Public Affairs

What to know before you go to the notary

notary stamp and pen on notarized documents

When preparing legal documents, you may need to have a document notarized. 

This is a fairly straightforward process, but knowing what to expect will help you avoid delays and mistakes. Here’s a closer look at how to have something notarized and what you need to bring to the notary.

What is a notary?

A notary public, often called a notary, is a state-appointed professional who witnesses signature. The notary prevents fraud by verifying the identity and willingness of the signer. You can find notary publics in banks, law offices, government agencies, schools, and your local AAA branch.

A notary signing agent specializes in real estate, such as facilitating mortgages and loan documents. Like a notary public, they witness signatures but they will also review the document with the signer and provide any explanation needed.

What documents can a notary notarize?

Notaries can notarize a wide range of legal documents that require a neutral third party to verify authenticity. If you need to get a document notarized, call the notary ahead of time to make sure they can handle that particular document. Common items that can be notarized include:

  • Vehicle certificate of ownership
  • Advanced health directive forms
  • Lien documents, like lien releases or authorization to change the names on a lien
  • Guardianship agreements
  • Medical authorization for minors
  • Vehicle bill of sale
  • Bank transfer service forms
  • Supplemental marriage license applications
  • Power of attorney documentation
  • Promissory note agreement forms

Additional documents need a notary but may also require an additional party such as a lawyer. 

Notaries will not:

  • Notarize photographs
  • Certify copies of birth, marriage, divorce, or death certificates
  • Notarize incomplete documents
  • Notarize I-9 forms
  • Provide witnesses
  • Act as a loan signing agent

What to bring to the notary

1. Identification

Ensure that your form of ID is government-issued, current, and contains a photo and a physical description. Examples are a passport, state-issued driver’s license or non-driver’s license/ID, or military ID. If more than one signature is required, each signer must be present and bring a valid form of identification.

2. Document you want notarized

You can fill out the information on your document, but make sure you do not sign the notary until you arrive. Pay special attention to any blank spaces on the document to be notarized. After double-checking that the blank space shouldn’t be left blank, put a line through the space or write “NA” (not applicable) or complete the blank, as appropriate. If there are misspellings, make the change on the document prior to the notarization.

Bring the full documentation that is being notarized, not just the page(s) that require a signature. If your document does not contain all numbered pages, it may not be notarized.

Know what type of notarization you need—an acknowledgement, jurat or other—prior to your arrival. This is especially important if the notarial certificate is not attached to your document. If you need a gold medallion signature, contact a financial institution. Please ask the organization or person requiring the notarization to provide you with the notarial statement or to advise the type of notarial statement needed. Notarizations have important legal ramifications. As they are not attorneys, notaries cannot decide the type of notarization required.

Quick tip: Be prepared to pay as some services require a fee. Research what is necessary beforehand and make any necessary appointments.

On the day of: Bring the required items and all parties needing to sign, and sign in the presence of the notary. The notary will add the official authorization, and your document will be fully legal and properly witnessed.


Ready to find a notary?

AAA branches offer notary services for most of personal documents for members and non-members. AAA Premier® members receive free notary services1; fees vary for for other members and non-members. 

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