A notary public is (in general) an official objective witness. In most states, anyone over the age of 18 can request an appointment as a notary public. In Massachusetts, the governor, with the advice and consent of the Executive Council, appoints notaries public. After the appointment has been made and approved, a person will be notified of his or her appointment by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Notaries traditionally have a seal, which they purchace either from the state or from a stationer/tool-and-dye maker. (Massachusetts does not sell seals and does not require them, but many places do). They also often keep a journal of the official actions they take, so that they can have a reference if a document they notarize falls under legal scrutiny

Things a Notary Public Can Do

Things a Notary Public Can Not Do

Facts about Notaries

  • Notaries are public servants. They must fulfil their duties for little to no charge (each state has different regulations on how much (if anything) notaries can charge.)
  • Notaries are personally liable for not taking due caution in verifying the accuracy of the information that they are notarizing, and can be held liaible
  • "Notary public" is a US term. Similar phrases in other countries/languages, e.g. "Notario Publico" imply very different responsibilities. RoseThorn says "A notary public in the UK must be a qualified solicitor who is additionally qualified to act as a notary; they must have a valid practice certificate. They are typically only used for transactions abroad, as notarization is notnecessary in the UK. Notaries may charge fees; in fact it is typically their sole source of income." US notary publics are not competent to legalise documents in the U.K. under the Hague "CONVENTION OF 5 OCTOBER 1961 ABOLISHING THE REQUIREMENT OF LEGALISATION FOR FOREIGN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS" . (the USA adopted this treaty in 1981)"
  • In most states, becoming a notary costs approximately $25, plus the cost of any required equiptment (seal, journal, etc)
  • The part of a document where the notary puts their name, seal, and the date is called a jurat or testimonium clause
Thanks to nygren for some of this, and /msg me if you have any comments or additions
The profession of the Notary Public is the third of the UK legal professions, and also the oldest and smallest. The following applies in England and Wales


Powers

The notary public is a qualified lawyer, allowed to undertake all legal work reserved to lawyers (conveyancing and commissioning of oaths spring to mind), with the exception of litigation. Which is nice.

Obviously, as most lawyers become solicitors (Only Approximately 1000 notaries exist in England and Wales, of whom all but some 70 are also solicitors), the reason to become a notary is not because you want to do general legal work, but because you want the profession's special powers: Making foreigners believe it really is real. Mostly notaries are only necessary for dealing with foreign jurisdictions; sometimes (despite treaties such as the "HAGUE CONVENTION OF 5 OCTOBER 1961 ABOLISHING THE REQUIREMENT OF LEGALISATION FOR FOREIGN PUBLIC DOCUMENTS") even this won't be enough; so notaries must reigster with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who will authenticate their signature and seal (All notaries must have a unique seal).

Notarisation is required in England and Wales for certain documents, such as Bills of Exchange.


Qualification

The profession is licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, "with the aid of" the "Master and Court of Faculty". (In reality these are the dudes responsible). To become one, one must first either have a degree, or be a lawyer. Then, one has to fork out at least £1500 training fees to Cambridge University (In the guise of their institute of further education). This is if one is a solicitor; anyone else will pay more. Solicitors are exempt from most of the syllabus, as it is very similar to the LPC.

Having been educated, you must apply to the Court (Interestingly, the senior ecclesiastical court of the realm) for your "Faculty", a certificate that you may practice. This will not be granted if they judge that you are not of "good character". This will allow you to spend two years as a trainee. After that time, you will have to reapply yearly for a practice certificate.

If you want, and you can hack it, you can then go the next step, and become a Scrivener.

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