Certain legal documents must be notarized to be considered a valid document. A document is notarized if it is signed and sworn before an individual called a notary public. In New York, the county clerk’s office typically offers notary services to the public during regular business hours, sometimes without any charge. Notaries may also be found at law offices and other private businesses.
What Is a Notary Public?
A notary public, often shortened to simply “notary,” is an individual commissioned by the state to perform notary services. A notary’s job is to serve as a neutral witness to the signing of an important document. The notary may also take oaths and swear witnesses for documents such as affidavits. A notary’s signature on a document mean that the notary, an independent third party, saw the person sign the document and verified the person’s identity.
The notary’s purpose is to verify authenticity of signatures and to swear witnesses who are taking a written oath.
Requirements to be a Notary in New York
In New York, notary commissions last four years. To obtain a notary license, an individual must take and pass the notary public examination, complete an application, take an oath, and pay a fee. Certain court employees, as well as attorneys admitted to practice law in the state of New York, may become notaries without taking the examination.
Documents Requiring Notarization
Not all legal documents are required by New York law to be notarized; however, some documents that may require a signature before a notary public include:
- Self-proving wills.
- Property deeds.
Even if notarization for a particular document is not required by law, anyone signing important legal documents may obtain a notary’s services if authenticity of the document may become an issue later on.
What to Bring Before a Notary
Anyone looking to notarize a document should bring the document to the notary to be signed as well as a valid photo ID. If the document requires additional witnesses, those witnesses should also be present. The signatory should also bring any fees required for the notary service.
Read More: How to Write a Notary Letter
How Documents Are Notarized
The notary will compare the photo identification to the name on the document and confirm that the person signing is the person on the ID. She will then observe the signatory as he signs the document.
If the document is an affidavit or other document requiring an oath or affirmation, the notary will swear the signatory before he signs. After the document is signed, the notary will sign her name and the date at the bottom of the document, along with the date of expiration for her commission and other information required by law. New York law does not require notaries to use a special stamp or seal, although the notary may choose to do so.
Where to Find a Notary Public
The court clerk’s office of any county will have a notary service available, sometimes for free or for a small fee, to notarize court documents. Notary services are also available at UPS stores and at other private businesses, such as law offices, pharmacies and shipping services. An internet search for notary services in New York is a quick way to find a notary.
If you are in New York and need to have a document notarized, bring the document before a licensed notary public, along with photo identification, and sign the document in front of the notary. In some cases, the notary may first make the signer swear an oath or affirmation, depending upon the type of document. If multiple witnesses to the document are required, the witnesses should also be present to witness the signature.
Rebecca K. McDowell is a creditors' rights attorney with a special focus on bankruptcy and insolvency. She has a B.A. in English from Albion College and a J.D. from Wayne State University Law School. She has written legal articles for Nolo and the Bankruptcy Site.