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Common Notary Terms
Although they cannot provide legal services, notaries have an important role in the completion of many legal documents. The following are several terms to be familiar with when using the services of a notary.
Notary Public – An individual appointed by a state government to witness the signing of documents, like affidavits, power-of-attorney forms, deeds, and estate papers. A notary public also takes acknowledgments and oaths. Often, notaries work in association with banks, law offices, or real estate offices.
Signing Agent – A notary public who obtains signatures needed for a real estate transfer or loan. A signing agent may be a mobile worker, traveling to the parties to a real estate transaction to obtain signatures. Mobile signing agents are frequently used when a party lives out of state.
Affidavit – A sworn factual statement signed by its author. A notary public witnesses the signing of an affidavit to verify its authenticity. Affidavits are used in association with other evidence in court cases where witnesses are not available to testify or to attest to the truth of information in a legal document.
Estate – The net worth of property owned by an individual. The estate of a deceased person is managed by an administrator or an executor if there is a will. Wills are often notarized to support their authenticity.
Deed – A legal instrument that transfers property rights from one person to another. A deed must be signed and witnessed, and the signatures to a deed typically require certification by a notary. Notaries may travel to the location of a real estate transaction to witness signatures.
Power-of-Attorney – A document that gives an individual authority to act on behalf of someone else in business and legal matters or in making medical decisions. Power-of-attorneys often need to be reviewed, stamped, and signed by a notary public.
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A notary public is a professional witness. Often, they work at banks, some are part time and have other jobs. A notary signing agent is a specialist within this profession. Specifically, they are a notary public specially trained to handle mortgage signings.
Most operate as mobile notaries who will travel to a client's home or office. They may request payment of mileage for such travel, however. A mobile notary will generally have a limit to the distance they are willing to drive. Additionally, they often offer services above and beyond merely witnessing and countersigning documents.
A signing agent may courier documents to and from the bank, assist with understanding loan applications and even deliver checks. They may also assist with other loans such as car and business loans. Some specialize in commercial work. They are aware of the legality of various forms and statements and, like other notaries, often have their own seal to apply to documents. They may also witness various statements. A corporation or company may have their own notary, but most loan signing agents are either freelance or work for the bank. They generally charge a fee for their services, that may vary by their experience and the amount of work required.
Notaries have professional associations and the good ones pass exams and obtain certification. Legal requirements vary by state. For example, some states restrict the use of signature stamps. As they are involved in private affairs, they are bound by privilege, like lawyers. Sometimes, they handle classified material.
In all cases, they provide a basic, but essential legal service.