Pennsylvania Notary FAQs!
As notaries we get questions all the time about what we can or cannot notarize, how does notarization work, what do I need to bring with me to an appointment and so on. There is a lot to know and understand. Sit back and read on...I'll answer a lot those questions and more in this post!
What do you do as a notary?
The main responsibility of a notary public is to prevent fraud while witnessing you sign important documents. This task is completed by verifying that you are who they say you are. You can learn more about the means notaries use to identify you here. Bare in mind, if you perjure yourself in front of a notary and are found guilty by a court of law, you can face penalties for having done so!
Notaries also make sure that you acknowledge that you understand and are voluntarily signing the document. We can also place you under oath, should the notarization require such an act. And finally, you may be asked to affirm the truthfulness of the contents of a document or a statement you've made.
Can you notarize your own signature on a document?
Nope, no way, no how. Not going to jeopardize how I earn a living!
Can you notarize your spouse's signature?
See the answer above.
Can you notarize for your relative?
It depends, best practice would say to avoid any such opportunity. If the notary has a financial or beneficial interest in the transaction, the answer is definitely a no.
Must I or another signer be present for you to perform the notarization?
Yes! All signers must personally appear before the notary in order to have a notarial act performed. Only notaries who have been approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State as an e-notary and who have selected an approved remote online notarization (RON) platform can utilize the internet to perform notarial acts.
Whether in person or via RON, the notary will need to verify that you are who you say you are. RON uses a different way to verify your identity but you still must be on the other side of the screen from me when we're doing an online notarization.
Can I sign the document ahead of time?
It depends. If the document requires an affirmation or an oath, you must sign the document in front of the notary. If the document requires and acknowledgement, you may sign it ahead of time but you still need to personally appear before the notary to acknowledge that you were the person who signed the document. This blog post shares more info about the different type of notarial acts.
The best advice I can give is to not sign anything until you are in front of the notary.
I need a will or a power of attorney completed, can you do that for me?
No, I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania or any other state or country. I am not allowed to draft legal records, give advice on legal matters, including immigration, or charge a fee for those activities.
I need a certified copy of a document. Can you do that for me?
Yes, I can. You will need to provide the original copy of the document along with a photocopy of said document for me to examine. Be sure that the document you want a certified copy of is the original and not a photocopy!
Records that can be issued a certified copy include: public records, passports, drivers license, transcripts, diplomas, contracts, leases, bills of sale, medical records, consents & waivers, powers of attorney.
Records that cannot have a certified copy issued include: vital records-birth & death certificates, USA naturalization certificates and any government issued record which contains "do not copy," "illegal to copy" or other such verbiage on its face.
I need a document notarized that is written in another language. Can you do that?
Ideally, documents in a foreign language should be referred to a notary who can read and write in that language. While Pennsylvania law does not directly address notarizing documents in another language, the notarial certificate completed by the notary must be written in a language the notary understands.
What about if the signer speaks a foreign language? Can you notarize for that person?
Yes, as long as there is an interpreter physically present with the signer and the notary who communicates directly with both the signer and notary in language(s) that both parties can understand at the time the notarization takes place.
Can you notarize the signature of a minor?
In general, people must be of "legal" age before being able to handle their own legal affairs. In Pennsylvania, that age is 18. Parents or court appointed guardians will usually be the person to sign on a minor's behalf. Minors may lawfully sign documents in certain instances. Examples of this are emancipated minors who are engaged in business transaction or a minor who is involved as a court witness.
The means for identifying a minor is the same as for an adult - an acceptable government issued ID, the Notary's personal knowledge of the minor or use of a credible witness.
Can you ever refuse service to a customer?
Notaries cannot refuse services on the basis of a customer's race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or marital status.
Notaries can refuse service in these instances:
Valid ID cannot be produced, their is no personal knowledge of the signer by the notary and no credible witnesses are available.
The signer is not physically present when the notarization is to take place - be it in person or via remote online notarization (RON).
Signer and notary cannot communicate in a language both can understand and no interpreter is available.
The signer is not willing to swear or affirm the accuracy of the contents of a document that requires an oath or affirmation.
The notary has reasons to believe that the signer lacks the mental capacity to sign documents.
The notary has reason to believe the signer is being coerced to sign and is not signing of their own free will.
If the document contains blank spaces or is missing pages.
The document does not contain a notarial certificate or if the signer will not instruct the notary which type of certificate is required.
The signer asks the notary to certify the copy of a vital record.
I hope this answers a lot of the general questions you night have about notarization. While this is not an all encompassing list of questions, if you have a question that was not answered above, reach out and I'll be sure to get back to you!