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NC SOS

Dealing with Notaries & Notarial Acts



Lawyers as Notaries

Practice Tip: If you are an attorney, YOU can be commissioned as Notary Public. To become commissioned as a Notary Public, an attorney must:
  • Complete the application form: Notary Forms
  • Purchase a copy of the current edition of the Notary Guidebook. You can:
  • Order it online at UNC School Of Government
    Email School of Government
    Write to: School of Government,
    UNC Chapel Hill, CB #3330, Knapp-Sanders
    Building, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3330;
    Call 919-966-4119; or
    Contact a bookstore in your area or a local community college.
  • Submit the completed application with the required fee to us.
Practice Tip: It is not required that attorneys take the Notary Public course before being commissioned as a Notary Public. It is, however, STRONGLY RECOMMENDED that attorneys take the Notary Public course. Taking the course is the easiest way to ensure that you understand and comply with the Notary Act.

Practice Tip: If you are commissioned as a Notary Public, keep a notary journal. The reason is that in many instances, a notary journal has protected a Notary Public from allegations of fraud or other misconduct.

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Finding a Notary

Practice Tip: If you are not a notary and need a notary, you can use our Find a Notary search to find a notary in any part of North Carolina. Click here to go to Find A Notary.

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Identification Requirement

Practice Tip: Never ask a Notary Public to perform a notarial act for a person without the notary being able to verify that person’s identity through personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of identity. The reason is that a Notary Public may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act without verifying the identity of the person whose signature is being notarized. That could mean either administrative penalties for the notary or criminal penalties. In addition, you may commit a crime if you knowingly solicit, coerce, or in a material way influence a notary to commit official misconduct. G.S. § 10B-60(j).

Practice Tip: If a notary does not know the person for whom you are asking for a notarial act, consider including “bring an ID” in your instructions to the person. Remember that the Notary Act limits the acceptable IDs. G.S. § 10B-3(22). The reason is that a Notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act for a person without verifying their identity through personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of identity.

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Personal Appearance Practice Tips

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document without the principal appearing in person before the notary. There is one limited exception when the appearance of an individual other than the principal is allowed - for a verification or proof as defined in G.S. § 10B-3(28). The reason is that a Notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act without the personal appearance of the person. That could mean either administrative penalties for the notary or criminal penalties. In addition, you may commit a crime if you knowingly solicit, coerce, or in a material way influence a notary to commit official misconduct. G.S. § 10B-60(j).

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document for someone who is not present because you (or the Notary) think you recognize the signature. The reason is that a Notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act without the personal appearance of the person.

Practice Tip: Plan ahead. Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document for someone who is on the telephone or visible over the Internet by the Notary. The reason is that a Notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act without the personal appearance of the person. “Personal appearance” before the notary means just that – being in the same room at the same time.

Practice Tip: Plan ahead. Do not ask a Notary Public to administer the oath to a witness in a video deposition where the witness is not in the room with the Notary (being on the video screen does not count). The reason is that a Notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she performs a notarial act without the personal appearance of the person. “Personal appearance” before the notary means just that – being in the same room at the same time.

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Document Practice Tips

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to certify that something is a true copy of a document. The reason is that certifying true copies is not something North Carolina law allows notaries public to do. North Carolina law allows notaries to do the acts specified in G.S. § 10B-20. The notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she certifies a true copy of a document. That could mean either administrative penalties for the notary or criminal penalties. In addition, you may commit a crime if you knowingly solicit, coerce, or in a material way influence a notary to commit official misconduct. G.S. § 10B-60(j).

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to make any changes or alterations to a document’s text. The reason is that making changes to a document’s contents is not something North Carolina law allows notaries public to do. North Carolina law allows notaries to do the acts specified in G.S. § 10B-20. The notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she makes such changes.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize, certify or authenticate a photograph. You can ask a notary to notarize an affidavit regarding and attached to a photograph. The reason is that notarizing, certifying or authenticating photographs is not something North Carolina law allows notaries public to do. North Carolina law allows notaries to do the acts specified in G.S. § 10B-20. The notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she notarizes, certifies or authenticates a photograph.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public who is not also a licensed North Carolina attorney to help someone draft, select, complete, or understand a document or transaction requiring a notarial act. The reason is that non-attorney notaries may not take such actions. The notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she does one of these things.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document that does not contain any notarial wording. The reason is that the notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she notarizes a document without notarial wording.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document while they are outside the State of North Carolina. The reason is that the notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she notarizes a document outside the State of North Carolina.

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Notarial Certificate Practice Tips

Practice Tip: If you are asked to review a document or form with a space for a Notary Certificate, please be sure to ask them to leave enough room for a complete and proper Notary Certificate.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize something with blanks in the notarial certificate. See exception in G.S. § 47-43 (re power of attorney). The Notary should fill in all applicable spaces on the notary certificate with the appropriate information. The reason is that the notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she notarizes a document with blanks in the notarial certificate.

Practice Tip: Unless the Notary Public is also a licensed NC attorney, do not ask a notary to pick the form of the notarial certificate. However, a non-attorney Notary can offer a selection of notarial certificates (but not pick or recommend which one to use). The reason is that a non-attorney notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she picks the form of notarial certificate.

Practice Tip: Do not ask a Notary Public to notarize a document using a notarial certificate in another language. Notaries must use certificates written in the English language. The document can be in another language but the notary certificate must be written in English. The reason is that a non-attorney notary may be found guilty of misconduct if he or she does such a notarization.

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Supervising Notaries

Practice Tip: Even if you are a lawyer but not a Notary Public, you should be aware of what North Carolina notaries can and cannot do. You are not only responsible for supervision of staff under State Bar rules, but in some circumstances, knowingly instructing a notary to commit misconduct may subject you to criminal prosecution.

Practice Tip: Ensure that your employees who are notaries keep journals. If they do not, remind them of their statutory responsibility to protect citizens against fraud and forgery and if they are not keeping a journal they are not doing all they can do to fulfill this statutory requirement.

Practice Tip: A notary’s stamp or seal belongs to him or her, even if you pay for it. Do not try to access, use or keep a notary’s stamp or seal (unless it is yours, of course).

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Deposition Practice Tip:

Court reporters who are notaries public have to positively identify witnesses in a deposition before they can swear in the witnesses. Therefore, most witnesses will need to bring picture ID with them to the deposition (see below for alternatives). Therefore, adding “bring a picture ID to the deposition” to your deposition instructions for witnesses may be helpful.

The picture ID has to be:
  • A current document issued by a federal, state, or federal or state-recognized tribal government agency,
  • Have the photographic image of the person’s face, and
  • Either the signature or physical description of the individual.
Alternatively, the witness-deponent may be identified by personal knowledge if:
  • The court reporter-notary personally knows him or her, or
  • If an impartial credible witness who is personally known to both the notary and the principal swears or affirms the principal has the identity claimed.
Note: the terms “credible witness” and “personal knowledge” are defined in the Notary Act. (G.S. §§ 10B-3(5), 10B-3 (17))

The reason is that administering an oath is an official notarial act in which a notary must positively identify the affiant. Failure to do so is a clear violation of the Notary Act and could result in the notary being found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. G.S. §§ 10B-60(c)(3). Additionally, anyone found to have coerced or solicited the notary to commit notary misconduct could be found guilty as an aider and abettor and would be subject to the same level of punishment as the notary. G.S. §§ 10B-60(j). In addition, such actions by an attorney may constitute a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, leading to disciplinary action by the NC State Bar.

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Improper Notarization

Practice Tip: If you encounter what you believe to be an improper notarization, please refer it to the Secretary of State so we can investigate:
  • Complete the Notary Complaint Form , or
  • Contact the Notary Enforcement Section at:
    The Notary Public Section
    North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State
    P.O. Box 29626
    Raleigh, North Carolina 27626-0626
    Email Notary Enforcement Section
    Phone Number: 919-814-5400.

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