ensuring that the notary will fulfill their duties ethically and responsibly.

The bond amount and specific requirements vary by state, but can range anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000.

Notaries must obtain the bond from a licensed surety company and provide proof of bonding to the secretary of state or similar regulatory agency as part of the application process.

Notary Application

Obtain, complete, and submit the application form for notaries. Contact the secretary of state’s office or the appropriate state government agency to obtain the notary application form. It may also be available for download from their website.

You may also need to pay the necessary filing fees. The application fees for notaries can vary from state to state, so the costs may differ depending on where you are applying to become a notary public.

Errors and Omissions Insurance

Errors and omissions insurance, also known as E&O insurance or professional liability insurance, is a type of insurance coverage that some states require notaries to carry.

It provides financial protection in case a notary makes an error or omission while performing their notarial duties, resulting in financial losses or damages for their clients or the public.

The specific requirements for E&O insurance vary by state. Some states require it as a prerequisite for a notary commission, while others make it optional. Check with your state to determine if E&O insurance is required and what the coverage requirements are.

Recommended Course

We recommend the National Notary Association’s state-approved packages, which come with E&O insurance, a surety bond, and the required notary tools.

4.5 out of 5 starsNational Notary Association ($79+)

Notary Supplies

Notaries require specific supplies to fulfill their duties. The essential notary supplies typically include a notary seal or stamp, an official notary journal or record book to document notarial acts, and an inkless fingerprint pad for capturing thumbprints where required by law.

Notaries may also need to have pre-printed notary certificates, acknowledgment forms, jurat forms, or other relevant notarial certificates, depending on your state’s requirements. These supplies can be obtained from specialized notary supply vendors or authorized suppliers designated by the state.

Notaries should ensure they have the necessary supplies to comply with their state’s regulations and perform their duties effectively.

What Does a Notary Do FAQ

What happens when you are a notary?

When you are a notary, you are an official witness in the signing of important legal documents and business transactions, administering oaths, and certifying copies. Notaries ensure the authenticity and legality of the documents, adding credibility and protection against fraud or forgery.

Why is it important to have a notary?

A notary plays a crucial role as a credible witness in ensuring the authenticity and integrity of legal and business documents. Many documents, such as contracts, deeds, powers of attorney, and affidavits, require notarization to be considered valid and enforceable. For more information about notaries, check out our What is a Notary article.

What is the difference between a notary public and a notary signing agent?

notary public is a public official authorized to perform notarial acts, such as verifying identities and notarizing documents. A notary signing agent, on the other hand, is a specialized type of notary public who is trained to handle loan document signings and related paperwork in the mortgage industry.

Where can I find a notary?

Notaries can be found in various locations, including law firms, banks, insurance agencies, real estate offices, courthouses, and government offices. You can also search for notaries online or contact your local government or state’s notary public administration for a list of licensed notaries in your area.

How do notaries make money?

Notaries charge fees for performing notarial services, such as verifying signatures, administering oaths, and certifying documents. The fee structure varies by state, notarial act performed, and the specific platform that they use (whether they conduct remote online notarization or mobile notarization). To know more, visit our How to Make Money Money as a Notary article.

How long does it take to become a notary?

The duration to become a notary varies depending on your state or county, which can take a few weeks to complete the application process, pass an exam, and receive the authorization or appointment. Check out our page on How Long Does it Take to Become a Notary for further information.

Featured Articles

For all related articles, have a look at our How to Become a Notary page.