What is a Notary Public?

notary public stamp

A notary public is a public official appointed by a state government to help deter fraud. Notary publics witness the signing of important documents and verify the identity of the signer(s), their willingness to sign the documents, and their awareness of the contents of the document or transaction.

Which estate plan documents require a notary public?

Your estate plan documents may require conducting your signing ceremony with the cooperation and signature of a notary public.

  • Last will and testament: you do not need to notarize your last will and testament for it to be valid. In many states, however, you can strengthen your last will and testament by making it “self-proved” with the help of a notary public, which can save your estate time and money.
  • Financial power of attorney (POA): financial powers of attorney and derivations thereof like a Limited Pet Power of Attorney need to be notarized in order to be valid in some states. Most states that offer a statutory form power of attorney include a section for notarization because acknowledging the signatures before a notary public creates the presumption of validity.
  • Advance health care directive (AHCD): Missouri and Nebraska require notarization to complete a valid advance health care directive. In most states, however, you do not need the signature of a notary public as long as you fulfill the witness requirements. Other states permit you to sign with a notary public in lieu of witnesses.

Where can I find a notary public?

  • Your local bank
  • Your office (usually) if working at a 20+ person company
  • A UPS store
  • Law office
  • Tax prep center
  • Real estate firm
  • Online notary firm, provided that the document you are executing and your state allows for electronic notarization

A great place to find a notary public is your local bank branch, which typically provides the notary service for free as long as you hold an account there. Alternatively, if you work at a 20+ person company, chances are that an administrative assistant, HR representative, or someone else at your company is a notary public. This is a great way to nail your signing ceremony – you have a notary public and can typically find two co-workers who qualify as disinterested individuals.

Want more help understanding notary requirements?

If you would like help understanding the notary requirements for your estate plan or finding a notary public near you, reach out to our Just In Case Estates support team on live chat or at support@justincaseestates.com.