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Notary Basics: Avoiding the unauthorized practice of law

Three people gathered around computer looking at screen with worried expressions.

Updated 8-29-23. A Notary is not a lawyer. In fact, it is against the law for Notaries who aren't attorneys to provide certain kinds of advice and services. This is known as Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) and can carry serious consequences for a Notary, including hefty fines, loss of commission or even conviction for a criminal offense. It’s crucial to know what services fall under the unauthorized practice of law — and how to avoid them.

What is the unauthorized practice of law?

The unauthorized practice of law means offering legal services without being licensed as an attorney. Statutes, court opinions and ethics rulings from the state bar often define legal services in the following ways:

  • Giving advice about a document a customer needs.
  • Recommending the type of notarization required.
  • Offering an opinion about the legality or effect of a document.

Only attorneys licensed by the bar in a particular state may perform these services, nonattorney Notaries may not.

Avoiding unauthorized practice of law

To help you avoid UPL, The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility provides the following list of services Notaries are NOT allowed to offer customers:

  • Notaries may not choose the particular document a customer may need for a transaction.
  • Notaries may not choose the type of notarization or certificate wording for a given document. The customer must decide.
  • Notaries may not prepare a document or give advice on how to fill out, draft or complete a document.
  • Notaries may not provide legal advice or answer questions about a legal matter.

And no person may represent someone in court or a legal proceeding, or charge and collect a fee for such representation unless they are licensed to practice law in that state.

How Notaries may advertise Notary services

One of the more publicized examples of UPL involves bad actors who advertise as Notarios Publicos, pretending to be qualified immigration law professionals when they actually aren’t. They do this to scam unsuspecting immigrants into paying large fees for bogus services.

Notaries in many other countries, including Latin American nations, have legal training and credentials similar to attorneys in the U.S. They may draft and archive documents, advise parties to the legal effect of a transaction, serve as mediators or arbitrators and issue judicial opinions.

In order to combat so-called “notario” scams, Notaries in most states are prohibited from using the misleading phrase “Notario Publico” in their ads. Furthermore, many states require Notaries to post a written notice explaining they are not attorneys licensed to practice law, cannot offer legal advice or accept fees for legal services.

For example, Texas Notaries who are not attorneys are required by law to include the following disclaimer when advertising in a foreign language: “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas and may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice.” The disclaimer must be included in the foreign language and also in English.

California and Florida require Notaries who advertise in other languages to post a disclaimer in English and any other language the Notary advertises in stating the Notary is not an attorney and cannot give legal advice. California also prohibits immigration consultants who are also commissioned Notaries from advertising Notary services in any marketing materials.

Consult your state Notary laws to see if you must include a specific disclaimer in your advertising.

How Notaries can assist signers without offering legal advice

While you must never offer legal advice or services, here are some ways you can assist signers without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law:

  • Set appropriate expectations with signers by explaining what you can and cannot do as a Notary.
  • While you may describe to signers the types of notarial acts and certificates — such as the difference between acknowledgments and jurats — the signer must always choose which act you will perform​ for them. Don't choose for the signer.
  • Refer signers to the receiving agency of a document or an attorney if they have questions, so they can receive proper instructions or advice.

Rules For Nonattorney Notaries Who Work With Immigrant Clients

  • Never use the words "notario" or "notario publico" in your advertisements, or on your business cards, website, social media postings or storefront.
  • When required by law, include a disclaimer in both English and the foreign language in which you are advertising, explaining exactly what you are and are not authorized to do.
  • Include your specific fees in your advertisements in English and the foreign language.
  • Know what type of immigration assistance services you are allowed to provide.

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Related Articles:

A Notary’s guide to California’s rules for immigration consultants

Quiz: The unauthorized practice of law

Additional Resources:

State Rules On Immigration Consulting And Assistance Services

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

John Clark

13 Jul 2015

I agree, except I don't send poor baffled ignorant people away who hold out documents to get notarized (perhaps to do with their employment.) What I do is to hold up different kinds of forms, tell them what they do, and only then say that I cannot choose for them. Or Is this just a way to get lawyers involved? Huh!

Rosemary Mathews

13 Jul 2015

Often a client will want a notarized note that gives a grandparent permission to travel with a child. If I tell her to write what she wants the note to say, and ask her to choose the jurat or the acknowledgement, will I be doing it right?

National Notary Association

13 Jul 2015

Hello Rosemary. If you are not an attorney, you should not advise the signer in any way regarding what to write in her document. Advising a signer how to prepare a document is considered legal advice.


13 Jul 2015

I carry with my a list of all the notary acts and have the client select from the list which one they feel works best for them. I hate though how many times the document they want notarized is blatantly obvious that you can only attach a certain type of notarization to and yet you can't just tell them what it is.

Sybil C. Boudreaux

13 Jul 2015

Exceptions to the Rule: Louisiana notaries have extensive powers, such as: Draft, execute, and record documents such as sales, mortgages, and donations of immovable properties; draft and execute collateral mortgages; draft and execute powers of attorney, last wills and testaments; draft, execute, and record affidavits of any nature or kind; draft and execute provisional custodies by mandate, and revoke and record the same; draft, execute, and record, if immovable bills of exchange, sales of movables (Title Transfers), donations of immovables and movables and many more types of notarial paper work that other states prohibit their notaries from drafting and executing. Louisiana notaries must pass the state's notarial examination, and, in so doing, they receive a statewide lifetime commission. LA notaries can choose to utilize their lifetime commission by posting a bond with the Secretary of State to be an active notary, retire the use of their commission, regain an active status by posting a state bond (no other testing is required), and whether active or inactive, are considered notaries by the state until their deaths. The Louisiana notary can lose their commission or be placed on probation for violating any of the state's notarial laws listed under Title 35 of the Louisiana Civil Code.

Robert Gostl

13 Jul 2015

The law regarding Louisiana Notaries Public is different from the other 49 states. Louisiana Notaries can draft documents and offer notarial advice. The duties of the Louisiana Notary are based on the Napoleonic Code which is not used in any other state.


14 Jul 2015

So if a Notary in Louisiana has all those powers, why not just become an attorney or a distinguished paralegal. Most of those actions are still considered the practice of law; Louisiana or not. How can one draft affidavits and wills, mortgages, and other legal documents unless they are a practicing attorney or paralegal. I think that law is archaic.

Rochelle Karter

14 Jul 2015

The article above states " Providing services that step beyond this role such as [...] explaining documents is considered the unauthorized practice of law". Why did we Notaries recently have to become "Notary Signing Agents", take courses and exams and be required to follow the "script" which explains or interprets each doc if it is against the law? And as for the signer who is absolutely uneducated in our notary laws, I as a notary do not think I should use an incorrect certificate when signers do not understand which one to choose. Performing a notarization on an incorrect certificate just because someone asks me to should be considered "unauthorized" in my opinion.

Julie Brickley

18 Jul 2015

Providing blank forms is very tricky. We do a lot of Wark at hospitals and are often asked to bring blank documents with us. When asked which document they need...I always tell them to ask the requesting party. Requests for General/Financial POA are most common. I tell callers that they can get documents from lawyer or a variety of online legal sources. We do carry the ones published by the state if they choose that one. So often asked "will that give me the power to take care of things at the bank/bills/rent, etc?". I always respond with...I do not know and cannot advise you. You can view the form online and determine if it is what you need.


23 Jul 2015

tis the day when there will only be ONE type of notary, why cant there just be a jurat and then cover both that way

Shelley Reeve

19 Aug 2015

I service several nursing and rehab homes. Families have frequently asked me to provide them with Power of Attorney forms (both for healthcare for for finance). I generally tell them they can get them online or from one of the "big box" office supply stores, and they are generally dissatisfied with this answer. I get the impression that some notaries do provide these documents, or that I am expected to. This makes me uneasy as I'm pretty clear that this is practicing law. Comments, anyone?

Angela Robinson

18 Dec 2016

What about a notary that notarized my dissolution papers then got engaged to my ex within a month of the divorce?

Jack Crawford

16 Jan 2017

Coincidentally I just had a lady come in with a "Cremains Placement and Burial Authorization" form from a mortuary in Ceres, CA. There was a cover letter stating that she should get it notarized. Nothing in the letter or the document itself indicated what type of notarization. I showed her both Jurat and Acknowledgment attachments and explained the difference and said either she could decide which one for me to complete, or she could call the mortuary. She called the mortuary. I could hear the response. He said to just do an attachment. I told her I needed to know which one. When she asked him he said whichever one I think is right. I told her I could not make the decision so she handed me the phone. I told him I needed to know if he wanted me to attach a Jurat or an Acknowledgment. He said an Acknowledgment. I suggested that it would simplify things if they were to state that in their cover letter. He seemed very irritated and said that in his 14 years there I am the first notary that has ever asked that question. While this kind of situation doesn't happen often, it does occur more often than it should. I can understand the general public not being knowledgeable, but if a business is going to require that a document be notarized it's reasonable to expect that they know what they're doing and that they do it properly. In this situation, my question should have been asked by other notaries numerous times over the past 14 years.

Angela Varvi

18 Jan 2017

Jack, I run across that problem all the time. People are always telling me they have no idea which form to use or no one has ever asked them that question! Unfortunately California's two different notary forms are confusing to those who are not trained notaries. I too, wish they would just make it one, preferably a jurat. I like the idea of the person being required to sign in front of me, which many people do not realize is NOT required on a California acknowledgement. In the meantime, I also require them to choose as that is the law.


24 Jan 2017

As part of my job for a CA public agency, I draft easements and agreements all the time, and I often have to discuss the various provisions of these documents with the other party. Most of the time the language is taken from templates that at one point in time were vetted by our City Attorney's office. Sometimes I'll search the internet for language that other public agencies use in similar agreements. Sometimes I come up with stuff on my own based on the many documents I've read and if I have concerns about the impact, I will ask our City Attorney's office to review. I am not an attorney. When I became a notary and was informed of this supposed restriction about "practicing law", I immediately contacted my City Attorney's office to express my concern. He laughed at me and said that what I was doing was not practicing law. If I was freelancing as a notary, it would be a different story and I would more closely adhere to the recommendations in this article.

National Notary Association

25 Jan 2017

Hello Diane. The California 2016 state Notary Public Handbook, page 6, describes unauthorized practice of law by Notaries as the following: "California notaries public are prohibited from performing any duties that may be construed as the practice of law. Among the acts which constitute the practice of law are the preparation, drafting, or selection or determination of the kind of any legal document, or giving advice in relation to any legal documents or matters. If asked to perform such tasks, a California notary public should decline and refer the requester to an attorney." If you are providing information or services as you describe,"on your own" without instructions from a qualified attorney, we strongly recommend that you do not do this. If you provide unauthorized advice that invalidates a signer's document or causes financial problems or other issues to a signer, you could be leaving yourself vulnerable to serious potential legal and financial consequences.


11 Apr 2017

I am a Notary Signing Agent and also carry a Certificate of Completion in preparing legal documents from The Florida Assoc.of Legal Document Preparers. I have recently started preparing legal documents on the side. The course talked about UPL in great detail. I do not choose the document for the customer, they tell me what they want prepared, I simply fill in the blanks and will not and do not give legal advice. I was also told that it was ok for me to notarize the document I prepare. I just want to make sure this is all correct, don't want to do something I shouldn't be doing?

National Notary Association

11 Apr 2017

Hello. A Notary Public must always avoid the unauthorized practice of law, and not offer legal advice. However, sometimes a Notary either is employed by a company, or owns a business in which the Notary also prepares documents. If document preparation is specific to the Notary’s duties, the Notary may generate as well as notarize the documents.


14 May 2018

"Oh but every other notary I've been too does this, why can't you?" I've had that said to me when I told people I cannot advise them. If they're telling the truth, then I guess we got a whole lot of notaries who should be in jail. If they're not telling the truth I should be able to all the police on them for trying to get me to commit official misconduct.


14 May 2018

As a mobile notary we go to medical facilities a lot for health care power of attorney notarization. almost 98% of the time, the people involved ask questions about whose name goes where and if it is their 'common' name - Bill instead of William - as shown on their photo ID. If I tell them to use the photo ID name, Am I guilty of UPL????

National Notary Association

15 May 2018

Hello. Notaries should not advise signers how to enter their name on documents or sign documents.


06 May 2019

Gotta practice your comments. I always answer to legal questions, "dunno." And, "I wasn't there when your loan was birthed." Ask about these things to redirect signers: 1) weather; 2) pets; 3) hobbies. Signers are nervous. Help them out by printing out examples of how to sign THEIR paperwork. I print a few pages, hand write "COPY" on it, and use highlighters on the "copies" where I sign their names. Since it's all marked up the paper isn't a legal document anymore. You can also demonstrate How NOT to correct, by showing them a scribble over their name, and how to correct, a strikethrough, their initials (printed, capitolized, no periods, no underscores). Essentially it becomes a marked up piece of paper. It REALLY helps people to sign correctly. At the end of a signing I tell them that they have been trained, and they could turn around and sign ANOTHER loan.


07 May 2019

Corrections should have the following: 1) clean, clear strikethrough; 2) All initials of that person making the correction. This should match the signature used in the document package; and 3) date. I suggest dating with 6 digits, like today would be "05-07-19," for clarity. I forgot to mention that all corrections should be dated.

James Wallert

18 Sep 2019

You stated that notaries should not tell a signer how to enter their names on documents, but most signing cos, lenders and title companies instruct signing agents to instruct signers how their name should be entered?? In Florida I just enter the following on the back of my business card as well as on my google site and web site: "I an not an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida, and I may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. Please contact an attorney or source of your documents with any questions you may have regarding their form or content."


25 Sep 2019

Question. What agency would one contact if your employer is putting in their document signing procedures that is basically tantamount to UPL? Specifically for Texas notaries.

National Notary Association

27 Sep 2019

Hello. If the issue you wish to report involves misconduct by a Notary, you can file a complaint with the Texas Department of State.

Lindsay S.

21 Sep 2020

This article says "Notaries may not choose the type of notarization or certificate wording for a given document. The customer must decide." I'm a notary in Georgia. I frequently get requests to notarize documents that have no certificate wording included. To complete the notaritzation, I will explain the type of notarizations available and the signer will choose which one. To obtain the appropriate wording, I select a corresponding certificate template from the Georgia Superior Court Clerks' Cooperative Authority online notary portal. I use the template to complete the notarization. Is this acceptable or should I be sending signers away to get specific wording or a blank certificate from the document provider?

National Notary Association

22 Sep 2020

Hello. Describing the types of notarization available and letting the signer choose which notarization they want is acceptable.


12 Nov 2020

How about if you are not performing a Notarial Act for a client, but are working with a mortgage or insurance company as a consultant, by helping the Mortgage or Insurance agent the proper notarial language, venues and certificates by abiding by the state law and only providing terminoloigy with providing them the correct language pertaining to that specific notarial act? (Weird and confusing question I know. But if we are not drawing up contracts/documents, but basically acting as a living, breathable, walking state terminology book for a person/company that you are not giving a notarial act for, is that legal?)

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2020

Hello. While a Notary can let a signer know what the required certificate elements are for different notarial acts in your state, a nonattorney Notary cannot choose what notarial act to use on behalf of someone else, or advise someone else what notarial act to use for a document.

Ariel smith

19 Dec 2020

Is it appropriate for an attorney to be the process server, notary, and attorney for both parties in a dissolution of marriage?

National Notary Association

29 Dec 2020

Hello. Regarding disqualifying interest for Notaries, the TX Secretary of State's website says, “Notarizations should not be performed by a notary public who is a party to the instrument or financially or beneficially interested in the transaction. The facts in each situation will determine whether the notary’s action was proper." We would suggest contacting the state Bar Association regarding your other questions about appropriate attorney conduct.


27 Sep 2021

I have a question, is a notarial certificate considered a legal document? And if the answer is yes, shouldn’t the act of carrying them around in our briefcase be considered a violation of UPL?

National Notary Association

28 Sep 2021

Hello. You are confusing the unauthorized practice of law with the official duties of a Notary. It is part of a Notary's duties to complete appropriate statutory Notary certificate wording when performing a notarization. If the document being notarized does not have the appropriate notarial certificate wording pre-printed, there is no prohibition against a Notary carrying blank Notary certificates to complete and attach during the notarization, as long as the signer first tells the Notary what type of notarization the signer wants. The important thing to remember is that nonattorney Notaries may not choose the type of notarization on the signer's behalf-that would be the unauthorized practice of law. In other words, if a signer requested a notarization, the Notary is not allowed to say, for example. "You will need an acknowledgment for this document" However, if a signer presents a document and says, "Please perform an acknowledgment for me," a Notary may then complete and attach a separate acknowledgment certificate if needed to the document after receiving instructions from the signer.


28 Sep 2021

Who is and why are they replying to our questions. Are they an attorney?

National Notary Association

28 Sep 2021

Hello. We're sorry, but we don't see anyone with that email address listed in the comments for this article.

Kayla Combs

02 Oct 2022

How can I get protection legally as a notary public against criminals who threaten to ruin my reputation and have already committed cyber crimes and a data breach against me causing me to lose my education for a bread period and cause my businesses to close. Now not only will they not stop with there various crimes which have escalated against me but there threating to ruin me legally as well and have me decommissioned is their anything i can do to prevent this or protect myself as I don't know who these individuals are.

National Notary Association

04 Oct 2022

Hello. If you have been the victim of criminal activity or threats, we recommend that you contact local law enforcement as soon as possible and file a police report.


20 Nov 2022

I found that by making an appointment and then asking them what documents they need notarized 1st. Then I Come back to one of these websites and Search for the type of form I should Attached based on the Document. I also ask, if there's a section for a Notary and if so no attachment document is needed. If they say there's no section for the Notary Ill usually print the one they need before arriving. In most cases its Just a Jurat or acknowledgment needed.

Bonita Morlang

21 Apr 2023

I'm a notary is Colorado and my friend who I am helping out (he's in jail) had 2 notarizaions done in PA recently. The notary works at the jail and is a case manager as well. I sent her 2 POA forms for him (I'll be the agent) and she altered the 2 parts of the 3 page POA that were NOT part of her notarial certificate...she crossed out 2 parts and initialed them. Is that considered "practicing law"? I've made a complaint against her to the PA SOS (6-9 months to complete investigation and made a complaint to the county HR dept and they are "investigating". This is time sensitive and so I am going to serve her with an Intent to File a Claim against her bond and in the letter I have to include the laws that she violated, i.e. practicing law...per their laws (Rulona) it says under "prohibited acts" (d) Representations.-- (1) Except as set forth in paragraph (2), the following apply: (i) A notary public may not advertise or represent that the notary public may: (A) assist persons in drafting legal records; (B) give legal advice; or (C) otherwise practice law is her altering the document that did not pertain to her considered "otherwise practice law" as it does not actually define it. Thank you

National Notary Association

21 Apr 2023

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't offer legal advice or answer specific questions about your case-you would need to contact an attorney for that. However, generally speaking a nonattorney Notary is not authorized to prepare a document or give advice on how to fill out, draft or complete a document on behalf of a signer. For more information on unauthorized practice of law, please see here:

Joseph oconnor

11 Jun 2023

New notary Washington state my father wants me to notarized a quick deed of 25 acres land to him from my grandmother who is in a nursing home with dementia is this legal ?..

National Notary Association

12 Jun 2023

Hello. Any questions about the legality of a transaction would need to be answered by a qualified attorney. In Washington state, “(a) A notarial officer may not perform a notarial act with respect to a record to which the officer or the officer’s spouse or domestic partner is a party, or in which any of the above have a direct beneficial interest. “(b) A notarial officer may not notarize the notarial officer’s own signature. “(c) A notarial act performed in violation of this subsection (2) is voidable” (RCW 42.45.020[2]). “While not expressly prohibited by chapter 42.45 RCW, it is also generally inadvisable for a notary to notarize a document for extended family members. A notary that performs a notarial act for a family member may be seen as having a conflict of interest in the transaction, which could call the notarial act into question” (NPG). Please see this article for more information and guidance on notarizing for signers with potential mental health issues:

Luis rodriguez

29 Aug 2023

I am in Florida my sister is a real estate agent can I be a loan signing agent for all of her closings for her or would it be illegal ?

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2023

Hello. In Florida, “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is to be notarized is the spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father of the notary public” (FS 117.107[11]).

11 Sep 2023

First I would never tell a client what certificate to choose or how to prepare a doc. I guess my question is this, If a client wants a doc notarized but chooses the wrong type of notarization, do we notarize the document knowing that they chose the wrong type of notarization? or do we ask them to verify that the type of notarization they chose is the one they need?

National Notary Association

11 Sep 2023

Hello. As a Notary, you are not authorized to tell a customer they have the "right" or "wrong" notarization for their document, as this could fall under the unauthorized practice of law. If a signer requests a particular type of notarization, as long as it is a lawful request you may provide it. However, you are not authorized to tell them something like, "You need a different type of notarization for this document." If you did so and made a mistake, you could be held liable for any issues resulting from your faulty instructions.


11 Sep 2023

I understand we are not allowed to give advice. If we tell people we cannot provide forms as a notary in California, and then they ask me where they get the forms, is it the practice of law to recommend that they look online or ask a document service? Also, if I don't have any available appointments and someone asks me for a power of attorney, am I able to tell them that in the state of California they can also have to witnesses instead of a notary? Is that considered the practice of law?

National Notary Association

12 Sep 2023

Hello. Advising a customer regarding witness requirements for a power of attorney would be unauthorized practice of law for a California Notary.


11 Sep 2023

Hello, I was looking at the question and answer below. While attending the NSA course from the NNA, we are told to have the signer sign their name as it appears on the documents. The answer is a contradiction. Pat14 May 2018 As a mobile notary we go to medical facilities a lot for health care power of attorney notarization. almost 98% of the time, the people involved ask questions about whose name goes where and if it is their 'common' name - Bill instead of William - as shown on their photo ID. If I tell them to use the photo ID name, Am I guilty of UPL???? National Notary Association15 May 2018 Hello. Notaries should not advise signers how to enter their name on documents or sign documents.

Bobbi James

11 Sep 2023

I am both a notary and a certificated paralegal in Ohio. Am I restricted by these rules?

National Notary Association

12 Sep 2023

Hello. Ohio's Notary law states the following: “A notary public who is not a licensed attorney in this state shall not do any of the following: “(1) Provide any service that constitutes the unauthorized practice of law in violation of section 4705.07 of the Revised Code; “(2) State or imply that the notary is an attorney licensed to practice law in this state; “(3) Solicit or accept compensation to prepare documents for or otherwise represent the interest of another person in a judicial or administrative proceeding, including a proceeding relating to immigration to the United States, United States citizenship, or related matters; “(4) Solicit or accept compensation to obtain relief of any kind on behalf of another from any officer, agency, or employee of this state or of the United States; “(5) Use the phrase “notario” or “notario publico” to advertise the services of a notary public, whether by sign, pamphlet, stationery, or other written communication, or by radio, television, or other non-written communication” (ORC 147.142[B]).


11 Sep 2023

I would like to be helpful and point clients to online resources where they can find forms for all kinds of self-help topics. Online resources like the Sacramento Law Library and/or eforms are two that come to mind. I would not tell them what form to look for or what they need, but just point them to the website if asked to provide a certain form or how to get one (eg power of attorney, achd, etc). I also would like to list these on my website as resources--again not referring to any particular document for any particular situation. Just a general self-help reference. Is this a gray area for the UPL or is this okay? Of course I can refer them to an attorney but not everyone wants to or can spend money on attorney fees, and I don't think people are aware that these forms are available to them online.

National Notary Association

16 Oct 2023

Hello. The safest course is to avoid any recommendations that could potentially be construed as unauthorized practice of law.


22 Sep 2023

If I am a paralegal and I work at an attorney's office and obtain my associate's degree in political science, am I able to advertise that I am a paralegal and notary? I would not practice either or during the same transaction.

National Notary Association

26 Sep 2023

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you tell us what state you hold a Notary commission in?

Shannon Grande

26 Sep 2023

I am located in California

National Notary Association

28 Sep 2023

Hello. California has the following rules regarding Notary advertising: The Secretary of State may refuse to appoint any person as notary public or may revoke or suspend the commission of any notary public upon any of the following grounds: … (f) The use of false or misleading advertising wherein the notary public has represented that the notary public has duties, rights, or privileges that he or she does not possess by law” (GC 8214.1[f]). “(a) Every notary public who is not an attorney who advertises the services of a notary public in a language other than English by signs or other means of written communication, with the exception of a single desk plaque, shall post with that advertisement a notice in English and in the other language which sets forth the following: “(1) This statement: I am not an attorney and, therefore, cannot give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matters. “(2) The fees set by statute which a notary public may charge. “(b) The notice required by subdivision (a) shall be printed and posted as prescribed by the Secretary of State. “(c) Literal translation of the phrase ‘notary public’ into Spanish, hereby defined as ‘notario publico’ or ‘notario,’ is prohibited. For purposes of this subdivision, ‘literal translation’ of a word or phrase from one language to another means the translation of a word or phrase without regard to the true meaning of the word or phrase in the language which is being translated” (GC 8219.5[a]-[[c]). “A notary public who holds himself or herself out as being an immigration specialist, immigration consultant or any other title or description reflecting an expertise in immigration matters shall not advertise in any manner whatsoever that he or she is a notary public” (GC 8223[a]).


22 Oct 2023

I'd like to know if a Virginia notary can post links to several online sources for estate planning documents on their website. I would ask my Secretary of State office but they only reply with automated responses such as "Ask an attorney." Is this considered the unauthorized practice of law? I don't see anything regarding this in our Handbook.

National Notary Association

26 Oct 2023

Hello. The safest course would be to avoid such referrals to ensure you do not inadvertently make a recommendation that could be considered the unauthorized practice of law.

05 Dec 2023

I saw on another Notary's website there is a seal that explains they are not an attorney. It looked like it came from the NNA. Can you provide me a link to this seal?

National Notary Association

15 Dec 2023

Hello. We offer signs for states that require a Notary to inform customers that the Notary is not an attorney. Can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

11 Jan 2024

I work for an estate planning attorney. I am not a Paralegal. Most often I notarize Trusts, and supporting documents in the presence of an attorney. However, there are times when I am asked to review the documents with the clients, answer questions regarding the documents and notarize the documents when the attorney is NOT present. The handbook states, "Exceptions. Nonattorney Notaries who are specially trained, certified or licensed in a particular field (e.g. real estate) may offer advice in the field only. Paralegals under the supervision of an attorney may give advice about documents in routine legal matters." Please clarify if I am able to review, answer questions, and notarize without an attorney in this situation. Thank you!

National Notary Association

16 Jan 2024

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

18 Jan 2024

I am commissioned in California.

National Notary Association

19 Jan 2024

“No person shall practice law in California unless the person is an active member of the State Bar” (Business and Professions Code [BPC] 6125). “California notaries public are prohibited from performing any duties that may be construed as the practice of law. Among the acts which constitute the practice of law are the preparation, drafting, or selection or determination of the kind of any legal document, or giving advice in relation to any legal documents or matters. If asked to perform such tasks, a California notary public should decline and refer the requester to an attorney” (Notary Public Handbook). “The Secretary of State may refuse to appoint any person as notary public or may revoke or suspend the commission of any notary public upon any of the following grounds: … (g) The practice of law in violation of Section 6125 of the Business and Professions Code” (GC 8214.1[g]).


19 Feb 2024

I'm my previous comment regarding a (notary filling out a dollar amount for compensation on a power of attorney document) for a client. -Where or how would I be able to report this act? The now presumed power of attorney stated in a electronic message to me that the notary is the one who filled the information in on the form. There is no date, nor initials and the wording that follows the dollar amount was crossed out and replaced with 'upon death'. One last question if I could, if someone elected to have chosen no dollar amount for compensation is that field left blank? Thank you for your time and expertise.

National Notary Association

20 Feb 2024

Hello. We're sorry, but we were unable to locate your previous comment with your original question. Can you please re-post it? We apologize for any inconvenience.


13 Mar 2024

I had a parent come into my office with a handwritten note stating they were signing over their parental rights of their child to its grandparents, and they asked if it would be valid. I explained a notary only verifies that a person signed willingly before the notary, that they match their photo ID, appeared to understand what the contents of the document are, and that the notarial certificate was filled out correctly. I asked them to consult an attorney about their concerns because I did not know what the courts would consider legally binding or how it would affect any of their custodial rights, and that if the attorney stated they needed to have a specific form notarized to transfer their rights instead of the paper then I would notarize the form for them. They decided to consult an attorney. Did I practice law without a license by asking them to double-check with an attorney first before they tried to get a notarization? At the time I felt like discouraging the notarization fell within the grounds of "they don't completely understand the document" but now I'm second-guessing myself and worried I turned them away for an unfounded/unethical reason AND practiced law without a license. (I'm in Alabama.)

National Notary Association

14 Mar 2024

Hello. Don't worry, you did the right thing. Explaining that you as a Notary cannot provide the customers with legal advice about a document, and telling them that they would need to contact an attorney to answer any legal questions they have was the appropriate response in this situation.

14 Apr 2024

Hello when working with spanish speakers can you tell me what is the legal way to say what we do since we can't say "notario" or "notario publico". I understand the reasoning for not using these words, but am confused about the alternative without using english words such as "Soy un notary". I do understand that describing what we can and cant do is a great way to help clarify for them, but I am wondering more about legally advertising our roles to assist spanish speaking individuals.

National Notary Association

25 Apr 2024

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

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