When creating a legal document, you may have read that you need to get your document signed by a notary public. Without knowing who this person is or understanding how their signature helps validate your legal document, this step can seem confusing, possibly even pointless.
In this post, discover what notarization is and why you may need to seek out a notary public when completing certain legal documents.
Notary Publics and Notarizing Documents
A notary public is someone who has been appointed by the state to authenticate legal documents and verify the identity of the document’s signer(s). Notaries can be individuals such as lawyers or government officials.
Notarization (the process of getting your document signed by a notary public) helps prevent fraud by ensuring individuals authenticate their documents before they can be used. It can also help confirm that the signer intended to sign the document and wasn’t pressured into doing so (e.g. through undue influence, coercion or duress, etc.), similar to signing your document in front of a witness.
For instance, when signing a Prenuptial Agreement, it is very important that the signers signed out of their own free will, understood what they were signing was a contract, and signed with their correct legal names. Signing a prenup with a notary public can help prevent avoidable issues and assist in proving all the right steps were taken in the event that the document’s validity is questioned in the future.
Notary publics can also do a number of other tasks, such as:
- Witness signatures
- Certify copies of legal documents
- Administer oaths or affirmations to individuals (to verify the contents of documents are true)
For some documents, notarization is required (meaning, without it, your document may be invalid or unusable).
For example, an Affidavit is a statement of facts provided under oath. It is generally used to verify something a person knows is true (like their identity) but in order to make this assertion, it needs to be sworn in front of a notary public (or someone else authorized to administer oaths).
In other words, without completing the crucial step of swearing your document in front of a notary, an Affidavit is just a bunch of text on a page that cannot be used in a court or by another entity.
Finding a Notary Public
Many jurisdictions have information about how to find a notary public online. Some states, such as California, even provide a notary public listing that you can sift through to find a notary near you.
Your local bank, city hall, or courthouse, as we discuss in our blog covering common questions about notaries and witnesses, may also be able to assist you with finding a notary if required.
Finalizing Your Legal Documents
Notary publics are needed in law as they help ensure your document is valid. Many legal documents require notarization during execution; however, even when notarization is not required, it is a recommended way to help prevent avoidable issues like fraud, duress, and more.