Have you ever wondered why any document needs to be notarized? Isn’t your signature good enough? And if more assurance is needed, aren’t witnesses sufficient as an additional level?
For some purposes, the quick answer is simply NO.
Some documents require the following:
*Proof that the purported signer is the actual signer
*Reasonable proof that the signer understood the documents
*Reasonable proof that the signer signed the document freely and voluntarily
What kind of documents require these three elements? Almost always they are documents involving major commitments or decisions, such as:
*Documents included in a mortgage package. Usually, a mortgage commitment is the single greatest financial obligation that a person will assume. The document package for a home purchase is thick, complex, and heavily regulated by Federal and State governments. Certain documents in that package require those proofs to safeguard both the purchaser and the seller.
*Documents included in other complex financial purchase, leasing arrangements, and loans.
*Documents involving your rights to substantial funds or property. The two most common are pension and other qualified plan accumulations, and real estate transactions.
*Documents giving others the authority to act in your name. These are frequently called “powers of attorney,” and may relate to legal or medical affairs. These powers of attorney sometimes need the extra assurance provided by notarization.
*Documents bringing others into your family through a legal process. The obvious case is adoption, both domestic and international.
*Documents to prove that you are in compliance with court orders, such as having the consent of a spouse to take a child out of the country.
What all these things, and many others as well, have in common is that they involve major matters (usually also something that you very much want), and matters that are often both urgent and private. (Bear in mind that notarizations may require the Notary Public to skim a complex document to be certain that the signer understands it.)
The certification of a signer’s identity, understanding, and free and voluntary signing is called “notarization,” and a “Notary Public” usually conducts it, although other public officials can do so as well, and attorneys-at-law especially often conduct them.
It is critical to understand the difference between a Notary Public and an attorney. The principal focus for the Notary Public is the signer. Is the identity clear and proven through proper documentation? Does the signer both have the mental capacity to understand the document and seem to do so? (This can be sensitive with elderly persons.) Has the signer acted freely (without any pressure, coercion, or intimidation) and voluntarily (actually wishing to do so).
An attorney, on the other hand, is at least equally concerned with the content of the document, and through having a license to practice law, may comment on that content. A Notary Public cannot comment on the content or meaning of any document without being guilty of practicing law without a license. Similarly, the writer of the document determines the specific language that requires notarization.
When you need a Notary Public, you have many choices. But as with any other task involving sensitive and private matters, you may decide to use a Notary Public who is professional and discreet. Depending upon how you value your time, you may also want to utilize a Notary Public who is mobile, and will come to you at a time and place convenient to you.
Now that you know the basics of what a Notary Public is and what he or she does, future articles will take a look at some of the amazing number of ways in which the apparently simple act of notarization can produce horrendous pitfalls, starting with why you should never have a self-drawn will notarized.
Chaim Frazer, a 30-year resident of Teaneck, owns and operates Mobile Notary-At Your Service, which brings mobile notary services to Bergen and Passaic County residents, businesses, and professional practices. He can be reached at 201-707-4800. Save your time and preserve your privacy. Let the Notary come to you.
By Chaim Frazer