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Insight Into What Documents Need to Be Notarized in Florida

The responsibility of a notary is to serve as an impartial witness to the signing of key documents. They identify and inspect documents and ensure that all the signers understand what they’re signing. This position involves confirming the signers’ identities and ensuring compliance with state rules.

Our guide will explore what documents need to be notarized and which ones a notary cannot sign.

Why Use a Notary? 

A notary is a form of protection for the signers of important documents that lowers the risks of doing business by helping prevent fraud. An official signature, and stamp seal, and embossing stamp signifies that the persons involved were the ones who understood the document and signed it.

While a notarized document doesn’t mean that the provisions in a document are legal, it does reinforce the veracity of documents in court.

What Documents Need to Be Notarized? 

We can divide most notarized documents into three major types: financial, legal, and business.

Financial Documents

Banks, investment firms, title companies, and other financial institutions require notarization for a wide variety of documents and processes. Financial documents that require notarization can include: 

  • Mortgage closing documents
  • Loan documents
  • Property deeds
  • Some types of credit documents
  • Financial statements

Legal Documents

Legal ownership and responsibility documents are some of the most common documents that need to be notarized. These can include:

  • Wills
  • Trusts
  • Advanced directives
  • Executorships
  • Custody and guardianship agreements
  • Power of attorney
  • Court documents

Business Documents

Businesses also need notary services. While not every important document a business uses needs notarization, most can be notarized. These documents can include:

  • Articles of incorporation
  • Memorandum of understanding documents
  • Vendor contracts
  • Commercial leases
  • Employment contracts
  • Construction and loan agreements

What Can a Notary Not Notarize? 

As a notary, you’ll follow strict rules and guidelines when notarizing a document. A document cannot be notarized if it doesn’t fit the standards. These prohibitions protect the public and ensure the notary’s credibility.

Here are a few reasons a document cannot be notarized:

  • The document is dated later than the day of notarization, or the issued certificate is backdated. This counts as forgery and carries additional fines and the potential loss of the notary’s commission. 
  • The signer cannot be positively identified.
  • A signer is not physically present.
  • The document is missing pages or has blank sections; those must be completed by the time of notarization. 
  • The document is blank.
  • A signer appears confused or mentally incapable of understanding the transaction.
  • If the notary thinks or knows the transaction is illegal, the notary may not proceed with notarization. 
  • The signer doesn’t speak the same language as the notary.
  • The signer is unwilling to swear or affirm the document’s contents (for notarizations that require an oath or affirmation).
  • The signer shows indications of being coerced to sign. 
  • The document doesn’t contain a notarial certificate, and there are no instructions on which type of notarial certificate is required. 
  • The document is a copy of a vital record. This can include documents like a birth certificate. Notary publics are not permitted to notarize these documents.

Notaries don’t authenticate or validate objects. They’re not allowed to notarize their own signatures or serve as a notary if they’re a party to the situation.

Notaries can also refuse service if a signer is unable or unwilling to pay any required fees, if the request is made outside of your regular office hours, or violates your established workplace guidelines.

When a Notary Shouldn’t Say No

As long as a notarial act is lawful and has met accepted standards, the notary should perform a notarization. There are times when it is inappropriate for a notary to refuse a notarization. 

Personal Bias or Beliefs

As a public official, a notary should never refuse due to a signer’s nationality, religion, race, age, lifestyle, gender, or disabilities. There are times when a notary might be responsible for notarizing a controversial document related to such topics as same-sex unions, assisted suicide, the use of medical marijuana, or abortion. Even if a document’s contents violate your personal beliefs, this isn’t enough to refuse a notarization.

Notarizing a document doesn’t mean you personally agree with or condone the contents of the document. A notary is only an impartial, third-party witness that verifies the identity of the signer(s).

Oaths and Commissions

Notaries are also responsible for administering oaths. Much like document notarization, you may not withhold this service based on personal beliefs, political affiliation, or bias. The notary’s role is to administer the oath, not judge or make assumptions about those taking the oath.

What Should a Notary Do When They Refuse a Notarization?

Refusing a notarization can upset or inconvenience the signer, who may even believe there’s a legal case for unlawful discrimination. In all situations, you should remain calm and follow these best practices.

Be Respectful

Speak to clients in a calm, professional manner. Always remain respectful. Avoid any debate with the signer regarding the refusal. If you have grounds to refuse a notarization, debate, argument, or bribe shouldn’t change your decision.

Be Clear

Provide a clear explanation of why you’re refusing a notarization. Show how it violates the law and how if you allow the notarization, it may get the signer in trouble and cost you your notary commission in addition to hefty penalty fees.

Maintain Records

If you keep a notarial record, document the refusal there. This should include the exact reason for the refusal and additional details needed in case the refusal gets questioned down the line.

A notary may believe that a signer is not of sound mind or thinks the transaction is illegal. If so, they can always choose not to notarize.

How Are Documents Notarized Online?

The rise of online notarization is mainly due to its convenience. Online notarization eliminates the need for physical presence, which can be challenging for people with mobility issues or in remote locations. Moreover, the process is secure, with rigorous identity verification methods and digital notarization records. This method has gained popularity and legal acceptance in many jurisdictions, making it a widely used alternative to in-person notarization.

If you plan to become a notary, understanding what documents need to be notarized and how the process works online is essential. The procedure unfolds in several steps:

1. Platform and Tools: You’ll work with a specialized online notarization platform equipped with secure video conferencing and digital document management tools. This setup ensures that you can witness signatures and apply notarial seals electronically.

2. Identity Verification: A crucial part of your role is to verify the identity of the person requesting notarization. Online platforms provide various methods, including knowledge-based authentication and digital ID scanning. This step is crucial to prevent fraud.

3. Document Review: You must review the documents that need to be notarized. This involves ensuring that the documents are complete and suitable for notarization. Ensuring that the document aligns with the legal requirements for notarization is also critical.

4. Video Conference: Once you’ve completed the identity verification, you must initiate the video conference session with the individual. During this session, visually confirm their identity, witness their signature in real-time, and ensure they sign willingly and under no duress.

5. Applying the Notarial Seal: You apply your digital notary seal and signature after the individual signs the document. This step officially notarizes the document.

6. Record Keeping: As a notary, you must maintain a secure electronic journal of all your notarizations. This may include recording the video conference session, which serves as a record of the notarization process.

7. Delivery: Finally, the individual receives the notarized document electronically, completing the notarization process.

Notarization FAQs 

If you aspire to become a notary, you’ll likely have many more questions about the process and your role. To help you, here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the subject:

Can a Notary Give Legal Advice?

No, a notary cannot give any advice or opinions that should be provided by an attorney. Notary publics have a limited, specific role: to authorize oaths, verify identity, and confirm document signatures. It’s illegal for a notary public to act as legal counsel or provide a second opinion.

How Long Does It Take to Notarize a Document?

The time it takes to notarize a document varies, but typically it takes about 15 minutes. This includes verifying identity, reviewing the documents that need to be notarized, and the actual notarization process. Factors like document complexity and preparation can affect this duration.

What Happens If I Don’t Get a Document Notarized?

If a document requiring notarization isn’t notarized, it may not be legally valid or enforceable. This can lead to issues such as lack of legal recognition, authenticity disputes, and potential legal complications, especially for documents like contracts, deeds, or powers of attorney.

Where Can I Get a Document Notarized?

You can get a document notarized at banks, law offices, and postal service centers. Many public libraries and shipping stores also offer notary services. Alternatively, you can use online notary services for a convenient and remote option.

Become a Notary with the Florida Notary Association

At the Florida Notary Association, we ensure you have the resources, tools, and bonding to do your job as a public notary. We even help you submit your notary application or renew your commission if you already are a notary.

You may be interested in becoming a notary in Florida. If so, we’re here to help you through the steps of notary certification. Contact us today so we can answer any of your questions. If you’re a notary looking for supplies, check out The Dotted Line, where you’ll find all the necessary accessories.