Table of Contents
- What is a notary?
- Can I notarize a document online?
- What are witnesses, and what do they do?
- Can a notary be a witness?
- When do I need notaries and witnesses for my document?
- How much does a notary cost?
- Where do I find a notary?
- How do I become a notary?
- Is an acknowledgment the same as witnessing?
- Executing documents using notaries and witnesses
Some documents require an added layer of assurance and validity. This is when notaries and witnesses step in.
The purposes of and differences between notaries and witnesses can get a little confusing. So here are some answers to common questions about witnesses and notaries to help you confidently execute your next document.
What is a notary?
Notaries also perform a variety of other tasks, like administering oaths and affirmations and certifying copies of documents. They don’t always need to witness a document’s signing as long as they can verify the identities of the signees.
As a state representative, it’s crucial that a notary doesn’t let self-interest interfere with their responsibilities. Notaries need to be impartial, professional, and exercise good judgment.
A notary has the right to refuse services if they:
- Suspect fraud
- Are unsure of a signer’s identity
- Believe that one party has been coerced into signing the document
- Suspect either party doesn’t understand the agreement
What’s the purpose of a notary public?
Some financial institutions require notarized legal documents in order to deter fraud. For example, when creating a Power of Attorney, the notary checks the identity of the people involved and makes sure they each sign the agreement willingly.
Another benefit of using a notary is that in most jurisdictions the signers don’t have to testify in court to verify their signatures, as the notary has confirmed that the signatures belong to the people whose names appear on the document
Can I notarize a document online?
What are witnesses, and what do they do?
A witness is a neutral third party who watches the parties sign their legal document. They’re brought in to confirm the identities of all the signers and that no forgery occurred. After that, they sign the document too.
Your witness must be at least 18 years old and of sound mind when witnessing a document’s execution. They also can’t be in a position to benefit from the contract or be related to one of the signers. If they are, they’re creating a conflict of interest.
Even if your document doesn’t require a witness, it doesn’t hurt to include one because they can confirm the validity of the signatures if they’re ever disputed.
Can a notary be a witness?
There are some rare exceptions to this rule, though. For example, Florida, Connecticut, and South Carolina allow notary publics to notarize and witness a document.
When do I need notaries and witnesses for my document?
Some of the most common documents that get notarized include:
Some states have specific legal forms (e.g., a Will) that have particular signing requirements regarding the number of witnesses you must have. Whether or not you need one will depend on the document and your jurisdiction.
How much does a notary cost?
If you’d like to use LawDepot’s Online Notary, the price is $25 for the first notarization seal and $10 for each additional seal.
Where do I find a notary?
- Online notary services
- Registry offices
- Town or city hall
- Printing/shipping stores
- Military bases
- College or university campuses
- Law firms or offices
How do I become a notary?
The requirements for being a notary vary between states. However, a general requirement for being a notary is to be at least 18 years old, have no criminal record, and reside in the state they’re acting in.
If you meet the qualifications, you must submit an application and pay a state filing fee.
Depending on your state, there may be additional steps, such as:
- Completing a background check
- Getting a surety bond
- Receiving training
- Passing an exam administered by the state
Some states require you to take remote online notarization (RON) training and to pass an exam. You may also need a surety bond or errors and omission insurance because any notary mistakes can cause serious harm to a signer. Bonds and insurance can offer protection to the notary and the signer.
Is an acknowledgment the same as witnessing?
Witnesses confirm the identities of the parties and ensure there’s no forgery when signing a document.
Acknowledgments don’t involve witnesses. They’re an act between the notary and the signee. For an acknowledgment to occur, the signer must declare to the notary that they’re willing to sign the document for its intended purpose. They also need to state that the signature on the document is theirs.
Executing documents using notaries and witnesses
Ensure you’re signing a document according to the requirements of your state law and the document itself. Many banks and other institutions have their own signing policies, so if they require notarization, contact a notary for their services.