Notary Public | Appointed Ministerial Official | Commissioned

J. Douglas Prendergast
Professional Traveling Celebrant

Authorized Officiant       Licensed & Certified

Appointed Ministerial Official
Commissioned Notary

Notaries are Officials of integrity appointed by state government, typically by the Secretary of State, to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of documents.

There are two kinds of commissioned Notaries, ministerial and judicial. Both serve as an impartial witness through official acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations, or notarial acts. Whereas a judicial notary can exercise a significant amount of personal discretion in their notarial acts, a ministerial notary is expected to follow written rules without significant personal discretion. A commissioned Notary Public serves the public in a ministerial capacity.

Through the process of notarization, Notaries deter fraud and establish that the signer knows what document they’re signing and that they’re a willing participant in the transaction. They authenticate (notarize) the signing of critical documents and certify the proper execution of many of life-changing documents of private citizens. Examples of the documents that commonly require a Notary are property deeds, real estate transactions, prenuptial agreements, wills, and powers of attorney.

For a document to be notarized, it must contain specific language that commits the signer in some way, require an original signature by the signer of the document, and contain a notarial certificate on the document itself or in an attachment.

Generally, a Notary will ask to see current identification that has a photo, physical description, and signature. Acceptable identifications usually include a driver license or passport.

When a document is notarized, the Notary is verifying the true identity of the person who signed it, that the signer was not under duress or intimidation, and verifying the signer’s awareness of the contents of the document or transaction. Some notarizations also require the Notary to put the signer under an oath, declaring under penalty of perjury that the information contained in a document is true and correct.

Notaries are expected to have a basic understanding of the paperwork they are being asked to notarize. However, they are not responsible for the legality of the documents they notarize! They are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice or draft legal documents.

Since discrimination on any basis is not a suitable practice for any public Official, Notaries should never refuse service to someone because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or status as a non-customer. There are circumstances when a Notary is legally required to refuse service, such as: they suspect fraud on the part of the signer or the document; they cannot verify the signer’s identity with some form of authentic identification; or they believe a signer is being coerced into signing a document unwillingly.

Impartiality is the foundation of the Notary's public trust! The public trusts that the Notary’s screening tasks have not been corrupted by self-interest and, therefore, are duty-bound not to act in situations where they have a personal interest.

The Notary Public may charge a nominal fee set by State law for their service and may also charge for mutually agreed upon related travel expenses and reimbursements. Beyond these however, a Notary Public cannot benefit from their service as this would become a self-interest – which goes against the public trust. This is just one reason why a Notary Public cannot notarize your marriage license application and then also officiate your marriage.

There is also a common misperception by the public that having something notarized makes the thing legal. Remember – Notaries are not responsible for the legality of the documents they notarize. This is one reason why a marriage license cannot be notarized. The marriage license must be signed by an authorized representative of the State to make the license legal – which is contrary to the role and duties of the Notary. The Notary is to act as impartial witness, not as signer to execute a legal document. Simply put, your marriage license is valid because your identities have already been verified. There isn't a role for the Notary to fulfill when it comes to your actual marriage license.

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