At some point in their lives, most people encounter an important piece of paperwork that they need to have "notarized." If you've never visited a notary public before, you might be wondering what this means and where you have to go to get it done. Don't worry: it just means you'll need to get your official document reviewed and signed by an individual with the credential of "notary public." There are several occasions where you may need a notary public for your business or personal purposes.
Here, we will help you understand:
The role of a notary public
Where you might be able to find the most cost-efficient notary services in your area
Common reasons why people like you may have to seek out this type of service
What Is a Notary Public?
Let’s start with a simple definition to give you a concrete idea of what a notary's services entail. A notary public is a person who witnesses the signing of important documents to lend legal credibility and a more “official” designation. Sometimes this is required for government documents, important financial paperwork for a company or a variety of court-appointed purposes. Some common types of documents that require notarization would include divorce papers, mortgage documents, business contracts, affidavits, deeds of trust, power of attorney transfer and other important legal or financial situations that involve multiple parties.
What Does a Notary Public Do?
It may seem like notaries just watch people sign documents, but there is more to their role than just acting as an official witness. Otherwise, almost anyone could qualify. In fact, a notary public is required to complete a state examination to become recognized as a credentialed professional who can perform these specific services.
A notary typically begins interactions with clients by verifying their identities and having a conversation about the documents they need to have signed. Depending on the types of documents that need signing, the notary may have specific questions to ensure all parties involved understand what they are signing.
By asking a few simple questions, a notary can determine if the parties signing are truly aware of what they are committing their signature to. They can also tell if there is a level of pressure or duress that either person may be feeling. Situations like this can cause the notary to determine whether or not they are willing to witness the exchange of signatures.
Requiring the notarization of documents helps prevent individuals from engaging in fraudulent activities. Notarization may also reduce the number of legal disputes and lawsuits that could otherwise arise without a third-party witness.
How to Find a Notary Public in Your Area
If you're in a situation that requires notary services, it’s a good idea to look for the most cost-efficient notary near you. Many of these options may already be available in your current daily life or routine. Before you shell out your hard-earned dollars for expensive notary services, consider looking in these common places as you begin your search. Most states also have caps on the fees that notaries can charge, so be sure to check your state’s notary fee structures to be certain you don’t overpay.
Here are a few easy places to find a notary public:
Visit Your Bank
Most banks have employees who act as certified notaries within the scope of their professional responsibilities. And if you are a member of a particular bank, they may even offer free notary services for those who hold accounts there. Even if your bank does not provide free notary services, they might charge just a small fee for basic documents.
Some banks only offer notary services to their own customers and account holders. This is one way for banks to minimize their risk (and consequences) of possibly notarizing a fraudulent document. However, smaller banks and credit unions typically offer less expensive notary services.
Libraries and Government Agencies
You may also have luck finding notary services at your local library or some government offices, such as a county clerk’s office. If notary services are available, these can be some of the least expensive options you'll see. To find out, simply search for local libraries or offices, and make sure to call ahead and ask about fees and availability before you go to the trouble of visiting in person.
Insurance Agencies and Membership Based Organizations
Your car or life insurance company, AAA, military offices, and real estate professionals are just a handful of other agencies and organizations that may offer notary services in your city. If you are a student, check with your university admissions office to see if they have staff that notarizes documents for students. This could come in handy for financial aid documents that they often verify.
Again, remember that finding a notary doesn't mean you have to go out of your way — start your search for a notary within the boundaries of your current daily life!
Additional Ways to Locate Notary Services
If all else fails, search your local online listings for notary services. There are many individuals and businesses that earn additional revenue by notarizing documents for people like you. If you'll be traveling outside of the country, it’s also a good idea to search ahead for options in case you need a notary abroad. This is just one of the many reasons it's smart to know where the U.S. embassy or consulate is located in each country you visit. The staff there can assist you with all kinds of notary services, legal needs, and general travel questions you may have when visiting.
We hope this list of ways to find a notary public helps you get what you need in the most convenient way possible. Notary services are an essential part of signing official documents at important moments throughout your business career and personal life, and it doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to get this help.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.