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3 Things You Can’t Do As A Notary

Notary-says-no-resizedWhile a Notary’s role in identifying document signers and preventing fraud is important, you are not allowed to use your commission to perform certain services. Here are 3 examples of things you cannot do as a Notary:

1. Don’t Endorse Advertising As A Notary

2. Don’t Use Your Notary Office To Offer Improper Legal Advice

3. Don’t Use Your Notary Seal To Make A Document Appear “Legal”

Why You Shouldn’t Endorse Advertisements

Notaries are sometimes asked to use their seal or official title to endorse a product, contest or individual in advertising. For example, you might be approached by someone who’s running a sweepstakes. The person wants to include your seal and signature in the ad, along with the message “This contest is guaranteed by a Notary Public.” Don’t do it.

Not only do many states prohibit using a Notary seal and commission except for authorized notarizations, but people seeing the ad may falsely assume that the ad is government-approved because a Notary is involved — and that’s just not true.

Only use your Notary commission to perform authorized acts. In 1977, a New York Notary certified that blood from the rock band KISS was mixed in the ink of their promotional comic book — an act that New York Notaries aren’t normally allowed to perform. While Notaries in Washington are authorized  to certify that an event took place or an act was performed, Washington Notaries may only confirm that the occurrence or performance actually took place — not promote or endorse it in advertising.  

Why You Shouldn’t Offer Unauthorized Legal Advice

Many people mistakenly assume that Notaries have legal know-how and can answer their questions about the legal effect of their documents, explain how to complete a document, or choose the type of notarization a signer needs for a document. While it may seem harmless to help a signer with these questions, under the law only a qualified attorney or other authorized legal professional is permitted to provide this information — Notaries cannot. If a nonattorney accidentally gave a signer wrong information that caused the signer’s document to be rejected, the person giving the information could be held liable for any damages that resulted, along with other penalties. For example, California Notaries can have their commissions suspended or revoked by the Secretary of State for the unauthorized practice of law.

Why You Can’t Use Your Notary Seal To Make A Document Appear “Legal”

Occasionally, individuals have asked Notaries to fulfill improper requests in order to “legalize” a document and make its contents binding in a court of law — for example, asking a Notary to affix a seal to a document without performing a notarization or completing any certificate wording.

These demands are often based on the mistaken belief that a Notary’s seal or signature by itself will automatically make a document legal in a court of law regardless of its content — but that’s not true. Notaries simply verify the identity of the signer — a receiving agency is not required to accept the validity or legality of the contents of a document solely based on whether it is notarized or includes a Notary seal. The mere presence of a Notary seal without a certificate is not a proper notarization. A Notary should never stamp, sign or use their commission for any request except notarizations permitted under state law. If you are asked to “legalize” a document by performing an improper or unlawful notarization, you should always refuse.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

 

9 Comments

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Joe Frank Freudensprung

02 May 2019

We believe a notary public helped a man and wife steal his disabled sisters inheritance

Kim / Indiana

06 May 2019

I have been asked to notarize a signature/signing of a document because the person was told it needed to be done, however there was no place for a notary. Is this acceptable or should it have a separate document attached? If you notarize it do you sign and date under your seal?

National Notary Association

07 May 2019

Hello. The signer would have to choose what type of notarization they want, such as an acknowledgment or jurat. Once the signer selects the type of notarization, you may then complete and attach the appropriate Notary certificate wording to the document, and then affix your seal to the certificate.

Nichelle Russien

06 May 2019

My first year as a notary a client came to me saying that she wanted to divorce her husband. So I asked do you have a document stating so because I cannot help you I am just a notary not a lawyer. So she said here is my document she took out a piece of paper wrote simply. My name is ###### I want to divorce ####. She signed and dated it and I notarized her signature and told her to go to a lawyer for more help.

MARY

07 May 2019

can a notary prepare and execute a "rent to own" document and keep records for the seller on the payments in Texas

National Notary Association

07 May 2019

Hello. Notaries may not prepare a document or give advice on how to fill out, draft or complete a document. Please see here for more information: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notary-basics-avoiding-unauthorized-practice-of-law

BJW

08 May 2019

Are these questions from actual commissioned notaries? If so, that's scary.

Bre

11 May 2019

BJW: In a lot of states there's no Notary training required to become a Notary. Though they should seek training, they shouldn't be knocked for asking these questions.

Virginia Mason-Greene

12 May 2019

These comments are "really scary" are these actual notaries who have passed the required exams?

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