A Note on Notarization
Many of us have needed our signatures notarized at one point or another. You may have asked yourself: “Why is it necessary to have my signature notarized? What other documents require the notarization of my signature? What criteria must be met to ensure lawful notarization? Who can and cannot notarize my signature? How does one become a Notary Public and where can I find one?” This blog serves to examine these questions and offer insight into the same.
Why is it Necessary to Have My Signature Notarized?
Notarization ensures multiple document qualities that can be summarized in a few key words: authenticity, officiality, and security. The National Notary Association defines notarization as the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic and can be trusted.¹
What Other Documents Require the Notarization of My Signature?
A multitude of documents necessitate signature notarization. These documents include, but are not limited to: Acknowledgments, Affidavits of Heirship, Bills of Sale, Birth Certificates, Certified Copies, Death Certificates, Jurats, Living Wills, Notices of Lien, Powers of Attorney, Promissory Note Agreements, Real Estate Documents (i.e. Warranty Deeds), Wills, and many others. Documents typically specify the need for notarization by including a notary block where appropriate.
What Criteria Must be Met to Ensure Lawful Notarization?
The notarization process consists of the following steps: identity verification, oath/acknowledgment administration, relevant detail entry and notary certification. The first requirement that traditionally needs to be met is personal appearance by the signer.
The Notary is responsible for using their best judgment to determine the signer’s competency in understanding the form they are signing and the signer’s willingness to sign versus signing under duress (coercion). The Notary must also verify the signer’s identity by obtaining a valid form of personal identification. In most cases, a driver’s license is provided for identification purposes, although acceptable forms of ID may vary by state. The Notary then performs the notarial act by administering an oath to or taking an affirmation from the signer. Doing so elicits confirmation from the signer that the contents of the document they are signing are true and correct. Upon affirmation or oath, the signer signs the document accordingly. The Notary Public then enters details specific to this notarization (i.e. state, county and date [month, date and year] in/on which the act occurred). The ceremony concludes with notarial certification. In other words, the notary will sign and affix their seal of office on the document. The notary seal includes the Notary Public’s full name, state and county of commission, state-issued ID number and certification expiration date.
Who Can and Cannot Notarize My Signature?
Maintenance of impartiality remains a key element of notarizing someone’s signature. In other words, you must be a disinterested party to the document you are notarizing. Notaries cannot notarize their own signature on their own documents. Notaries are also highly discouraged from doing so for family members to prevent the possibility of contestation since “deriv(ing) a financial or material benefit” remains a prohibited notarial act.2
How Does One Become a Notary Public?
This process, like many others, may vary by state. In New York State, the first step is meeting the eligibility requirements. Those eligible must be at least 18 years of age, reside within (or maintain a business in) New York State, have the equivalent of a “common school education”, be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, not be convicted of a crime (unless the Secretary of State deems a crime does not bar you from commission), and complete the application process.3 If these criteria are met, one can study the NYS Notary Public License law and take the one-hour NYS Notary Exam. Upon passing said exam, one completes a state application including their notarized Oath of Office, pass slip and application fee. The NYS Division of Licensing Services then issues a Notary ID Card containing their ID number.
Where Can I Find a Notary Public?
One of the simplest ways to find a notary public is to head to your local bank. Many bank employees are also notaries. Law firm employees also frequently maintain notary commissions. State-admitted attorneys are automatically eligible to become notaries (so long as they complete a state application, as well). At Trainor Law PLLC, our entire full-time staff maintains notary commissions and are happy to assist you should you need your signature notarized.
If you or someone you know needs your/their document notarized, please contact our office at (518)-899-9200 or through our website at our contact page.
This article is intended to be educational and is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after an attorney-client relationship is established.
- Miscellaneous: Notary Public – Disqualifications. New York State Notary License Law (May 2020).
- 130 Appointment of Notaries Public. New York State Notary License Law (May 2020).