2c: Notarial Responsibilities

Rules and Regulations

Rules covering notaries and notarial acts vary greatly from state to state.  Because you are appointed by a State Officer in your state, you are a public servant and are required to carry out your duties in accordance to the rules and regulations of that state. While some of the rules are consistent between states, and many of the fundamentals remain consistent, there is some variation.  It is very important to remember, you have a duty and legal responsibility to learn and follow the rules of your state.  Take the time to study and remember these rules, and stay up-to-date on them.  

In this course, we teach things that are consistent between all states, but it does not substitute for learning the particular rules of the state where you are licenses or appointed.  You can incur penalties and liability for not knowing and following these rules.  You should know how to contact the state office regulating your activities as a notary.  This also varies by state, for example in California notaries are regulated by the state Secretary of State’s office, whereas in Florida it is actually the Governor’s office.  In almost all cases the rules covering notaries are published on the government websites and always freely available.  Remember, you must adhere to the rules and regulations for your state so be sure that you are aware of those rules and regulations.

But What do Notaries do?

  • IDENTIFICATION:  The most basic of responsibilities as a notary is to identify the signers of the document they are notarizing, that they are who they say they are.  You can be held legally responsible for notarizing documents if the signer is not who they say they are!  We will return to how we do this toward the end of this section.  
  • WITHOUT DURESS As notaries, our role is to assure that the signer of a document, is not being unduly forced or pressured to sign a document.  Any document signed under this kind of undue force, for example through intimidation, force or under threat of violence can be nullified, so while it may be difficult to know exactly when there is duress, as a notary you are required to use your best judgement about this.  You can take the step of asking the signer if they know and understand the contents of what they are signing.  In most states notaries can choose not to notarize where they have concerns in this area.  
  • AWARENESS:  As noted above, notaries are responsible for assuring the signer of a document is aware of the contents of what they are signing.  Remember, as a notary you are not an attorney or judge, so you should not explain the details of the documents, however, you have a responsibility as a notary and a professional signing agent to make sure people know what they are signing!  We will go into great detail on this in the section reviewing signing and the documents in Section Three. 
  • COMPETENCE:  Also as noted above, notaries need to also evaluate whether someone is capable of understanding the document they are signing.  Look at the section on competence at the end of this chapter.  

As a notary, you may also be called upon, and authorized to do things such as:

  • Serve as disinterested witnesses
  • Administer oaths and affirmations
  • Take acknowledgments
  • Execute jurats for affidavits and other verifications

Since the scope of this course is to teach you how to be a professional signing agent, and not detail all the various parts possible types of notarizations, let’s talk about what signing agents are and how they came about.  Check the Notary2Pro website for details of other courses available now and coming soon!  

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