Notarization does not guarantee that the information on a document is accurate or legal. The signer is responsible for the content of the document. The Notary Public certifies the signer’s identity. The notary will certify a signer’s identity by checking a valid identifying document containing a photo, physical description, and signature. Government issued photo IDs, such as driver’s licenses, state ID cards, passports, U.S. military IDs, and inmate IDs are sufficient for certification. Social Security cards, birth certificates, credit cards, immigration cards, and temporary driver’s licenses are not suitable for identification.
If a signer does not have a valid photo ID (valid driver’s license, military ID, State-issued ID), then he or she will need two people present who will swear to his or her identity in order to be certified. The oath of a certifying witness is satisfactory evidence for certification.
In order for a Louisiana notary to issue acknowledgement, it is not necessary for the document to be signed in his or her presence. However, the signer must still appear before the notary at the time of the acknowledgement to swear he or she freely signed for the purposes stated in the document under his or her own will. Some services require the document actually be signed in the notary’s presence., such as jurats. A jurat requires the wording “subscribed and sworn to” on the document just above where the Notary Public signs his or her name.
People who cannot sign their name due to illiteracy or disability can use a mark as a signature as long as a notary and two other impartial witnesses are present. A document can be notarized when the signer is hospitalized or in a care home facility, but the notary must make every effort to ensure that the signer is not incapacitated and that they understand what they are signing.
Not every document can be notarized. For one to be notarized, it must contain: (1) language committing the signer in some way; (2) an original signature from the document signer; (3) a notarial certificate, which can appear in the document itself or in an attachment.
Notarization is required for some legal documents, such as real estate deeds, certain affidavits, and others that are not binding without notarization.
A Louisiana notary cannot certify a copy of a birth or death certificate. Should you need a copy for someone who was born in the U.S., you should contact the State Bureau of Vital Statistics or the parish Clerk’s office in the parish where the person was born. For foreign birth certificates, you should contact the consulate of the country in which the person was born.
A Louisiana notary public cannot prepare or file another person’s immigration papers unless he or she is an attorney or an “accredited representative” approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. Some clerical work on the documents can be done by non-attorneys, but the law suggests it’s is best to have an attorney help with that.
Notaries in Louisiana cannot certify a copy of a passport or driver’s license.
A notary can draft legal documents but cannot give legal advice.
A notary in Louisiana can list two signers on one notarial certificate as long as they appear before him or her at the same time.
Faxes and photocopies can be notarized, but only when the document bears an original signature.
Undated documents can be notarized. If the document has a space for a date, it should either be filled in or marked through. If the document does not have a space for a date, it is permissible for the signer to date it next to his or her signature or mark. State law is very clear that “back dating” is illegal.
Louisiana notaries should refuse service when they suspect fraud or are uncertain of a signer’s identity, willingness, or competence. Notaries should never refuse service on the basis of race, religion, nationality, lifestyle, or because the signer is not a client.