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What is a Notary Public?

Notary Public and Notarizing Documents

A notary public is someone who has been appointed by the state to authenticate legal documents and verify the identity of the document’s signer(s). Notaries can be individuals such as lawyers or government officials.

Notarization (the process of getting your document signed by a notary public) helps prevent fraud by ensuring individuals authenticate their documents before they can be used. It can also help confirm that the signer intended to sign the document and wasn’t pressured into doing so (e.g. through undue influence, coercion or duress, etc.), similar to signing your document in front of a witness.

For instance, when signing a Prenuptial Agreement, it is very important that the signers signed out of their own free will, understood what they were signing was a contract, and signed with their correct legal names. Signing a prenup with a notary public can help prevent avoidable issues and assist in proving all the right steps were taken in the event that the document’s validity is questioned in the future.

A Notary public can also do a number of other tasks, such as:

  • Witness signatures

  • Certify copies of legal documents

  • Administer oaths or affirmations to individuals (to verify the contents of documents are true)

For some documents, notarization is required (meaning, without it, your document may be invalid or unusable).

For example, an Affidavit is a statement of facts provided under oath. It is generally used to verify something a person knows is true (like their identity) but in order to make this assertion, it needs to be sworn in front of a notary public (or someone else authorized to administer oaths).

In other words, without completing the crucial step of swearing your document in front of a notary, an Affidavit is just a bunch of text on a page that cannot be used in a court or by another entity.

Finding a Notary Public

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Finalizing Your Legal Documents

A notary public is needed in law as they help ensure your document is valid. Many legal documents require notarization during execution; however, even when notarization is not required, it is a recommended way to help prevent avoidable issues like fraud, duress, and more.