Not all notarizations are straightforward and not all notary state laws are the same. What appears to be a simple act of notarizing documents to the signer is sometimes a complicated situation for the notary. Every state has different requirements on the types of notarizations allowed. It is always the responsibility of the notary, not the signer, to ensure that they are practicing in accordance to the law when it comes to providing notarization. This is especially true when dealing with special notary documents.
Notarizing Documents in a Foreign Language
For any non-English document presented, it may be best for the notary to refer the signer to a notary who speaks the same language the document is written in. If that is not possible, the notary can proceed with the notary act if the notary certificate is written in English or other language that the notary can read and understand.
In New York for example, notaries may only notarize the signatures or provide witness for living wills that give direction regarding medical care for someone who is still alive. In New York, notaries cannot execute wills of any type and notaries cannot notarize last wills or testaments. Every state requirements for notarizing wills is different so be sure to check with your specific state laws before providing any notary service related to wills. If you’re in New York, here is a great resource for being a notary in New York State .
Notarization by Copy Certification
In New York, and as outlined in other state laws, a notary cannot make a copy of an official document such as a birth or death certificate because of the risk of fraud and alteration. In New York, copy certification requests require the signer to write a statement and sign that statement. Although the notary is not allowed to notarize the copy of the original document, the notary is allowed to notarize the written statement and should attach a loose certificate at the time of notarization. The notary does not need to see the original document to perform this act.
For states that allow copy certifications, the owner of the special document appears before the notary with the original document. Sometimes the notary is asked to make the copy. The notary compares the original document with the copy document and confirms that they are identical. After confirming that both documents match each other, the notary completes the notary certificate and statement that the copy is true, accurate, and complete.
Always Protect Yourself
Above are just a few examples of the most common special types of documents a notary might run across. There are many others. Always protect yourself by researching the requirement in your state for a document you are unfamiliar with. Never make assumptions. One way to receive reliable assistance with special documents as well as assistance with any notary question is to become a member of the National Notary Association (NNA). They provide membership options where you can get real-time and state specific assistance through their notary hotline.