While everyone has heard of a Notary Public, few people really understand what they do unless they’re directly involved with notary signing services. And like most careers that everyone knows just a little about, myths spring up related to notaries, notary signing agents and their businesses.
At National Paralegal & Notary, our job is to make sure that NPN notaries are qualified and well trained so the documents we handle for our clients are properly signed and notarized. But we’re also concerned about the truth surrounding our industry. Today we’re going to look at a few myths that surround notaries and document signing services like ours.
Myth #1: A Notary Can Give Legal Advice
A notary cannot give legal advice. Many NPN notaries are also paralegals. People tend to think that paralegals can give legal advice. In fact, both notaries and paralegal are legally prevented from giving advice under any circumstance. The only exception would be if the notary were also an attorney who is acting in a legal capacity for the client.
Myth #2: A Notary Can Help Clients Draft Documents
Much as a notary can’t offer legal advice, a notary cannot help the person they’re signing for draft documents. The only time that they are allowed to do so is if they are a paralegal and working under the supervision of a licensed attorney.
Myth #3: A Notary Only Provides Services To US Citizens
A notary provides services to the public, not just US citizens. Being able to do this makes sense because non-citizens often require notarizations for documents related to immigration and citizenship. When notarizing for a non-US citizen, the notary is still required to follow their state procedures to verify the identity of the signer.
Myth #4: A Notary’s Job Is Easy
Show up, sign, stamp, and you’re all done! Right? Wrong! There is so much more to it than that, including a great deal of training to become a notary. Not only does a notary need to be versed in the type of paperwork they are handling, but also the type of notarization that is required. Yes…there are different types of notarizations and specific language for the notarization that must be correct on the document. Also, there is a great deal of pressure placed on notaries They often work under tight timelines and have legal responsibilities (and repercussions) should they fail to follow state-mandated protocol.
Myth #5: A Notary Public Must Understand The Details Of The Document
The fact is, some documents are so complex and that most attorneys have challenges understanding them. A notary must verify that the client meets the requirements to sign the document and that the notarial language on the document is correct. Beyond that, a notary is under no obligation to understand or explain the specifics of a document. If the client is uncomfortable signing a document, the notary has a good faith obligation to not notarize the document and refer the client to the document issuer for clarification.
Myth #6: A Notario Publico is the Same As A Notary Public
A notario publico is a particular job in Latin American countries that offer advanced legal services, services that surpass those of a notary public in the United States. Unfortunately, this causes confusion for Spanish speakers in the US, and some unscrupulous companies draw in people with the title and then charge them an exorbitant fee for simple notary services.
Myth #7: A Notary Must Provide Services
Some people believe that a notary is required to provide services when contracted to do so. While is it rare for a notary to refuse services, below are four of the most common reasons that a notary can — and sometimes, legally must — refuse to notarize something.
If They Suspect Fraud
A notary is providing signing services for perfectly legitimate legal documents 99.9% of the time. But there are those very rare occasions where something just doesn’t look or feel right. Sometimes it goes beyond just a feeling and the fraud is obvious. This can be caused by something related to the document or the signers themselves. Like all businesses, a notary had the right to refuse service.
If They Cannot Verify The Signer
The primary job of a notary is to verify the identity of the person who will be signing the document. If they are unable to do so, whether because the person hasn’t brought valid identification or the notary signing agent suspects that the identification isn’t authentic, then they must refuse to provide the notarization.
If the Signer Isn’t Willing Or Is Being Coerced
Notaries see a lot of interactions between people. In general, the interactions are between people who have the same goal and are entering into an agreement willingly. But if the notary believes that a particular signer is being coerced into signing, the notary must refuse to provide notarization.
Myth #8: A Notary Must Provide Services
For the typical person who isn’t regularly exposed to legal paperwork, they might view notaries as a mysterious thing that you only find at the bank and sometimes the local post office.
But for businesses such as mortgage lenders, title companies, and law firms that require regular notary service; notaries are very important to these companies. In fact, notaries and businesses that provide notary signing services like NPN, are proving to be more important than ever.
Myth #9: Notaries Only Work Normal Business Hours
While the bank might only be open to offer notary services during normal business hours, that’s just not the case for most notary signing agents. Most notaries work independently and offer flexible hours to accommodate a wide range of clients. Many mobile notaries offer service well beyond business hours, including weekends.
We’ve saved the best and most common myth for last.
Myth #10: Notarizing A Document Makes It Legal
No. No. Double Notarized No. A notarized document simply means that the person who signed the document was verified by the notary to be that person. It means that the notary was presented with the proper identification and verified the signer’s identity and that the document was not signed under duress. A notarization alone does not make a document legal or binding.
Did You Believe Any Of These Myths About Notaries?
If you believed any of these myths about notaries and the signing services they provide — we hope this article has cleared them up. When something isn’t completely understood, it’s fertile ground for myths and misconceptions.
At National Paralegal & Notary (NPN), notaries and the signing services they provide are OUR business, and we’re happy to have the opportunity to provide some clarification. At NPN we operate as a national signing service, and have thousands of notaries across the country who are trained, experienced and ready to serve your clients. How can assist your company and its document signing needs?