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Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Notary Public and what do they do?

A Notary Public is a person who is authorized by the state government to witness the signing of important documents and administer oaths. Their main job is to verify the identity of the people signing the documents and ensure that they are doing so willingly and knowingly.

When you need a document notarized, you bring it to a Notary Public, who will check your identification to make sure you are who you say you are. Then, they'll watch you sign the document and add their own signature, stamp, or seal to certify that they witnessed the signing and that it's legitimate.

Essentially, they act as impartial witnesses to the signing of important documents to deter fraud and ensure the integrity of legal transactions.

Does a signer have to be present to have a document notarized?

Yes, to notarize a signature, the signer must be physically present before a notary. Notarizing a signature without the signer being present is a criminal act.

Do I have to sign in front of the notary?

For an Acknowledgment, the signer doesn't need to sign in front of the notary. However, for a Jurat (Oath or Affirmation), the signer must sign in the notary's presence.

Do I have to provide my own witness(es)?

Generally speaking, yes. Occasionally, if you coordinate your appointment with enough advanced notice, witnesses may be available through the notary. All witness services incur additional fees, per witness. As with all things, time is money, and people require both.

Who determines the appropriate notarial certificate type?

If a document already has a notarial certificate, it guides the notary on the required notarization. In the absence of a certificate, the notary cannot decide the notarization type; the signer must specify. If uncertain, the signer should seek advice from an attorney or from whomever requested the document.

Which forms of identification can a notary accept?

A current identification card or other document issued by the federal government or any state government that contains the photograph and signature of the signer; or with respect to a deed or other instrument relating to a residential real estate transaction, a current passport issued by a foreign country (Texas Civil Practice & Remedy Code § 121.005). Acceptable IDs include current U.S. Passports, state driver's licenses, state issued ID cards, military IDs provided signature is present. It is good practice to ensure the name on the document matches your identification card.

Can an interpreter assist a non-English-speaking signer in communicating with the notary?

While Texas has no laws or regulations regarding the use of interpreters, it is not consistent with good practices as the notary has no way to verify the translation. Therefore, non-English-speaking signers should identify a notary who speaks their native language.

Can a Notary provide guidance and assistance to the signer in understanding or completing a document?

No. A notary is authorized to verify the signer's identity, ensure their willingness to sign, administer an oath if necessary, record the notarization in a journal, and complete the notarial certificate. Any additional acts or assistance may be considered unauthorized practice of law.


Why are there fees associated with certain types of documents?

Notaries often face liabilities tied to various documents prompting many to invest in private insurance for protection. This leads to inherent costs for notaries handling specific document types, especially considering the time-intensive nature of such documents. Any fees charged to clients in these cases primarily cover the notaries' costs associated with liabilities, time, and travel rather than notarial services. Liabilities are the reason banks and retail shipping, postal, printing and business service centers (The UPS Store, Staples) will not notarize these specific document types.

List of Prohibited Acts for Texas Notaries:

Per the Texas Secretary of State, a notary public may not:

  1. Perform acts, which constitute the practice of law;

  2. Prepare, draft, select, or give advice concerning legal documents;

  3. Use the phrase “notario” or “notario publico” to advertise notary services;

  4. Overcharge for notary public services;

  5. Notarize a document without the signer being in the notary’s presence;

  6. Notarize the notary’s own signature;

  7. Issue identification cards;

  8. Sign a notarial certificate under any other name than the one under which the notary was commissioned;

  9. Certify copies of documents recordable in the public records;

  10. Record in the notary’s record book the identification number and/or state that was assigned by the governmental agency or by the United States to the signer, granter or maker and that is set forth on an identification card or passport; or any other number that could be used to identify the signor, grantor or maker of the document. (This does not prohibit a notary from recording a number related to the residence or alleged residence of the signer, granter or maker of the document or the instrument.);

  11. Using the translation into a foreign language of a title or other word, including “notary” and “notary public” in reference to a person who is not an attorney in order to imply that the person is authorized to practice law in the United States.

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