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The Most Commonly Asked Questions Regarding Notaries


If you're considering becoming a Notary Public, you likely have some questions regarding the commissioning process and the responsibilities of the position. Below, we will address some of the most commonly asked notary questions:

What types of documents can I notarize?

Although it's a common misconception, Notaries don't actually notarize documents. Instead, some documents-- including deeds, powers of attorney, contracts, and more-- require that the signer acknowledge that he or she is signing the document. Specifically, the signer is acknowledging a few things: that he or she understands the contents of the document; that the signature provided is his or her own; and that he or she signed the document willingly. Thus, the Notary isn't notarizing the document itself, but is instead notarizing acknowledgments, oaths, signatures, affirmations and verifications.

Can I notarize something for a spouse? What about other family members?

Many new Notaries wonder if it's acceptable for them to notarize something for a spouse or family member. Some states have laws in place that prevent Notaries from performing notarial acts for spouses and family members. Other states, including California, allow Notaries to perform notarial services for relatives or spouses as long as they aren't named in or beneficiaries of the transactions referenced in the document. The primary issue is that Notaries must be impartial witnesses, so they must not have any vested interest in the outcome of the transaction. If a Notary Public has any doubt regarding whether he or she can be an impartial witness, he or she should advise the spouse or relative to work with another Notary.

Can I notarize something if I didn't see the person sign the document?

What if a person brings a Notary something to notarize but they've already signed the document beforehand? It's still okay to notarize as long as the person is there to acknowledge that he or she was the one who signed the document. This can not be accomplished through phone, email, or fax. The Notary must see the signer in person and verify his or her identity before notarization takes place.

How do I renew my commission?

The renewal process varies by state, but often involves Notary Public education courses, a state exam, and a renewal fee. In California, Notaries Public seeking to renew their commissions must complete a mandatory 3 or 6-hour training seminar. Then, they must take a state exam and pay a forty dollar exam fee. After receiving their exam results, California Notaries Public must submit their fingerprints to the Department of Justice and FBI as part of the background check process.

Can I still become a notary if I have a criminal record?

Many states will allow applicants to become Notaries with minor crimes in their backgrounds, as long as those crimes aren't related to dishonesty or fraud. However, some states disqualify any applicant that has a felony charge in his or her background, regardless of the type of crime committed. In California, applicants can't have a felony conviction or a conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude.

Is there an age requirement to become a notary?

Most states, including California, require that Notaries Public are at least eighteen years old.

If you'd like to become a Notary Public in the state of California, consider enrolling in our notary classes online. California requires that both new Notary Public candidates and those seeking to renew their licenses complete the state exam. Prior to taking the exam, however, candidates must complete the required Notary Public education. Our online classes help you complete the necessary courses from the comfort of your own home. Contact us today for more information.

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