There is a lot of misinformation out there about what a notary public does. It's important to be well-informed if you need the services of a notary public to notarize a document.
The following are six things you shouldn't assume about the services of a notary public.
Any document that a notary public notarizes is legal and enforceable.
Notarization doesn't automatically make a document legally enforceable. In fact, notarization only ensures that the identity of the signer of a document has been verified. Notary publics also ensure that the signer of a document was not forced to sign the document in question and signed out of their own free will.
The actions of a notary public are not regulated in any way.
Appointment and qualification requirements for notary publics are highly regulated by state governments. There are numerous requirements that a prospective notary public must meet.
Not just anyone can become a notary public in a given state, and a notary public can only notarize documents in the state in which he or she was appointed.
You can always get legal advice from a notary public.
In general, notary publics are not qualified to give legal advice. They cannot help individuals fill out forms or draft legal documents. However, in some states, a notary public can be granted the qualification to serve as an immigration forms specialist and assist individuals with filling out immigration forms.
A notary public has to understand all the details of the documents that they notarize.
Many documents that need to be notarized are too long, complex, and detailed for a notary public to completely understand them. Again, notary publics are just there to assist with validating the identity of the signer. They do not necessarily understand the content of the documents that they notarize.
A notary public can always charge any fee they want.
Notary public fees are generally regulated by the state. While a notary public may charge below the maximum amount allowed by the state, they cannot generally charge more than a specific amount that is authorized by the state for a particular notarization task.
A notary public will always notarize the document(s) in question.
There are numerous scenarios in which a notary public may refuse to notarize documents that are presented before him or her.
A notary public will always refuse to notarize documents if signs of possible fraud are detected. A notary public also won't sign documents if the individual requesting notarization has not first signed them or if this individual does not have proof of identity available.