Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the general powers/functions of a Notary Public?
A Notary Public acts as an official witness appointed by the state government to witness the signing of important documents and to administer oaths. A Notary is authorized to witness or attest a signature, administer an oath or affirmation, certify an oath or affirmation, take acknowledgements, and certify or attest a copy (in limited cases). Every state has their own Notary guidelines and codes, administered and maintained by each Secretary of State. As a public officer, the sovereign power of your state is vested in you; that is, your authority to act comes from the state.
A notarial appointment is a privilege. A notary must be a person of proven integrity and character, and one who can be trusted to perform the duties of a state officer.
2. What is a Notary Loan Signing Agent?
A Notary Loan Signing Agent is a Notary with experience witnessing loan document signings. A Notary is hired as an independent contractor by either a real estate lender, a closing agent, title/escrow firm, signing service, or the borrower to deliver documents, present each page in the package, ensure that documents are initialed and signed as necessary, notarize where required, and return the signed loan documents for processing. Many borrowers do not realize that in many cases they may select their own Notary to perform this service, which is something they need to discuss with their escrow or title officer. I have often been requested by borrowers directly to be the Notary assigned to their loan closings.
3. Why are documents notarized?
Documents are notarized to defer fraud and to create a public record. Once a document is signed before a Notary Public, who is an impartial and responsible public official, it could be recorded by a county clerk, entered as evidence in a courtroom proceeding, or used in other legal and government functions. A Notary Public also takes steps to confirm the identity of the signer when necessary. Also, a Notary will observe for signs that the signer is signing documents knowingly and willingly.
4. How much does it cost to have something notarized?
Fees for notarial services are mandated by each state. In addition to the fees for each notarization, travel fees will also apply for instances when a Notary travels to your location for a notarization. Loan documents signings require much more than the notarization involved and fees are on a case-by-case basis. Please call for more information about fees.
5. What types of identification are required?
Driver's License or non-driver's ID card issued by a U.S. state. Or Driver License from Mexico or Canada.
U.S or Foreign Passport (current – not expired)
US Military Identification Card that contains all required elements stated above, (The Common Access Card 'CAC' is not acceptable). .
Inmate ID Issued by the California Dept. of Corrections.
Employee Card issued by an agency or office of the state of California or any city or county within the state. (Federal IDs are not acceptable.)
*Note IDs must be current, or if expired, issued within the past 5 years.
Contain the document signer's photograph, physical description and signature.
Bear a serial or other identifying number.
6. Are Social Security cards, birth certificates, or marriage licenses acceptable forms of ID?
No. They do not meet the above requirement.
7. Does the name on the document have to match my ID exactly?
Not necessarily. However, the name on the document can be no more than the name on the ID. For example, if the name on the ID is “Jane Alice Doe,” the document can bear the names “Jane Doe,” “Jane A. Doe,” “J.A. Doe” but not “Jane B Doe,” “Jane Brown-Smith,” or “J.B. Smith.”
8. Can I sign the document before the Notary arrives?
It depends. A document that needs a Jurat (usually an oath or affirmation, depending on what the issuing party has requested) must be signed in the presence of the Notary. Documents that require an acknowledgement require only that the signer appear before the Notary and acknowledge that they did indeed signed the document. If it was virtually impossible to appear personally a "Subscribing Witness" may be used. The Subscribing Witness must be someone the Notary personally knows. The Subscribing Witness has to have witnessed the signer signing the document.
9. Can you give me advice on which type of notarization I require?
No. However, generally speaking, the wording on the document indicates which type of notarization that is required. When in doubt you should contact the person requesting the notarization or the receiving agency.
10. May a Notary assist me in drafting legal documents or give me legal advice?
No. All states prohibit non-attorneys from practicing law. A Notary can be held liable for any damages resulting from an incorrectly chosen certificate or notarization
11. Does notarization mean that a document is "true" or "legal"?
No. Notaries are not responsible for the accuracy or legality of a document they notarize. The signers are responsible for the content of the documents.
12. Can my document be in a foreign language?
Yes, as long as the document has been completely filled out and there are no blanks, and the signer can communicate with the Notary. The Notary is not responsible for the content of the document, and therefore does not need to be able to read it, only to be able to confirm that it contains no blanks.
13. I am sending my notarized documents to another country. Will this notarization be valid there?
The documents will be valid only if it is accompanied by an apostille. Official documents being sent from the United States to any country which is a member of the Hague Convention require an apostille in order to be effective. Depending upon your needs, an apostille from the Secretary of State may be sufficient or you may choose to have the embassy or consulate of the country the document is going to apostille the document also. If the country in question is not part of the Hague Convention, documents require a legalization which is also preformed by the Secretary of State.
14. Can a faxed document be notarized?
Only if it bears an original signature after it has been faxed. Under no circumstances can a faxed or photocopied signature be notarized.
15. Can my document contain blanks?
No. A Notary may not notarize a document that is incomplete or contains blanks.
16. Can a Notary notarize a birth certificate or photograph?
No, the Notary cannot notarize either a birth certificate or Photograph. You will have to get a certified copy of the birth certificate from the county. However, you can sign the bottom of a photograph with a statement such as "this is a photo of myself..." and the Notary can notarize your statement and signature.
17. May a Notary refuse to serve someone?
The Notary shall, as a government officer, public officer and public servant, serve all of the public in an honest, fair and unbiased manner. A Notary may refuse service in cases where there is suspicion of fraud or there is uncertainty of a signer's identity, willingness or competence. A Notary may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender or nationality.
18. May a Notary prepare or notarize immigration papers?
Only a few immigration forms must be notarized, such as the Affidavit of Support (1-134, I-864), but the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) regulations state that no one may prepare or file another person's immigration papers unless he or she is an attorney or a U.S. Department of Justice-approved "accredited representative." Notaries may provide clerical, secretarial or translating assistance with INS forms as long as they do not provide legal advice, and then may notarize these forms.
19. Is a Notary the same as a Latin Notario Publico?
No. In Latin countries, the Notario Publico is a high-ranking official with considerable legal skills and training. Unlike the U.S. Notary, the Notario Publico drafts documents, provides legal advice, settles disputes and archives documents.
20. Where can I report unethical or unprofessional Notaries?
Any wrongdoing or illegal activity should be reported to law enforcement and the appropriate Notary-regulating state official (typically the secretary of state, governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general).
21. What is a title search?
In reference to real estate, a title search is a process that is performed primarily to determine the answers to three questions:
Does the seller or grantor have an interest in the property being transferred?
Are there any restrictions pertaining to the use of the land (real covenants, easements, or other servitudes)?
Is the property encumbered (mortgages, back taxes, mechanic's liens, or other assessments)?
22. Can a notary be a party to the transaction?
No. A notary cannot take his/her own oath, swear to his/her own affidavit, or take his/her own acknowledgment. Further, anotary should not administer an oath or take an acknowledgment for the execution of a document when the notary is named within the document as a party to the transaction—that is regarded as a conflict of interest.
23. Signers knowledge/comprehension of document contents.
A notary always checks to ensure that a.) the signer was/is capable of reading the document in order to know its contents; and b.) the signer understands the effect of the document. Signers who cannot read a document might include those who are illiterate, legally blind, disabled, or just very ill. In such cases the notary should offer to read the entire document to the signer. This does NOT mean a notary will explain the contents to the signer—that is prohibited. The notary is simply reading the document aloud. A notary determines a signer’s comprehension of a document by simply asking, “Do you understand the contents and effect of this document?” Most signers will answer “yes.” If, however, any signer indicates he or she does not understand the document, the notary must stop the notarization and refer the signer back to the parties relying on the document, or an attorney. The notary must NOT attempt to explain the document—that is not the notary’s role.
* Please note we are not attorneys and do not offer any legal advice.
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