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Quiz: Can Notaries Do This?


1. A signer explains that she is organizing a fundraiser for a local school. She asks if you can endorse the event so she can advertise it as “100 percent Notary approved.” Can you do this?

ANSWER: No. Notaries are not authorized to use their commissions, title of “Notary Public” or Notary seals to endorse events or products.

2. A friend of yours has been elected as a local official. He is required to take an oath of office and asks if you can administer one to him even though there’s no document for him to sign. Can you do this?

ANSWER: Yes. A Notary is authorized to administer a verbal oath or affirmation to an individual, even if there is no written signature or document involved.

3.  Your neighbor says he needs an urgent notarization. “I have to submit this letter for a court case. Can you put your seal on it? I just want to make sure the letter is legally binding.” Can you do this?

ANSWER: No. Sometimes customers mistakenly believe that a Notary’s seal will automatically make a document legally binding in a court of law. This is not the case — a Notary simply verifies the identity of the signer, takes the signer’s acknowledgment of a signature, or witnesses the signing of documents. Simply affixing a Notary seal to a document without performing an authorized notarization or completing a notarial certificate is not allowed.

4. A co-worker comes to you with a question. “I received this document in Spanish from one of our international clients. You speak Spanish — would you translate the document and then certify that your translation is accurate?” Can you do this?

ANSWER: No. Notaries are not authorized to certify translations. While a Notary could notarize another translator’s signature on a declaration stating that the document was translated correctly, in this case it would not be possible because you may not notarize your own signature.

5. A customer comes to your office. “I need this document notarized, but there is no Notary wording printed on it,” she says. “Can you tell me which type of notarization it needs? You’re the Notary, you should know.” Can you do this?

ANSWER: No. If a customer doesn’t know what type of notarization is needed, you may describe the different types of notarizations (such as acknowledgments or jurats) and let the signer pick what notarization they want. However, you should never choose the type of notarization on the signer's behalf. Doing so would be the unauthorized practice of law unless you are a qualified attorney.

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


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James J. Smyth

19 Nov 2019

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