How to find a notary public
You never know when you'll need this service. Here's how to easily find one.
When I bought my house a few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of a notary public. In most capacities, a notary public is a “public official” given the right to administer oaths and affirmations. In many of the cases where you’ll need a notary public to “notarize” a document, they are there to affirm that the person signing the document is in fact the person who is supposed to be signing it.
When you get a document notarized, you provide proof of your identity, you sign the document in their presence, and then they sign and stamp the document, usually with a raised seal (depending on the state).
More recently, I had to get a notary to notarize my Pennsylvania claim form after I found some unclaimed property about a month ago (an old Best Buy rebate, I think). It was a little trickier than when I still worked at a company, but eventually I found one. Now I’m going to write it down so I don’t make the same mistakes again.
Where to find a notary public
Now that you know you need a notary, where should you go? Notary publics are not free but what they can charge is limited by state law -- usually a few dollars. (In Maryland, it’s $2.) That means the best option is the one that is easiest and most convenient because price isn’t a differentiator.
Your company. The cost of having someone certified to be a notary public is usually very small -- in Maryland, you are certified for four years and it costs $20 -- so administrative assistants in many companies are notaries. When I bought my house, I used a company notary to notarize the document. It’s by far the most convenient way to have a document notarized because you’re already at the office.
Your bank. Banks often have notaries to notarize financial documents. If they are not financial documents, chances are your bank will refuse on the basis that their insurance doesn’t cover it (which makes sense). When I was looking for a notary, I tried calling my local Bank of America branch and they refused because it wasn’t a financial document.
UPS Store. This is probably the easiest way to get a document notarized because almost every UPS Store owner is a notary. To confirm, go to UPS Store’s store locator to find a store near you. The listing will show you the products and services they offer, and “notary services” is usually listed under “Additional Products and Services,” but call and double check to save yourself a trip. Also, find out when the notary will be there because that person might be out sick or have stepped out.
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Yourself. Actually, you can’t notarize documents on your behalf. I added this because with the low cost of certification, you might be tempted to become a notary public. At least in Maryland, it’s explicitly stated that “notaries should refrain from performing any official acts for members of their immediate family or any acts where the notary is personally involved or may benefit from the outcome of the document.” It’s a simple conflict-of-interest issue.
Not a notary: medallion guarantee. If you see the words “medallion guarantee,” stop looking for a notary public because a notary will not be able to provide a medallion guarantee. A medallion guarantee is usually available only from a bank officer, though the process is not much different. This is usually used for financial instruments, like bonds, and the bank is guaranteeing that the person signing the document is who he says he is. Should the person forge a signature and the bank guarantees it, the bank is liable.
I had to get a medallion guarantee when I converted my paper Series I bonds into e-bonds. My recommendation is that you go to a bank you have an account with (call beforehand to ensure the person with the right to sign is available and present).
The next time you need a notary public, check to see if someone in your company is a notary. If not, head over to a UPS Store. I wouldn’t bother searching the Web or doing anything else to find a notary because it’ll only cause you headaches. My first reaction was to hit up a search engine. I e-mailed three or four local notary publics, and none of them replied. I walked into the UPS Store and was done in five minutes.
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