Glossary: Notary Public

A Notary Public is an official designated by a state agency, frequently the secretary of state, to serve the general public as an objective witness in performing a variety of legitimate fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of crucial legal documents. These officer acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, implying that they are anticipated to follow written rules without the exercise of considerable personal discretion, as would otherwise be the case with a “judicial” official.

A notary public’s responsibility is to evaluate the signers of essential documents for their true identity, their determination to sign without pressure or intimidation, and their understanding of the contents of the legal document or transaction. Some notarizations also require the Notary to put the signer under an oath, stating under penalty of perjury that the info consisted of in a legal document is correct and genuine. Property deeds, wills and powers of attorney are examples of documents that frequently require a Notary.

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