What does a notary public do?


Quick Answer

A notary public is a public official whose main role is to witness the signing of important documents in non-contentious matters and authenticate signatures for the purpose of deterring frauds. As ministerial officials, notaries public are required to strictly follow the written rules and refrain from personal discretion.

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Full Answer

The duties of a notary public include the screening of those who participate in the signing of certain documents such as deeds, bills of exchange or wills. Through this process, a notary ascertains the identity of the involved parties, their willingness to sign the documents and the absence of coercive elements or intimidation. A notary public can administer an oath whereby the participants are required to provide correct information or risk committing perjury.

The services that notaries public provide rely on their impartiality, which lends the services a quality of trust. This prevents a notary from refusing to offer his services to someone based on their race, sex or religion, in addition to preventing him from acting in situations in which their personal interest may arise.

Notaries public are typically appointed by a state secretary or a lieutenant governor. In some cases, they can be appointed by a regulating body known as a society of notaries public. In the United States, as of 2014, notarial attestation of signatures and the acknowledgement of deeds are required for a document to be authenticated.

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