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What Do Notaries Do and Why Are They Necessary?

If you want to know, “what do notaries do?” you’re in the right place. Find out more about the job responsibilities and requirements of a notary public.

Job Responsibilities

A notary, which is sometimes referred to as a public notary or notary public, acts as an official government witness. When it comes to witnessing signing a document, it’s their job to:

  • Verify the identities of everyone signing.
  • Verify everyone involved is present without being forced, and they are making the choice freely and willingly.
  • Witness the signing of documents.
  • Administer an oath (if it is required by the document) to any or all of the signers.
  • Verify any notary-specific elements of the document are present and accounted for. If there is anything that is incorrect, incomplete, or missing, a notary is expected to complete them.
  • Place their official seal on the document, typically in the form of a stamp, verifying that the notary has done their job.

Job Requirements

To become a Florida notary, you must be:

  • 18 years old, or older
  • A legal resident of Florida
  • Able to read, write, and understand English

If you have been convicted of a felony, you also need to have your civil rights restored with the Board of Executive Clemency. You may apply for restoration of civil rights five years after you complete your sentence. More serious offenders must wait seven years and have a hearing. While the restoration of civil rights allows you to be a notary, it is important to remember some rights, like the authority to own, possess, or use firearms, will never be restored.

When Is a Notary Needed?

A stamp from a public notary makes any document “self-authenticating.” This is a powerful tool in courts or any legal disputes because the document is already accepted without any additional verification or authentication. Without having to bring anyone to court, a self-authenticating document establishes that the document is legally binding and the signatures are authentic.

Any major financial, legal, or business documents should be notarized. Having a signature notarized creates legal security, so you have the freedom and ability to get notaries as frequently as you would like.

Additional Job Responsibilities of a Notary in Florida

In Florida, a public notary’s job description is more than just authenticating signatures. They are trained and qualified to carry out six additional responsibilities.

1.    Administer Oaths

While oaths are used in legal cases, this is different from the oaths used in a court. The oaths of a sworn testimony in court are typically administered by the bailiff or clerk of the court, who does not have to be a notary.

Notaries deal with oaths outside of the court. The other person will typically verbally verify that the contents of a document or statement are truthful. The notarized document is then used in court. This is typically used when a witness is unable to travel to the court due to distance, health, or scheduling reasons, and provides a way for witnesses to testify without having to be in the courthouse or at the deposition.

2.    Acknowledgments

Acknowledgments are a simpler form of oaths. The content of the document doesn’t matter as much, and the focus is put more on the signer’s knowledge of what they are doing and agreeing to.

3.    Attested Photocopies

When notarized documents are copied, the copy needs to be notarized as well to verify that it matches the original. This is used for the safety and integrity of the copy to make sure there have been no alterations made to it.

4.    Marriages

Florida is one of only four states that allows a notary public to solemnize marriages. The only other people that can perform marriages are ordained ministers of a church, ordained clergy, all Florida judicial officers, captains of a ship (if the captain is a notary and the ship is in Florida waters), and clerks of the circuit court.

5.    Verifying Vehicle Identification Numbers

This is a very specific form of notarization and typically only done in car dealerships. A notary inspects the vehicle to verify the Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on the form matches the VIN plate.

6.    Certifying Contents of Safety Deposit Boxes

Typically a bank has notaries on staff to fill this function. This typically only happens if the rental fee on the safe deposit box is overdue, or the owner has deceased. Upon opening, the notary present creates and signs a certificate that lists the items removed and any relevant facts.

How Do You Become a Public Notary in Florida?

If you meet the qualifications to be a public notary, it isn’t complicated to become one. Once you are qualified, it only takes three easy steps to become a public notary.

1.    Complete an Application

Before you get started, you need to complete an online or printed application. The form includes your personal information, confirmation that you meet the requirements to be a public notary, and an affidavit of character.

The affidavit of character is a second person who has known you for at least one year, and can verify in a court of law you are of “good character.” While it can be somewhat ambiguous as to what having “good character” means and how to recognize or measure it, it generally means you are an upstanding person who is honest and does not take advantage of others.

An important section of the application is a notary surety bond. By law, all notaries are required to purchase and maintain a $7,500 notary surety bond. This helps protect you against any financial loss from mistakes or errors you make while acting as a notary.

2.    Take the Online Class

With a complete application, you are ready to take the online training to become a notary. By law, it is a three-hour course that covers everything you need to know to become a notary. The three hours is a requirement. If you read too fast or click through the content, you might find yourself waiting at the end of sections. You cannot move to the next section until the time restriction is met.

Because it is an online course, you are able to go through it at your own pace. You can do it all in one sitting, or you can complete it in multiple sections picking up wherever you last left off. The only requirement is that you complete the online course within a year of finishing your application.

After you have finished your online training, you may print your certificate of completion which will contain your name, date, and certificate number.

3.    Submit Your Application Form

With a completed application and online course, all that’s left to do is to submit your application form to the offices of Florida Notary Association. We’ll take care of the rest for you.

Why Should I Become a Notary Public?

Being a notary public can help boost your career, start your own business, and supplement your income.

If you work in an office, being a notary public is a great benefit to your resume. By being a notary on staff for a company that frequently requires notary services, you can save the business a great deal of money. It also can cast you in a good light with administration and management, because when they turn to someone they need to trust, they go to you. You also become a necessary figure in some of your company’s most important meetings and business deals.

It is possible to start your own company as a notary. If you are looking to start a mobile business, becoming a notary can work well for you. Notaries can choose to work as much or as little as they would like, and can make a good living by charging fees for notarization services and travel. This makes it possible for you to make being a notary your full-time job, or just a part-time hustle that helps you get a bit of extra income around your schedule.

The Florida Notary Association

At Florida Notary Association, it is our job to make sure you have the resources and tools you need to be a public notary. We provide everything from insurance for notaries to help protect yourself against costly mistakes, to assistance with submitting your application to become a notary. If you are already a notary and are looking to renew your commission, we help with that as well. Contact us today to find out how we can help you with any of your notary questions.

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