There are over four million notaries public in the United States. Every state and territory has enacted legislation creating and empowering the office of notary public.
The notary is an appointed official who functions as an administrative agent of the state. The notary’s official duties are ministerial in nature: to act as an impartial witness and to authenticate documents by attaching the notary’s signed certificate. The notary is responsible for identifying the individual who is presenting the document for notarization, and for performing only the notarial acts the notary is empowered to perform according to law. Unless qualified as an attorney, a notary public may not give legal advice or otherwise engage in the unauthorized practice of law.
In most states, the secretary of state’s office functions as the “notary public administrator” or NPA, responsible for commissioning and overseeing the activities of the state’s notaries. Although the NPAs may have greater or lesser power to regulate and discipline notaries, it is the state legislatures that have the most control over the office of notary public.
It is not surprising, then, that there is considerable variation in notary laws from state to state, despite efforts to draft and promulgate uniform laws among the states. Most recently, the Uniform Law Commission and the American Bar Association approved the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) to respond to changes in society, commerce and technology over the last decade.
Organizations & Notary Associations
National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) – Notary Public Administrators Section
- NASS Reaffirms Support for the National Electronic Notarization Standards (July 2011)
- Issues and Trends in State Notary Regulation: NASS Report on State Notarization Policies and Practice (January 2011)
American Society of Notaries (ASN)
National Notary Association (NNA)
Pennsylvania Association of Notaries (PAN)