Your Guide to Becoming a Notary Public and Notary Exams

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A notary is a sworn public officer.


The term notary is widely used but many people do not actually know what a notary is. They know that they go to a notary when they usually come out with an official documents with a notary seal either stamped or embossed on the paper, or that when they have to sign an important document, either a notary public or a notary signing agent is present and has them take an oath. However what they don't know is that a notary, or notary public, plays a very important role in today's economy and society.

A notary is a sworn public officer, usually appointed by the County Clerk or Secretary of State, to witness and verify the authenticity of various documents. The notary, or notary public, performs a variety of duties, usually for a small fee, that help our market and commerce to function. The services of a notary could include:

  • Verifying the identity of someone signing a contract, agreement, or other document using his or her driver's license, passport, birth certificate, or other form of identification
  • Verifying the signatures of people signing important documents such as land titles, or other financially important documents
  • Taking note of the proof of identity in their notary journal or registry for public record
  • Checking the age and mental capacity of the individual present
  • Taking sworn oaths, affidavits, or declarations
  • Preparing an official certificate to show the execution of a document
  • Creating notarial certificates to verify documents and the execution of documents
  • Affixing their notary seal or stamp to official documents or at the signing of documents
  • Providing verified copies of birth certificates, death certificates, land deeds, and other public documents
  • Witnessing the signing of official contracts including real estate transactions

A notary is not paid by the government or county but instead charges a small fee for their services. The fees vary from state to state and are normally set in place by the state government. Normal notary fees range from $0.50 to about $10.00 depending on the needed service.

The process to become a notary differs in each and every state and county. In most states, someone who wants to become a notary must complete an official application to the Secretary of State and in many cases pass a notary exam. Along with their application, they normally must pay a fee, provide references, and explain why they would like to be a notary. If their application is approved, they will be sworn into office and must purchase their notary supplies. These include a notary seal or stamp, a notary journal, and in many states a notary bond, which protects the notary from lawsuits if a mistake is made.

In today's society you can find a notary in virtually any city or town in the country. Given the number of legal transactions that require a notary to be present, the occupation is growing rapidly. It is also expanding to include Mobile Notaries who will travel to their clients, as well as Electronic Notaries in some states who can notarize documents online.