Even if you do not own a business, you may have already visited a notary public before – paid a small fee, showed ID, and signed a document in front of him/her. The notary added a stamp and his/her initials to your paper, and that was it. Seems simple and almost unnecessary, right? Simple, yes. But far from unnecessary, especially when your business and money are involved.
The Who and What
A notary public is an unbiased additional witness to two things: that the document in question was signed AND that all parties involved are who they say they are. For only a few bucks, you can walk away with the assurance that someone with a substantial level of legal authority has verified the signature of your document.
When should you use a notary? Are you signing a business or sales contract? If yes, then consider a notary. Have you loaned money to a friend/family member/business? If yes, then after creating a Promissory Note, your next step should be to notarize the signatures. Are you hiring or being hired as an independent contractor? If you do not already have a written Independent Contractor Agreement, do that first and then have it notarized.
If you are writing a Last Will and Testament, you are likely required to sign this document before a notary. But if not – do it anyway. If you and the other party in the agreement live in different locations, you can still verify the signatures through a local notary.
Why do you need to use a notary if the law does not require it? Because it can save you time, money, and frustration.
Consider this: a “horror” story from an attorney about the more than 15 days he and his client spent in negotiations just to prove whether or not the signature on an IOU was legitimate. Imagine wasting half of a month of your life trying to prove that the person who signed a contract with you actually signed the contract. How could you possibly avoid this insanity? Two words: Notary Public.
The Fine Print
While a notary can be a fairly powerful legal tool for you and your business, they are only meant to be witnesses – not document preparers or legal counsel. A notary public will neither prepare your contract for you nor will he/she provide you with any advice (other than where to sign).
Even if the law does not require that your contract/agreement/document be notarized, you would still be wise to make use of this service. As the popular saying goes – better safe than sorry.