What is a Notary

The National Notary Association defines a Notary Public (usually called a Notary) as “an official 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 important documents. These official acts are called Notarizations, or Notarial Acts. Notaries are publicly commissioned as “ministerial” officials, meaning that they are expected to follow written rules without the exercise of significant personal discretion, as would otherwise be the case with a “judicial” official.”

With regards to a United States Notary Public, unless the Notary is licensed to practice law, a Notary is not allowed to provide guidance or opinions regarding notarizing, nor are the allow to inform a person of what type of notarization is required.  By contrasts, in other countries a Notary may be attorney, judge, or other high-ranking official.  

There are 3 types of notarization (Notarial Acts) which may occur or a person may request a Notary perform.  The person requesting the notarization must know which type of service they are requesting of the Notary or have been provided the information from someone other than the Notary themselves.  These are:


This type of notarization is a Pledge, Oath, or Affirmation.  These are typically related to documents that are imperative to our civil and criminal justice system operation.   If this type of notarization occurs, a signer will appear before the Notary and swear under oath to a Supreme Being, or affirm (a pledge on one’s own personal honor), that the statements given or written in the document are true.  Examples of a document which may require a Jurat notarization is a deposition, declaration, or affidavit.


certified copies

Under this type of notarization, a Notary will, if able, confirm that a  replica or duplicate of a document is exact, complete and true to the original.  Many of these notarization’s are provided to important one-and-only-one personal original that cannot be confirmed by a public record office and the holder of the original document fears it may be lost or the holder does not want to part with.  Examples of these documents might be a passport or degrees (high school or college)


This type of Notarial Act is one most people think of when then hear they need a document notarized.  This notarization requires that a signer appear in person, can be positively identified, and affirm (“acknowledge”) that the signature on the document is his or her own, not made under duress and are of sound mind.


Each country, state, jurisdiction, or governmental entity may have imposed different laws governing Notaries and Notarial Acts.  The above information is general in nature for the United States of America and specifics regarding any Notarization or Notary laws should be reviewed as they relate to a specific jurisdiction or location.  

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