Posts Tagged ‘notary’

Can a notary make a document ‘legal’?

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

I often get calls from people who tell me that they wrote up an agreement and had it notarized so it would be legal.  They are usually really surprised when I tell them that the notarization doesn’t make the agreement more legal than it was without the notary stamp and signature.

Yes, a notary can administer an oath and when you swear that oath to a notary, it has the same meaning as when you take an oath in court.  This means that you can be found guilty of perjury if you lie under the oath administered by a notary, just like you can be found guilty of perjury if you lie in court.

But the most common form of notary action is an acknowledgement.  This notarization says that the person who signed the document is either personally known by the notary, or they have provided valid identification that says they are the person who signed the document.

This protects people from actions like having a girlfriend sign a document saying she is the wife, but it does not make the document more legal.

In fact, any agreement between two people can be considered legally binding even if it is not written at all.  It may be harder to prove what the terms of an oral agreement might entail, but it would still be legal.

If you have a written agreement that has been signed by all parties, that agreement should be able to be upheld in a court of law, whether the signatures are notarized or not.

So why have things notarized?  To make sure that the person signing the document has valid id stating that they are in fact the person who signed the document.  Most people don’t go to the trouble of getting false identification in the name of someone specific just to sign a document so the chances are pretty good that the person is who he says he is.  The notary is required to inspect the identification to make sure it has every appearance of being valid.

Most banks in the area will notarize documents for free if you are a customer of the bank.  There are also other places that will notarize documents for free too.  In fact, our office will notarize documents (with valid identification of course) for free.

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