What is a Notary Public?

“Notaries public are persons of good character appointed by the state to serve as impartial witnesses to transactions.”

Notaries public have varying roles and responsibilities throughout the world.  In the United States, notaries serve a simple, yet important role as a defense against fraud.  The title of “Notary Public” dates back to the old Roman Empire.  It is not “notary republic” or “notary publics.”  There is only one public, but several notaries, so the correct term is “notaries public” or just “notaries.”

A Notary is a Person

A business or other entity cannot be a notary.  Notaries are people, plain and simple.  There are no “notary businesses” only businesses that may employ notaries public.  The notary commission, the notary stamp, the notary bond, are all issued to the individual.

A Notary Has Good Character

Every state has slightly different criteria on this, however, the state, commonwealth or district you are applying in want to make sure the notary is a trustworthy individual that will serve the public without incident.  Generally, notaries have no felony convictions and no misdemeanors that indicate the individual is dishonest.  Some states are more strict than others, so we sure to check your state’s requirements if you have any questions.

A Notary is Appointed by the State

Every state has a different process.  Some states give power to elect notaries at the county, such as Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama.  Most states handle the application process at the state capital.  Either way, the state will official commission or appoint their notaries.  Disciplinary action and other administrative actions will likely come from the state.  Any new notary laws or legislature will also be at the state level.

A Notary Serves

A notary is a public servant.  That does not mean they work for free, although some choose too.  This means that they cannot turn away a reasonable request to have a document notarized.  They hold a position of public trust and should be accessible to the public as is reasonable.

A Notary is an Impartial Witness

Without impartiality, the role of a notary is undermined.  A notary cannot be named in the document, a signer of the document or receive a direct financial (or sometimes emotional) benefit from the document.  Notaries can be employees and sign for their boss or clients.  A notary can never notarize their own signature nor should they do so for their spouse.

Want to learn more?  Take our thorough online notary course designed specifically to your state’s laws and procedures.