Financial institutions and other businesses often require notarized signatures to reduce the chance of fraud and identity theft for contracts and loan and legal documents. A notarized document means the paperwork has been officially verified by an independent party who verified that the people signing the document are who they say they are. Since notary publics are not attorneys and cannot offer legal advice, read and understand the contents of your document before getting it notarized.
Find a Notary
Banks typically offer notary services -- sometimes for free -- to their customers. You may also find notaries at law offices, tax preparation businesses and office supply stores. Check the yellow pages or conduct a search on the Internet for “notary public” and add the location in which you hope to find one to narrow the choices. The American Society of Notaries provides a list of notaries along with their contact information. Verify the type of payment the notary accepts, because a small fee is usually charged for the service.
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Bring the unsigned document as well as photo identification so the notary public can verify your identity. Once the notary verifies who you are, he will ask you to sign the document. While you sign, the notary watches for evidence of duress -- for example, if someone comes with you and appears to be pressuring you to sign. If all looks well, the notary will stamp the document with an official notary public stamp or seal issued by the state. Your document is then notarized.
Notaries are allowed to notarize documents for people who are from other states, according to the National Notary Association, as long as the notary follows the requirements of the state in which he was certified. Some states require that the notary amend the “venue” section of the notary certificate so it clearly states the county and state in which the certification actually took place. In some states, such as California, the notary may also be required to obtain thumbprints of all signing parties if the documents pertain to real property.
Power of Attorney
If you need a document signed on behalf of someone as her power of attorney, a notary may take extra measures to ensure your identity and authorization to conduct business for this individual. Come prepared: Bring a copy of the document that gives you the authority to act on the other person’s behalf. The notary will look at it to help verify the legality of the document and your identity. The notary may also ask you to sign an affidavit indicating the power of attorney is still in effect.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.