When you’re on a deadline to get some legal paperwork signed and delivered, having a Notary Public on speed dial can be super helpful.
Unfortunately, most of us struggle to find spare time to step outside the office and look for one locally.
As notarization is a fundamental part of the legal process, the USPS (United States Postal Service) does their best to make it as stress-free as possible.
In this post, we’ll answer all your questions about USPS notary including what notarization is, why you need it for your documents, how notary services work, and what are the requirements for your notary visit.
What is Notarization?
Notarization is the process of getting certain legal documents such as wills, contracts, trusts, deeds, and affidavits, signed, sealed, and witnessed by a licensed notary public to grant the document a legal effect.
The National Notary Association (NNA) defines notarization as “the official fraud-deterrent process that assures the parties of a transaction that a document is authentic and can be trusted.
Above all, notarization is the assurance by a duly appointed and impartial Notary Public that a document is authentic, that its signature is genuine, and that its signer acted without duress or intimidation, and intended the terms of the document to be in full force and effect.”
As such, the core value of notarization lies in the Notary’s unbiased confirmation of a signer’s identity, willingness, and awareness. This process consists of 3 parts -performed by a Notary Public- which are:
- Vetting – The Notary Public will review the presented document to ensure that it’s genuine.
- Certifying – The Notary Public will verify that the signer is, in fact, the same person named on the document. The Notary Public will also confirm that the signer understands the document and is signing of their own free will.
- Record-Keeping – All transactions witnessed by a Notary Public are registered into an official log with all the names and information of the parties who signed the notarized document.
Once the Notary Public has established these three steps, the documents will bear the Notary Public’s seal and signature then will be returned to the appropriate parties.
What is a Notary Public?
A Notary -also called a public Notary or a Notary Public- is a person who works as an official and impartial witness that’s usually needed to supervise the signing of important legal documents.
According to the NNA, “a Notary Public is an official of integrity appointed by the state government (typically by the secretary of state) to serve the public as an impartial witness in performing a variety of official fraud-deterrent acts related to the signing of important documents.”
A Notary’s duty is to screen the signers for their true identity, their willingness to sign without threatening or intimidation, and their awareness of the contents of the document.
Does the USPS have a Notary?
The shortcut answer is: no.
USPS is a federal institution that controls United States Post Offices, whereas Notary Public is a state service. Because the USPS is not able to offer notary services, so you won’t find a notary at your local post office.
That being said, US Post Office locations often contracted with private businesses within the same building to provide notarization services. So, if you go to your public post office to have some documents notarized, the Notary Public would not be employed by the USPS.
Moreover, not every USPS location offers this service, so be sure to call ahead before paying them a visit.
Where can People Find a Notary?
There are many places that offer notarization services, but the most convenient one is a public bank. In fact, nearly all banks will offer a notarization service to their customers for a small charge.
However, banks will refuse to notarize certain documents, in which case you must visit another place (such as the UPS store) to have their notary public perform the service. A quick internet search and a call to the business to ask if they perform the type of notarization service you need is the best way to find a Notary Public in your area.
Other public places that offer notarization services include libraries, universities, AAA locations, law firms, accounting offices, and private shipping stores such as UPS.
Do People have to Pay for Notarization?
Often than not, a company or business will require a fee in exchange for performing notarization services.
If you know someone who performs this service, they may do it for free of charge. But, you need to make sure this person up to date and licensed currently to avoid any issues later on regarding document authenticity.
Generally speaking, you’ll have to pay a fee of around $10 to $30 for notarization services depending on the state.
What are the Documents Required for Your Notary Visit?
To make sure the notarization process goes smoothly, don’t forget to bring the following items along for your visit:
- Your valid, government-issued photo ID or driver’s license. The Notary Public will use this document to verify your identity before you can sign the documents to be notarized.
If you don’t have either of these documents, you should call to find out if they accept any alternatives or inquire about getting the paperwork you need for notarization.
- The document to be notarized. Make sure you bring the unsigned original version.
- The notarization fee.
- When applicable, a witness. In some cases, a witness is legally required to be present at the time of signing. Although some USPS locations will have staff available to serve as witnesses, it’s not always guaranteed. So, bring your own witness to stay on the safe side.
How does a Notary Work?
Not all documents that require signing require overseeing by a notary, some are legally binding on their own. However, for the documents that need notarization, here’s how you use the services of a Notary Public:
- Locate a Notary Public in your area.
- Get your legal documents and make sure you fill them out properly and completely, except for the required signatures.
- Bring along documents that validate your identity and present them to the Notary Public when it’s time for signing. An identity verification could be a government-issued license, passport, or birth certificate. (Note that validating your identity is at the discretion of the Notary Public, so you must present proper identification.)
- Sign the document in front of the Notary Public.
- The Notary Public will then sign the document and stamp it as a seal of approval.
- Pay the notary fee for the service.
Notary services are necessary for various situations including student registration, large ticket purchases, and rental agreements. Knowing the place of Notary Public and the types of notarization services they can perform is important to ensure proper and quick legal execution.