A Notary Public is a person appointed by a state official to serve the public as a disinterested witness, to take acknowledgments, administer oaths and affirmations, and to perform such other acts as allowed or required by law. The most important purpose of the Notary Public is to make sure that the person who signs a document is properly identified.
A Notary who is not an attorney cannot assist another person in drafting, completing, selecting, or understanding a document or transaction requiring a notarial act. As much as we want to help and provide good customer service, offering legal services without being a licensed attorney is an unauthorized practice of law.
There are certain services that Notaries are not allowed to offer customers:
Notaries may not choose the particular document a customer may need for a transaction
Notaries may not choose the type of notarization or certificate wording for a given document. The customer must decide.
Notaries may not prepare a document or give advice on how to fill out, draft or complete a document
Notaries may not provide legal advice or answer questions about a legal matter
As a Missouri Notary Public, the powers and responsibilities of a Notary are described in the Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 486. Notaries are also governed by The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility which promotes recognized standards of professional practice for Notaries Public of the United States to follow in performing notarial acts.
A Notary Public can explain what documents can be notarized and what notary actions can be taken with respect to the documents. Notaries can describe to signers the types of notarial acts and certificates, such as the difference between acknowledgments and jurats, the signer must always choose which act they want the Notary Public to perform. Notaries cannot choose for the signer.
The duties and responsibilities of a Notary Public are restricted only to the execution of proper notarial procedures. Signers are encouraged to ask the person who drafted the document, the receiving agency of a document, or an attorney if they have questions so they can receive proper instructions or advice.