Thursday, August 2, 2018

How do I know if the document is legal?

Notaries aren't required to have legal knowledge.  That's what lawyers are for.  We don't judge documents to be right, legal, or effective.

Another new notary concern is: 

"How do I know if the document is okay to notarize?"  Answer:  That's not your problem.  If you want to know if there is any kind of document that you may not notarize, call your state's notary public administrator.  Asking on Facebook isn't the best way to get smart on notary skills.

New notaries are helpful people.  That's commendable, but it's also a trap for new notaries.  People want them to help find internet forms for their situations, help them fill out documents, help them decide what to say in a legal document.  Notaries should steer clear of all that.

It's not what you do.  That is not your purpose.

This article isn't for teaching a full-blown course, so I am going to boil it down into this:


  • Notaries are official witnesses--if asked at some time in the future, a notary can say "Joe Blow appeared before me and signed a 'Blah Blah Document' on May 30th 2016." (In Texas, the notary would be keeping a journal of notarial acts. Some states do not require journals.)

  • Notaries identify signers of documents.

  • Notaries watch as signers sign documents and...
  • If documents which are to be acknowledged are already signed, the notary asks the signer "Do you acknowledge that this is your signature....?"

  • If a document is to be sworn, the notary asks the signer to re-sign the document. 


  • Notaries administer oaths, asking signers or others "Do you swear or affirm your statements are truthful?"

  • In some states, notaries may make a certified (to be true and correct) copy of certain types of documents.


Notaries don't give opinions on whether something is legal.
Notaries don't suggest what goes in blanks. 
They do not help write legal documents. 
They don't help locate free forms (in my opinion, that's as bad as drafting legal documents).

Next time someone comes to you and asks you to notarize a document, remember that it is not your problem whether the document is legal, correct, or written right.

You are a witness; identify your signer and move forward.


When you don't feel you can properly identify a person, decline to notarize. If you don't know what you are doing, decline to notarize. If you don't know what your notary laws say, get  basic notary training, today.  

Don't scam the public. The public thinks you have learned how to be a notary--you signed an oath saying you are upholding the laws. How can you uphold the laws if you don't even know the laws? 

You certainly should not handle loan documents if you aren't trained.  

You will get yourself into trouble and you may really hurt the person whose loan documents you are handling.


If you are in Texas, please take the free training on the Secretary of State's website.  

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