A notary should not notarize a will unless an attorney recommended that the will should be notarized. There are some wills that will be nullified simply by the notarization. If a client comes in and request that a will be notarized, you should decline unless the client informs you that an attorney requested the will to be notarized. You might want to request the name and phone number of the attorney for verification and be sure to record all of that information in your journal.
Certification of documents
A notary may not certify copies of birth, death, marriage records, etc. Remember from our earlier discussion that the only document a notary may certify is a copy of a power of attorney and a copy of record(s) from his or her notary journal.
We do not notarize photographs or copies of documents such as academic records, birth certificates or any document which does not have a place for a person to sign.. If the photograph or academic record is attached to a statement indicating, for example, that the attached document is a true and correct copy of the original, the notary can notarize that statement upon the oath and signature of the declarant. In such an example, the notary is not notarizing the photograph or the document reproduction.
Translation of Notary Public into Spanish
A notary may not translate the term “Notary Public” into the following Spanish terms: notario público or notario. In addition, if a notary advertises their services in another language other than English, the notary must also post along with that advertisement, the following statement in English and the other language:
“I am not an attorney and, therefore, cannot give legal advice about immigration matters or any other legal matters”.
The notary must also post their fees which cannot exceed the legal fees for their services. See the next chapter for a discussion of fees.
Violation of this requirement may be cause for the Secretary of State to suspend the Notary commission for not less than 1 year on the first offense and the commission will be revoked permanently on the second offence.
You can see that the reason for this law is so your Spanish-speaking clients will not presume that you carry the same legal authority as notaries in their mother county.
Immigration Specialists or Consultant
A notary may not advertise in any manner whatsoever that he or she is a notary if the notary promotes himself or herself as an immigration specialist or consultant. This again is to help eliminate confusion concerning the differences between the limited duties of a notary public in California versus duties of a notary public in other countries.
Another point about immigration consultants is that while a notary may notarize immigration forms, only a person who is qualified and bonded as an immigration consultant under the Business and Professions Code may assist the client in completing immigration forms.
As a notary, you may receive requests from the public to certify a translation. A notary is not allowed to certify a translation; however, a notary may notarize the signature statement of the translator indicating that the translation was performed accurately, but be very careful that you do not give the impression that you are certifying the translation.
A notary may not falsify any information including dates on the document to be notarized. Sometimes a client will ask you to backdate an acknowledgment or jurat but it is illegal to comply with this request. A notary may never notarize a document containing information known to the notary to be false. Doing so may result in a charge of a misdemeanor and if the document is a Deed of Trust or any other document which encumbers the signer into the property, you may be guilty of a felony.
Unlike some other states, California notaries do not perform marriages. However, when a couple wishes to be married through a Confidential Marriage, a notary, under the following conditions may authorize the confidential marriage. A Confidential Marriage is most often issued for persons who do not wish their record of marriage to be public knowledge. These records are sealed to everyone except the bride and groom or upon court order. If a notary wishes to authorize a confidential marriage, he or she must contact the County Clerk and request approval. As a condition of approval, the notary must attend a class offered upon arrangement with the County Clerk and any license issued for this reason is valid for 90 days and may only be used in the county in which it was issued which also must be the county in which the notary resides. The notary would complete a jurat in this case indicating that the parties personally appeared before the notary, signed before the notary and that the notary administered an oath or affirmation to the signers. The notary authorizing the confidential marriage is not necessarily the official who performs the marriage. A notary wishing to perform the marriage must be a member of the clergy or other official normally permitted to officiate marriages. Approval may be revoked by the County Clerk if the notary does not follow required procedures or otherwise violates notary law.
Utilizing interpreters is prohibited
Although very often violated in practice, it is an absolute legal requirement that the notary be able to speak the language of the signer. If a person signing a document cannot communicate to the notary in a language that the notary understands, the notary must refuse to notarize that document. The signer should be directed, if possible, to another notary who does speak their language. Utilizing an interpreter brought in by the client is not allowed since that interpreter might have ulterior motives and render an inaccurate translation or something may be lost in the translation itself.
A notary may not charge more than the prescribed fees for their services. These fees are discussed in the next chapter.
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