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A Notary Public is an official appointed by the Secretary of State and authorized to serve the public as an unbiased witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents. These official acts are called notarizations or notarial acts.
Notaries are bound by rules put forth by the Secretary of States Office regarding the type of Identification accepted. A Notary must screen the signers of important documents for their willingness to sign, their awareness of the document's contents, and the true identity of the signer. Notaries must also be impartial witnesses to the acts performed and are duty-bound not to act in situations in which they have a personal interest.
Before your appointment, ensure you have your ID on hand, that it is valid and current. Your paperwork/forms/documents should be filled out entirely except for the signature line and date. In California, the Secretary of State's 2022 Notary Public Handbook instructs Notaries to refuse to notarize if the Notary knows a document is incomplete. If you are unsure how to fill in the blank spaces of your paper, you need to inquire with the entity providing you with or receiving the document. California notaries may not instruct signers on how to fill out a document as that can be construed as the practice of law.
There are ways in which the signer of a document may be identified other than ID. If the signer of a document does not have a current ID, such as a driver's license or a passport, "credible witnesses" may be used. Inquire with your notary before the appointment about the necessary steps that need to be taken to have the signer of a document Identified.
California notaries public are prohibited from verifying I-9 forms unless they are specifically trained/certified as immigration specialists. At this time, Jennifer, The Notary at Monterey Bay Notary Pro, does NOT offer this service.
When making an appointment for a notarization, it's essential to let the notary know of any issues the signer may have. Suppose a signer cannot hold a pen, if they are hard of hearing or have a medical issue. Some problems can be worked around, others may require additional steps for signings, and some would prevent a notarization. It's up to the notary to assess the situation, and the more information they have before the appointment, the better for all parties.
A notary in California may not use an interpreter for a signing. The signer and the notary must be able to converse in the same language to notarize a document.
Technically a Notary Public is a Public Officer and, therefore, should be an impartial witness to notarized acts. Accepting a gratuity in any form, be it cash, donations to an organization, or physical gifts, could give the impression of impartiality. It is the best practice of a professional notary to kindly refuse any such gift or additional monetary compensation over and above the fees for services provided.
The best way to show a notary your gratitude is to review their work and refer them to others who may need their services.