As we will see later, this description does not cover 100% of the notary duties, but the underlying principle remains in that notaries are public servants whose important and careful actions provide an essential layer of protection for the general public.
For example, suppose someone signed a Grant Deed transferring property from one person to another, but years later the signer granting the property claims that the signature on the Grant Deed is not his and the property was never legally transferred! How could the new owner prove that indeed the signature on the Grant Deed was legitimate? In situations such as these, requiring that such documents undergo notarial standards prior to recording, two important goals are accomplished: 1) such a procedure makes it more difficult to engage in fraudulent transactions since personal identifying information is gathered from the signer at the time of notarization and 2) since the notary retains a formal record of all notarized acts performed, the legal system has concrete evidence to offer should the need arise.
Furthermore, notaries act as an “impartial witness” to the signing of important documents; consequently, the notary may never notarize a document in which they have a direct financial or beneficial interest. In other words, if the notary is named within the document as a principal, or if the notary could directly benefit personally or financially from the signing of the document, that notary may not notarize that document.
Consequently, notarizing documents for a spouse or relative might even be illegal if the document notarized could have a direct beneficial or financial interest to the notary. Notaries in community property states such as California should exercise extreme caution when notarizing documents for a spouse. For instance, if the spouse is requiring a notarized signature on a pension benefit document, you can easily see that the notary would have a direct financial interest in the document being notarized, even though he or she is not named in the document.