What is a notary public?
A Notary Public is an official of integrity appointed by the Secretary of State to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.
One misconception is that the official signature and stamp automatically makes a document ‘true and legal’. The truth is, a notary public cannot give legal advice to anyone unless he or she also happens to be a licensed attorney. What he or she does is witness the signing of the documents and ask each party for a sworn oath of authenticity. The document itself could still be declared fraudulent or unenforceable later in court proceedings. A notary public can only attest to the identities of the signatories and their own affirmations of authenticity at the time of notarization.
What documents may serve as acceptable identification for the State of Texas?
- Government issued driver license
- State Issued I.D. card
- United States Passport
- A passport issued by a foreign government if stamped by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service
- Military I.D. Card
What is an Acknowledgment?
Some document transactions require that the signer make a formal declaration before a notary, thereby “acknowledging” execution (signing) of the document. Specifically, the signer verbally acknowledges that:
The signer understands the contents and purpose of the document;
The signature is his/her own
The document was signed willingly (no coercion)
Documents typically requiring an acknowledgment are contracts, deeds, agreements, powers of attorney, etc. These documents contain terms to which the signer is agreeing. If the document presented to the notary is unsigned, the notary should have the signer sign the document prior to administering the verbal ceremony.
Having ensured that all the required elements for lawful notarization are present, the notary will verbally ask the signer the following or similar:
“Do you acknowledge or declare that you understand this document and have signed it voluntarily for the purposes stated in it?”
The signer will reply “Yes.” The notary will then complete the notarial act by filling out his/her notarial certificate, then signing and sealing the certificate.
What is a Jurat?
Some document transactions require that the signer swear an oath or affirm to a notary, under penalty of perjury, that the contents of a document are true.
Oaths and affirmations differ, but have the same legal effect. When taking an oath, a person swears a pledge and invokes a Supreme Being (“I swear this is the truth, so help me God”). Persons who do not wish to invoke a Supreme Being in their pledge may make an affirmation (“I affirm this is the documents typically requiring an oath include written affidavits and applications—documents for which the signer/affiant has supplied a set of facts.
Documents requiring an oath or affirmation MUST be signed in the presence of the notary.This is dictated by the customary language of the jurat (notarial certificate for an oath/affirmation); for example, “Subscribed [signed] and sworn-to/affirmed before me this (date) day of (month), (year).”
“The signer will be directed by the notary to sign the document prior to the verbal ceremony (see below).
If a document presented for an oath/affirmation has already been signed, the notary must require the signer to sign the document again, in the notary’s presence. A notation may be made, “Duplicate signature at notary’s request.”
– “Having ensured that all the required elements for lawful notarization are present (see below), the notary will verbally ask the signer the following or similar:
– “Do you swear under the penalties of perjury, that the information contained in this document is the truth, so help you God?”
– “Do you affirm under the penalties of perjury, that the information contained in this document is the truth?”
The signer will reply “Yes.” The notary will then complete the notarial act by filling out the jurat (his/her notarial certificate), then signing and sealing the jurat.
When Does A Will Need To Be Notarized?
A notary is not required to create a legal and valid will. If your state requires that your will is self-proving, then a notary may be needed. A self-proving will means that the document can hold up in probate court without having to call in the witnesses that signed the document. This is a sworn statement that you and your witnesses need to sign. This also verifies that the parties involved in signing the will were in a sane state of mind.