A notary public serves as an impartial witness to the signing of documents, attests to the signature on documents, and administers oaths and affirmations [source: NJ Dept of Treasury]. He or she is expected to follow written rules without exercising personal discretion [source: National Notary Association]. What does it take to become a notary public?

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must be a resident of the state where you are applying, or have an official business or be a lawful alien in that state.
  • You must have a good moral character and reputation.
  • You must have a clean record. If you've ever been convicted of a felony or certain lesser offenses you cannot be a notary public.
  • You must be familiar with your state's notary law and may have to pass a state exam.
  • You must successfully complete all the application procedures.

Each state has its own requirements for becoming a notary. You'll have to satisfy any requirements set forth by your state before becoming a notary. For example, many states require notaries to be able to read, write and understand English. In several states, if you've been a notary, you can't have had your notary commission revoked for misconduct.

Once you are commissioned to become a notary public, you will have to take an oath of office. You will then be able to:

  • Administer oaths and affirmations
  • Take affidavits and depositions
  • Screen the signers of sensitive documents, like wills and property deeds
  • Ensure that signatures are obtained without intimidation or duress
  • Receive and certify proofs of deeds, mortgages and powers of attorney
  • Demand payment of bills of exchange and promissory notes [source: NY Division of Licensing Services]

A notary is an impartial servant who may never refuse to serve a person due to race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation or politics [source: National Notary Association].

Affixation of the notary's signature and seal of office on a document certifies the notarization. The seal is the universally recognized symbol of the Notary office. Its presence gives a notarized document considerable weight in legal matters and renders it genuine in a court of law [source: National Notary Association].