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Are Attorneys Notaries?

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on November 14, 2015 8:58 AM

Attorneys are not necessarily notary publics. But they can be. In the same spirit, you can be a notary without becoming a lawyer.

A notary public is someone who certifies and attests to the authenticity of writings and takes depositions and affidavits, among other duties. The National Notary Association states that there are 4.4 million notaries in the United States. They are all in service to the state or territory that issues their commission.

Becoming a Notary

Requirements to qualify as a notary vary from state to state. Typically, however, an applicant should be without a criminal record, at least 18, and a legal resident of the state. Some locales require notary applicants to read and write English.

California demands the most from prospective notaries, while Vermont demands the least. Let's take a look at the different requirements in those two states.

  • California: Would-be notaries in this state must go through training and pass an exam. Applicants need a passport-style photo, fingerprints, and $40 for the application fee. These are submitted after an exam along with proof of a completed training course. Once granted the commission, the new notary must buy a bunch of stuff, including a Notary Seal and a bond of at least $15,000 and 4-years, a California Notary Journal, and something to collect customer fingerprints. This is a serious investment.

  • Vermont: This small New England state makes few demands. In the words of the National Notary Association, "Notaries are required to purchase and use a seal for any notarized documents that will be sent out of the state of Vermont. That's it!" But there are risks associated with this more lax approach to commissions. Having the right skills and liability insurance is still important even if the state does not demand it.

Certification Services

Notaries are beholden to their commissioning territory, not their employers. Still, having one on hand can be a good way for a business to bring in additional money while providing a valuable service to the community.

That is one reason why lawyers are often notaries. It makes sense for people who are certified by the state to practice law to also offer document certification services to their clients and the public at large. But not every attorney is a notary, and not every notary is certified to practice law.

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