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How a Notary Works and What to Expect

photo of hand signing document

If you’re wondering how a notary works, what types of official documents require notarization, and how long you have before a notarization expires, we’ve got the answers. From legal documents and certifications to authenticating signatures and more, explore how notaries work and what to expect when working with one.

Common Reasons for Needing a Notarized Document

Please note that this is not legal advice. Always consult your attorney if you have legal questions.

The most common reasons for needing a notarized document include:

  • Affidavits and Declarations – Notaries can often certify affidavits or declarations that may be used in court. This includes sworn statements, such as those related to birth certificates, marriage licenses, and divorce decrees.
  • Real Estate Transactions – When real estate transactions take place, it’s often necessary to have the documents notarized. This includes deeds, mortgages, or title transfers.
  • Power of Attorney – In some cases, a power of attorney must be notarized in order for it to be legally binding.
  • Wills and Trusts – A will or trust will usually need be notarized in order for it to be valid.
  • Business Agreements – Many business contracts and agreements need to be notarized for them to be legally binding. This includes any documents related to buying or selling a business, as well as some leases and rental agreements.
  • Court Documents – In some cases, documents filed with the court must be notarized in order to be accepted and valid.
  • Divorce Decrees – Divorce decrees often require notarization in order for them to be legally binding. This includes documents like alimony agreements, guardianship agreements, child support agreements, and property settlement papers.

Finding the Nearest Notary

According to the website Zippia, there are over 7,028 notary publics employed in the United States. In cases where you need to get a document notarized, you’ll need to find a location. The location should have a notary public on staff. 

Many insurance companies, title agencies, and banks typically have a notary public. Documents can also be notarized at some local post offices, an attorney’s office, real estate firm or at shipping centers like Goin’ Postal, a one stop shipping and printing store. Other locations that commonly offer notary services include financial planning and certain public government offices.

Photo of man searching the internet for a notary public

Deciding which business or individual to use for notarization is important. Ensure they are certified and offer the services you need. Check for reviews online, and ask family or friends if they have experience working with any reliable notaries. More importantly, is the notary public qualified and do they belong to a notary’s association? The National Notary Association provides resources that can help.

What to Expect When Working with a Notary

You may be wondering what a notary does. Notaries are authorized by the government to witness and certify signatures on documents. This ensures that all parties involved in a contract or agreement have agreed to the terms.

A notary will ask for identification and proof of signature before completing their duties. After witnessing the document, the notary will then sign and seal it with their stamp. This provides a record of the document and serves as evidence that the signature is valid.

Notaries can also provide services including verifying copies of documents or certifying affidavits and testimonies.

Photo of people handing over notarized documents

Notary Commissions

A notary public “commission” is valid for around four years from the date that it is issued. It’s also valid from the time the applicant met the requirements set forth by the Circuit Court Clerk. Each notary should have an area on the stamp indicating the commission expiration date.

It is the responsibility of the notary to ensure that their commission remains valid. They can renew the commission before it expires to prevent a gap of time in between if necessary. This also applies to online notary services. Documents notarized by digital notary services remain valid until the notary’s commission expires, just as they do with manual notary services.

Notarization Services

In most instances, you may need to enlist the help of a notarization service. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a vital legal proceeding or about to make a very important financial transaction. Examples of such transactions include securing a vehicle title or purchasing a home.

A notary public is a person responsible for authenticating the document and their signature confirms that it is valid. The notary may also confirm that everything is filled out correctly for the receiving party before they sign it. A notary public acts as a witness to ensure that information you provided is authentic and to verify your identity. 

Make sure to bring a valid government photo ID to verify your identity when getting a document notarized. The notary public will check your documents and verify their authenticity. They will then stamp the document, and can help you make copies or mail your document.

How Long is a Notarized Document Valid?

Most notarized documents are valid once they’re signed. The stamp and seal used by the notary must have a valid date for the document to remain valid. If the notary signs the document and stamps the document before their commission expires, the notarization will remain valid.

Keep in mind there are a few instances when a notarized document may be considered invalid. Make sure it is easy to read, nothing was altered, and that the notary’s signature is clear.

Take these action steps to prevent a notarized document from being rejected:

  • Always double-check the commission date. If the document has a specific timeline, check if it is still considered valid. For example, one-year lease agreements will no longer be valid after the specific period has ended.
  • If the notary accidentally stamps over important text, the document could be rejected.
  • If any correction fluid or tape is used, the other party might assume the document was altered.
  • Always make sure that the notarial certificate is complete. If it’s incomplete, then the document may also be considered invalid.

Make it Official with Notarized Documents

The right stamp, seal, and a signature from a professional notary public will ensure your document is valid and official. We can help.

Our mission is to make the notary process simple. We offer convenient walk-in services to help you get your document notarized.

Contact our friendly staff today to find out how our notary public can help.