If you need to get a document notarized, a simple free solution can often be found at the nearest branch of your bank. A document is notarized when a third party, known as a notary public, verifies your identity, witnesses you signing the document, and, in some cases, requires you to swear or affirm that the facts in the document are true. Notarization covers almost every kind of legal document, including letters of indemnity.
Since banks handle a lot of documents that must be notarized, it’s common for some bank employees to be notaries and for the bank to offer free notary services to its customers. If you are not a customer, you may be charged a fee or advised to go to your own bank.
- Notarization verifies your identity and certifies that you have signed documents for legal reasons.
- Documents that may need a notary include wills, sworn statements, powers of attorney, promissory notes, and bills of sale, among others.
- Most banks have notaries available and offer their services for free for customers.
- You may have to pay a small fee for notary services if you aren’t a customer.
How Notarization Works
The notarization process is typically simple. You present a document to a notary public and sign it in their presence. After that, the notary officially notarizes the document using an official stamp, writes in the date, and adds their own signature. The notary usually asks to see a photo ID to verify that you are indeed the person whose signature they are notarizing on the document. The notary will also confirm that you understand the meaning of what you are signing and are doing so intentionally.
While almost any document can be notarized, some of the most common ones include sworn statements, powers of attorney, deeds of trust, rental agreements, copy certifications, beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, promissory notes, and motor vehicle bills of sale.
The Importance of the Notary Witnessing Your Signature
When you have a document notarized, the notary certifies your identity and that you are the person signing the document being notarized. For this reason, the notary must witness you signing the document. This means that you should not sign it before seeing the notary. Notaries take a legal oath that they will not notarize any document unless they have witnessed it being signed by the appropriate party.
If you mistakenly sign a document ahead of time, you may need to return with an unsigned copy of the document. After witnessing you sign the copy, the notary will compare that signature to the one you made on the original. If the signatures appear to match, the notary will notarize the original document for you. In some cases, the notary can notarize the copy and will not need to notarize the original document.
Types of Notarization
There are several different types of notarizing. Here is what happens with each one.
- Signature witnessing is the most common notarization. The notary certifies that you are who you claim to be and that they witnessed you signing the document.
- Acknowledgement is used for documents that convey ownership of assets such as property deeds, powers of attorney, or trusts. It requires you to appear in person and declare (acknowledge) that the existing signature on the document is yours, that you intended to sign it, and that you agree with the provisions of the document.
- Copy certification is where the notary makes a copy of an original document and certifies that the copy is true, exact, and complete. This could be done for documents such as college degrees or transcripts, passports, and driver’s licenses.
- Jurat is performed on affidavits, depositions, and other types of evidentiary documents. This requires you to sign the document and then swear or affirm that the statements in the document are true.
Notarize Free at Your Bank
It is customary for nearly all U.S. banks—certainly all of the major money center banks, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co.—to have a notary public on staff in most of their branches. If not, the branch manager, or even a teller or personal banker, can usually direct you to a local branch of the bank that has a notary on the premises.
Most banks provide free notary public services to their customers. If you aren’t a customer of the bank, the bank may charge you for the notary service or decline to provide the service and suggest that you go to your own bank.
Where Else to Go for Notarization Near You
Other financial services firms, such as credit unions, thrifts, real estate firms, tax preparation firms, or insurance company offices, also commonly have notaries available and provide that service to clients at no charge. Additional places that commonly have a notary on staff include law offices, local clerk of court offices, and some public libraries. Pharmacies or doctor’s offices may also offer free notary service for medical records.
If all else fails, UPS stores and your local AAA office often perform notary services for a nominal fee.
How do I become a notary public?
Becoming a notary public varies from state to state. Generally, it requires paying a state filing fee, undergoing training, passing a notary exam, passing a criminal background check, and filing commission paperwork.
Does every bank offer notary services?
Banks are not required to offer notary services, but most do have notaries available in at least one of their branches, if they are part of a chain. You may have to schedule time for an appointment with a notary.
Can I be notarized via live streaming?
If you bank is primarily online, you may not have the option of using an in-person notary. Online notaries are gaining popularity. While there is a fee to use an online notary, they can be essential for those who don’t have brick-and-mortar banks to use or can’t leave the house.
The Bottom Line
Many types of documents and agreements, like contracts, rental agreements, or automobile bills of sale, often require someone to officially witness and attest to the identity of the person signing the document as well as their understanding of to what they are committing. These witnesses are known as Notary Publics and they fill the need to serve as a legal witness and place an official notary stamp on signed documents.
Notary services typically involve a small fee but can often be accessed for free with a bank or credit union. UPS Stores also offer notary services and online notary services can be accessed if digital signatures are allowed on the document being signed.