What is a Notary?
A Notary Public is an official of integrity appointed by state government—typically by the secretary of state — to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations or notarial acts. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, meaning that they are expected to follow written rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion, as would be the case with a “judicial” official.
It is the foremost duty of a Notary to screen the signers of particularly sensitive instruments — such as property deeds, wills and powers of attorney — for their true identity, their willingness to sign without duress or intimidation, and their awareness of the general import of the document. Some notarizations also require the Notary to put the signer under an oath declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct.
Impartiality is the byword of the Notary office and the foundation of its public trust. Notaries are duty-bound not to act in situations where they have a personal interest. The public trusts that the Notary’s critical screening tasks have not been corrupted by self-interest. And impartiality dictates that a Notary never refuse to serve a person due to race, nationality, religion, politics, sexual orientation or status as a non-customer.
As official representatives of the state, Notaries Public certify the proper execution of many of the life-changing documents of private citizens — whether those diverse transactions convey real estate, grant powers of attorney, establish a prenuptial agreement, or perform the multitude of other activities that enable our civil society to function.
In this modern era when business transactions between complete strangers are the norm rather than the exception, Notaries engender a trust that the critical signed documents we rely on are authentic. Such trust enables the sensitive documents of commerce and law to be exchanged between strangers with full confidence in their reliability.
Explanatory Brochure Available
An informational brochure titled “What is a Notary Public?” helps Notaries explain their vitally important role to others. The brochure is printed in both English and Spanish, to help immigrants from Latin nations who often mistakenly believe that the ministerial Notaries of the United States hold the same attorney-like powers as do the Notarios of their native lands.
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