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Notary Public 101

February 21, 2012

A few years ago my boss sent me to a class to become a Notary Public so I could notarize corporate documents.  It was an eight hour class at an Embassy Suites, followed by fingerprinting and an exam.  Not the most fun I’ve ever had.  I’ve since done it again, to renew my commission.  Most of the time I notarize car titles, since I work for a group of car dealerships.  But sometimes, it’s a little more interesting.  I get a phone call about once a month from a fellow employee meekly asking, “Someone told me you can notarize ….?”  It seems to be a favor that people are hesitant to ask, for some reason.  In the five years I’ve been a notary, I’ve authenticated signatures on everything from escrow papers and bank documents to an application for a gun license and traffic school attendance records.  My favorite is when people nervously try to hand me money. When I refuse the money, they invariably tell me they owe me lunch, and it’s a deal they never deliver on.

It’s such an interesting thing to me because it seems like one of the last old-fashioned processes we hold onto.  Everything has been digitized and automated, but Notaries carry around leather-bound ledgers and stamps that have that rubbery band-aid smell.  They’re like artifacts of another era.  It seems like the documents should be signed by quill and blotted.  (In California, there is such thing as an electronic notary seal, but it’s not commonly used.)


Here are a few things you should know about the notarization process…

Most people have a misconception about what a Notary does, so let me clear that up.  Ninety-five percent of the time, all I’m supposed to do is scan the document to make sure there are no blanks, witness you sign it, and check your ID.  My stamp is just verifying that it is, in fact, you signing the paper.

In Mexico, a Notario Publico is a legal clerk.  It’s different here.  I don’t have legal training, I don’t give legal advice, I cannot explain what you’re signing or tell you how to fill it out.  All I do is prove that you showed up and signed it.

Occasionally, there is an oath that you must raise your right hand and swear to.  For those who do not believe in God, you may personally affirm your statement instead (*eyeroll*).

A Notary can only legally charge you $10 per signature.  If they travel to you, they can also charge ‘reasonable’ mileage charges.

Many Notaries have Errors and Omissions Insurance, because we are liable for mistakes we make.  We can be sued, fined, jailed, decommissioned, or all of the above.

Notaries are not allowed to advertise.  But I can say I’m a Notary, and if you ever need anything notarized, call me.  (You’ll just owe me a hypothetical lunch.)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2012 7:29 pm

    LIke this! BTW: my family was in a family car business for 83 years!

  2. February 23, 2012 12:39 am

    You’re cool.

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