Helpful Tips to Prepare for Getting Your Documents Notarized

February 23, 2015

When you need to get documents notarized, it is important to make sure you’re properly prepared so that the notarization process goes smoothly.  If you do not have all the necessary information ready when you visit a Notary Public, he or she may be legally obligated to refuse the notarization.  To help the process go as smoothly as possible, the National Notary Association suggests you complete the following steps before visiting a Notary Public.

Understand a Notary Public is prohibited from giving legal advice.  Unless a Notary is a qualified attorney, he or she is unable to give legal advice to signers.  This means that Notaries cannot: select for you the type of notarization you need; complete the document (with the exception of the notarial certificate wording); or give you advice on the legal effects of a document. 

Verify what type of notarization you need.  Typically, there are three forms of notarizations: acknowledgments, jurats and copy certifications. As previously stated, a Notary Public is prohibited from giving you legal advice, so you must be able to tell the Notary what type of notarization you need.  If you do not know, you can contact an attorney for advice.

Make sure your documents are complete.  As mentioned above, a Notary Public cannot complete your documents.  If your document is incomplete and/or has blank spaces, a Notary will not be able to legally notarize it.

Ensure that everyone signing the document can be at the appointment.  Each person who needs to sign the document must be physically present at the notarization.  Notary Publics cannot notarize the signature of a person who is not there, even if that person is on the phone or video chat. However, it is not required that all people sign at the same time, so signers may appear separately.

Be “Aware and Willing.”  One of the roles of a Notary is to make sure that everyone is voluntarily signing the document and is mentally competent to sign.  To avoid having a Notary Public refuse notarization, be sure to understand the contents of your document, and make sure you want to sign it.

Have a valid form of identification.  Another task of a Notary Public is to verify your identity.  The most common way to do this is to check a government-issued form of identification, like driver’s licenses and passports.  Those do not have a valid form of identification may be able to use “credible identifying witnesses,” which are people who swear to the Notary you are who you say you are.  Make sure to contact a Notary for the requirements to use this method.

Make sure the name on your ID matches the name on your document.  If there is a difference between the name on your ID and the name on your document, the Notary may not be able to legally notarize your documents.

Know what you will be paying.  Usually, the fees for notary service are set by state law and can vary by state.  If you are unsure of what the fee in your state is, you can check the website of your Secretary of State.  While the notary fee is set by law, if you choose to work with a mobile Notary, there is typically an additional travel fee, which is set by the Notary Public and not regulated by the state.

Most AIM Mail Center locations offer the services of a commissioned and insured Notary Public.  Notary services are usually available during store business hours, and some locations offer mobile Notary services.  If you need to get documents notarized, visit our Store Locator to find the AIM Mail Center nearest you.


Sources: National Notary Association

Notary Services at AIM Mail Centers