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Quiz: Can I help as a Notary in this situation?

Every Notary wants to help their signers and customers. But Notaries must also follow strict rules about the type of services and information they can provide. Providing the wrong services or answers to a customer can get a Notary in serious trouble.

Take our quiz to see if you can spot which situations you can help with, and which ones could land you in legal hot water. Detailed answers can be found below.

Answers:

1. A signer asks you to notarize their signature on a school form for their child. You notice there are no instructions or Notary certificate wording on the form. “You’ve notarized a lot of these,” the signer says. “Can you tell me which type of notarization is required?” Can you help?

A. Yes, you can suggest the type of notarization to use, based on your previous experience with these forms

B. No, instead ask the signer to contact the school and ask for the type of notarization they want for the document

C. Yes, the choice does not matter because all types of notarizations are equally valid

D. No, you should tell the signer the document is invalid and the school must provide a new one with acknowledgment wording

ANSWER: B. Notaries are “ministerial officers,” which means that Notaries are not allowed to make decisions about a document on a customer’s behalf. Unless you are an attorney authorized to provide legal advice (and specifically, the customer’s attorney), choosing the type of notarization for a signer is considered the unauthorized practice of law and could result in serious legal trouble, including the possibility of your commission being suspended or revoked.

If the document has no notarial wording and the signer does not know the type of notarization that is needed, the signer should contact the agency that issued or will receive the document (in this case, the school) to ask for the answer.

2. Your neighbor has started her own business selling handcrafted decorations. She calls you and asks for a favor. “Can you endorse my product by stamping these flyers for my business with your Notary seal?” she asks. “Since you’re a Notary, it will show my business is trustworthy.” Can you help?

A. No, because Notaries are not allowed to use their official seal to endorse any products or services

B. Yes, but you can only do this if she presents you with a written and signed request to endorse her product

C. Yes, but you can only endorse her if she pays you the standard fee for an acknowledgment

D. Yes, but she must first present you with acceptable ID before you can endorse her product

ANSWER: A. Notaries generally are not allowed to use their commissions or tools to endorse products, individuals or contests. Notary endorsements are not authorized in any state, and some state laws prohibit them. People who see an improper endorsement may mistakenly think that the ad is approved by an official government agency when it isn’t. Never use your commission, title, or stamp except to perform notarial acts authorized by your state law.

3. A co-worker stops by your desk. “I’m in a hurry,” he says. “We are filing these documents at the courthouse in an hour. Can you please stamp them with your seal quickly to make them officially legal? You don’t need to do a full notarization.” Can you help?

A. Yes, but only if your employer paid for your Notary seal

B. Yes, but only if your co-worker signs your journal

C. No, unless your boss puts the request in writing

D. No, because stamping a document with your Notary seal does not make a document “legal”

ANSWER: D. Some people ask Notaries to improperly stamp a document without performing all the steps of a proper notarization, because they mistakenly believe this will make the document “legal.” Notaries only verify the identity of a document signer — a Notary seal does not guarantee acceptance by a court of law. You should never affix your seal to a document without performing all required steps of a notarial act. 

4. A customer stops by your office. “Can you help me?” he asks. “I’ve been elected president of a local club, and they say I need to take an oath of office before I’m officially installed. I don’t have a written document, but can you administer a verbal oath to me?” Can you help?

A. No, because Notaries can’t perform notarizations except for signatures on written documents

B. No, not unless he pays you extra for a verbal notarization

C. Yes, because Notaries generally are authorized to administer verbal oaths and affirmations

D. Yes, but only if the notarization takes place at his club’s headquarters

ANSWER: C. Notaries generally are authorized to administer verbal oaths and affirmations. A written or signed document isn’t always required for this type of notarial act. The Notary may choose to waive their fee or charge the maximum allowed by state law for a verbal oath or affirmation. The notarization may take place anywhere within the Notary’s authorized jurisdiction.

David Thun is the Editorial Manager at the National Notary Association.

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8 Comments

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Elena

15 Apr 2024

Very knowledgeable

Louise Barman

15 Apr 2024

I was stumped on #4. I have never heard of the ability of a notary to administer verbal oaths and affirmations without a letter. That should be brought up at educational sites and seminars.

Jeff Amberson

15 Apr 2024

The best answer for #1, if, indeed, you have "notarized a lot of these," is probably something like, "In the past I have used a Not. Ack. for this document." It is neither a suggestion, not advice. It is a statement of fact.

Kiauna McDaniel

15 Apr 2024

Fun way to test notarial knowledge. Keep up the great work NNA!

Duke Tran

15 Apr 2024

Thank you for the excellence notary question.

Stacey Gaal

15 Apr 2024

I love this and all of the tutorials I receive, very helpful information. Thank you!

Reina B Cruz

16 Apr 2024

help a lot the quizzes, i love it

sharon acree

16 Apr 2024

Good information! Thanks

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