Why You Need a Notary Public – and How to Find One

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

Ah, paperwork. Important documents – necessary for home ownership, insurance, finance, estate planning and a number of other areas of adulting.

There’s a good chance that while you’re in the throes of signing and organizing said documents – for whatever purpose – you’re going to need a notary public.

Okay, Mary Grace. I’ve heard the term before – but what’s a notary public? That just sounds like another adulting headache.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, a notary public is “a public officer who attests or certifies writings (as a deed) to make them authentic and takes affidavits, depositions, and protests of negotiable paper —called also notary.”

Yes, you read that correctly – a public officer. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about a public officer in terms of a city councilperson or the mayor. I’ve been a notary public since 2013 and I have yet to make any public appearances in that capacity. (Or, technically, in any capacity.)

In very simple terms: a notary verifies that you are who the paper says you are. That’s it.

In order to verify, a notary needs to either:
a) know the person he or she is notarizing for, or
b) see a form of ID if notarizing for stranger.

One stamp and one signature on the paper from a notary and boom, your identity is verified. The stamp and signature certifies it as truth and fact.

When working with any of the documents mentioned in the dictionary definition, your designated advisor (whether that person is your real estate agent, your insurance agent or your financial advisor) will inform you of your need for a notary public to sign said documents.

Next steps? You should be able to find a notary public via any of those advisors. If that doesn’t help, you can visit an insurance agency or a business services office – both often employ notaries. And it doesn’t cost a lot, either – for instance, in New York State, notaries can only charge up to $2 for their services.


Lastly, if you are still having problems with your paperwork, here are a few helpful tips:

  • Be sure that your notary is authorized to work in the county where the documents are being signed. They are assigned to their respective counties of residence – or, in special cases, have applied for a separate certification to notarize in additional counties.
  • If you’re not having these documents signed in an office and your notary is someone you know personally, provide your notary with a blue or black pen. Documents cannot be signed in any other color – no reds, purples or throwback Milky pens.
  • Understand the nature of the documents before going to have them notarized.
  • Have all notary signature spaces marked and ready – as not to waste time.
  • If your notary is a stranger to you, he or she should ask you for ID. If not – don’t waste your time, and find another notary. Fast.
  • Make certain that the notary signs in the correct places – not like I’ve learned from that one, or anything.

If you have any further questions — on why you’d need a notary public, how to find one or even how to become a notary public yourself — don’t hesitate to contact me!

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