What is 'Notarize'

To notarize is to certify a legal document via a notary public. Notaries act as government agents to witness the authenticity of signatures appended to legal attestations.

BREAKING DOWN 'Notarize'

In the United States, notaries public can notarize documents and act as agents for the state in which they register. A notarized document carries legal weight because a notary acts as a neutral third-party witness to the authenticity of one or more parties signing an agreement, affidavit, attestation or other similar document. Most states require notaries to notarize documents by stamping them with an official seal and initialing the stamp. In some cases, notarization includes the preparation of a legal certificate. Some states now allow online notarization of documents using video cameras and online apps.

Notaries typically do not receive any remuneration from the government for their work. Instead, they charge fees for notary-related activities, including notarizing documents. While the fees charged may vary, some states establish standard fees or maximum allowable fees for certain categories of activities.

Examples of Notarized Documents

Legal documents that deal with serious matters or that are intended to represent transactions of substantial monetary value commonly require notarization. For example, parties in real estate transactions typically require notarized deeds for an added level of security that the transaction will hold up if ever legally challenged or in the event one party attempts to breach the terms of the transaction at a later date.

Many documents that confer major legal rights also require notarization. For example, transfers of ownership for automobiles, healthcare advanced directive forms and forms indicating changes to power of attorney typically must be notarized to be enforceable.

Most notarizations require that a notary provide either an acknowledgment or a jurat. An acknowledgment requires the notary to certify that a person signing a document has provided positive identification and made a legal declaration that they signed a document willingly. Mortgage documents, for example, typically must include the signatures of the borrower and the lender

A jurat provides a second layer of protection by requiring an individual to sign the document in front of the notary in addition to swearing that they do so willingly. While the difference may seem subtle, some documents such as legal affidavits require that the parties swearing to the information in them sign them and take an oath affirming that they have made the statement truthfully and willingly. In those cases, the language of an acknowledgment, which does not specify whether or not an individual signed a document before a notary, would be unacceptable.

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