Notarizing Documents

What does it mean to have a document notarized, and how can you get it done?

Notarized Documents

A document that has been notarized is one that’s been marked with a stamp (or “seal”), which indicates that the signature on the document is legitimate. A notary watches you sign a document, and then places the stamp near your signature. This shows COST that you really signed the document – it wasn’t somebody else posing as you. In the age of identity theft and lawsuits, it’s important for COST to know whether or not you really signed this important document.

In addition to verifying your identity, a notary is supposed to look for signs of trouble: are you signing the document willingly (even if you don't like what's in it) or is somebody forcing you to sign? A notary will refuse to validate a signature if signs of coercion are present. Likewise, a notary wants to make sure that you're in a condition where you can truly understand what you're signing. If you are intoxicated, medicated, or unable to understand what's happening for any reason, a notary should refuse to notarize the document.

Notaries are not required to read through the document and evaluate it for you, nor will they alert you to any problems; all they do is verify that so-and-so signed a document on such-and-such date.

How to Get a Notarized Document

Simply sign it in front of a notary public (that’s a person who is authorized to notarize documents). The notary will ask for identification to verify that you really are who you say you are. You’ll need official identification with a photograph – a driver’s license, passport, or other government issued ID will generally do the trick, although requirements vary from state to state. If the notary is not confident that you are the person in question, he or she can refuse to notarize your document – nobody is required to notarize anything.

Depending where you go to get your document notarized, you may have to pay a modest fee. Notaries have to spend money to operate as a notary, they have to study and keep up with changing laws, and they have to keep records, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked to pay a fee. Typically you’ll pay less than $20, and it might be as low as $5.

Where to Get a Document Notarized

You can get forms notarized in a variety of places. A good place to start is your bank or credit union.  If you’re an account holder, the service might even be free. Even if you don’t have an account with a financial institution, a notary there may be willing to notarize something for you – for a small fee.

Otherwise, you may be surprised at how easy it is to find a notary: shipping stores, office supply retailers, check cashing stores, tax preparers, law offices, car dealers, and even neighborhood convenience stores may employ somebody who is a notary. If you can’t find anybody easily, search online for a “notary public” with your city name.