What is the Difference Between Notary and Notarization?


Americans notarize 1.25 billion documents each year, enabling life-changing transactions. From buying a home to providing power of attorney, every step of the process relies on access to and knowledge of notary services.

When notarizing remotely, notaries are required to use platforms that have been certified by the Department of State to meet NYS requirements. Those platforms must also offer advanced verification technologies like knowledge-based authentication and identity verification from third-party sources.

Legal Definition

According to Nationwide Notary Bond Agency, a notary is a person who adds their name and seal to a document, certifying that the signer’s identity has been verified and there is no forgery. Notaries can be commissioned by a government agency (like the Secretary of State in their home country or province) or by an organization that provides notary services, like the National Notary Association.

Notaries public must pass a background check and attend a training seminar to be certified in their state. Most notaries are lay people, though some countries have salaried public service notaries (e.g., Ukraine, Russia, Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany (until 2017), and certain cantons of Switzerland). A notary’s duties are defined by law in their jurisdiction of practice. If a notary violates these rules, their commission may be revoked.

When notarizing documents, the notary will usually ask for photo identification from the parties involved. They will then lead them through the document to ensure they sign it properly. Once they are done, the notary will add their signature and stamp a unique seal that includes their name and the jurisdiction in which they are licensed to practice.

Some documents require a witness, who is brought in to verify the notary’s identity and ensure that there is no forgery in the signing process. This is a common requirement for legal affidavits and other important contracts. A witness should not be able to benefit from the contract or be related to the signers, as these conflicts of interest could compromise the document’s authenticity.

A notary can also provide a copy certification, which is an act that certifies that a document is a true, exact, and complete reproduction of the original. This is used for extremely important or one-of-a-kind papers that can’t be easily replaced, such as college degrees and passports. A notary can perform this act by hand or with a special notary software program. The notary must record all the details in a journal to prove that the documents are authentic.


Notaries perform a number of tasks, including witnessing signatures, administering oaths and affirmations, verifying identity, certifying copies of documents, and much more. Notaries are especially important for documents concerning valuable assets, such as real estate or financial transactions. The credibility of such documents hinges upon the fidelity with which Notaries perform their duties.

This is why Notaries must be impartial, professional and exercise sound judgment when performing notarial acts. Notaries must be able to recognize when they are dealing with a fraudulent person or document and be able to stop them from defrauding others.

Many states authorize Notaries to perform a notarial act known as a “signature witnessing.” With this notarial act, you, the Notary, confirm that the individual appearing before you is who they claim to be and that the signature on the record is the signature of the individual. This function is particularly helpful in notarizing real estate documents such as deeds because it provides a layer of security that the owner is the property owner and has freely signed the document.

Another important function of Notaries is the notarization of affidavits. You are required by law to ensure that the person swearing in an affidavit is doing so willingly. You must also ensure that the person swearing is truthful. In addition, some affidavits require that the signers be personally present in your presence to positively identify themselves.

Notaries are now moving into the 21st century with remote online notarization, often called Webcam Notarization, e-Notarization, or Online Notarization. With this notarial act, the legal requirement that the signer appear in your presence is met by the use of audio-visual communication technology — like Facetime or Zoom. These platforms must meet the Department of State’s standards for approval.

The notary must still perform the same important duties of confirming the signer’s identity, leading them through the document, and observing them making each required signature or mark. Once all signatures are observed, the notary must seal the document and sign and date it with a custom stamp that includes your name, your commission expiration date, and the state in which you’re commissioned as a Notary.

Signing the Document

A notary is a public official commissioned by the state to perform a variety of official acts, including witnessing signatures and certifying documents. A notary public’s duties are to verify the identity of those signing a document, ensure they understand its contents, and that they are doing so freely. After witnessing the signature, the notary will add their seal and signature to the document as proof of their participation in the process. Documents that require notarization are often legally significant or involve transactions of substantial monetary value. They are often related to important life events like buying or selling a home, executing an advanced directive, or granting power of attorney to an ailing loved one.

There are more than 1 million notaries in the US, and they perform over 1.25 billion notarizations each year. For many people, access to a notary is vital to their everyday lives. Whether they’re applying for a mortgage, buying a car, or completing an advanced directive, the ability to sign these critical documents remotely can save time and money.

Traditionally, signers would meet with the notary to verify their identities in person. The notary would compare each signer’s photo ID or passport to a list of known, approved credentials. Notaries now can rely on remote identification verification (RON) technology, which uses an online system to analyze an image against public or proprietary databases for evidence that the credential is authentic and unaltered.

To use RON, notaries must be certified to do so by their state governments. This usually involves undergoing a background check and paying a fee. Notaries also have to obtain and keep a journal, which records their activities. Some notaries run their own businesses, while others are employed by organizations that frequently need to sign documents.

The RON process allows for greater efficiency and security by making it possible to verify identities and witness signatures from anywhere with an Internet connection. This is especially beneficial for those who lack reliable transportation, have non-traditional work schedules, or have health issues that prevent them from traveling to a notary’s office. It also helps mitigate the risk of fraud by allowing signers to prove their identity using advanced verification methods like knowledge-based authentication and third-party verification.


If you want to become a notary, you will need to satisfy your state’s requirements. These vary from one state to the next. You will usually need to be at least 18 years old and of sound mind. You may also need to complete notary training and pass a background check before you can get your commission. Your notary term will also be different from state to state, but most are four years.

As a notary, you must be able to verify the identity of people who sign legal documents. This is done through a variety of methods. For example, you might ask to see their state-issued ID card, or you might ask them to make a sworn statement that they are who they say they are. In some states, notaries can also use credible witnesses to verify someone’s identity when they don’t have an acceptable form of identification.

To perform a notarization, you need to have a journal to record your work. This is where you will write the information that you need to identify the signer. You will need to keep this in your sole possession, and it should be available for inspection during business hours. In addition, you need a special seal that is unique to your state.

Notaries must also meet certain standards when performing remote online notarizations. For example, if you are doing an online notarization, you will need to be able to interact with the document signer through audio-visual technology in real-time. You must also ensure that the platform you are using complies with New York’s standards for RON, and you must be able to verify the identity and location of the person in question.

Finally, you will need to follow all other rules and regulations for notarizations in your state. This includes being aware of any restrictions on the type of documents you can notarize or how many signatures you can witness at a time. You must also understand how to handle affidavits and other sworn statements. If you are unfamiliar with these documents, you should consider taking a course and an assessment to learn more.

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