Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Notary Definition:

A legal officer with specific judicial authority to attest to legal documents usually with an official seal.

Related Terms: Lawyer, Solicitor, Commissioner of Oath, Paralegal, Pleader

Also known as notary public or title attorney.

A notary is a public officer who attests as to the genuineness or authenticity of certain documents or deeds usually by her or his seal of office.

In Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Burt Thomas-Aitken Construction, the opinion of Justice Weintraub of the Supreme Court of New Jersey included:

"A notary or notary public is a public officer whose function it is to attest and certify, by his hand and official seal, certain classes of documents, in order to give them credit and authenticity in foreign jurisdictions, to take acknowledgements of deeds and other conveyances, and certify them; and to perform certain official acts, chiefly in commercial matters, such as the protesting of notes and bills, the noting of foreign drafts, and marine protests in cases of loss or damage....

"(T)he notary public exercises a power he receives from government rather than from someone who happens to be his private employer."

In Estate of Alfaro, Justice Bowman of the Appellate Court of Illinois wrote:

"(W)hen one acts ... in his capacity as a notary public, such as by notarizing the witnesses' signatures on a will, the act of notarization tends to prove the authenticity of the witnesses' signatures and the verification of the attestation clause. A notary public is an official who is authorized by the state or federal government to administer oaths and to attest to the authenticity of signatures. Notarial acts include taking an acknowledgement, administering an oath or affirmation, taking a verification upon oath or affirmation, and witnessing or attesting a signature."

Many jurisdictions do not have notaries preferring to vest administrative legal authority exclusively in lawyers or court officers.

Jurisdictions which do have notaries include Australia and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and British Columbia.

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