Do I Have to Notarize a Contract?

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In your financial dealings, you may encounter the requirement that a particular contract or document be notarized. To meet the requirement, you must find someone who is registered as a notary public and sign the document in front of that person. Not all contracts must be notarized to be legal, however.

What is a Notary Public?

A notary public is an official granted powers by the state to officiate certain contracts, disputes and oaths. In the field of contract law, a notary public witnesses the signatures of the parties and attests to the identity of the signors. In certain contracts, the signors must also swear an oath that the information in the document is true and has been provided without coercion. The notary signs the document and gives it an official seal or stamp to show that the document has been notarized. A notary public does not have the official ability to dispense legal advice or to officiate any other types of events or occasions.

What Does a Notary Signature Do?

At a minimum, the signature of a notary on a contract declares that the notary public has seen personal identification for the signors and attests that they are who they say they are. Indirectly, a notary signature also attests to the fact that the signors entered into the contract willingly and have the mental and legal capacity to do so. If a notary signature appears on an oath, it signifies that the oath was sworn by the person signing it and that the signor believes it to be true and accurate.

What Kind of Contracts Must Be Notarized?

Not all contracts must be notarized to be legal. Some contracts stipulate that a notary must witness and attest to the signatures. Most business contracts do not require notaries, nor do court petitions and motions. In most states, notaries are not required for divorce petitions. Each state dictates which contracts require a notary public to be present at the signing. Most states require notaries during real estate contract execution, as well as for adoptions, wills and the release of medical liability documents.

What Are the Requirements to Make a Contract Legal?

To be legally enforceable, a contract requires certain elements, even if it does not require a notary's signature. There must be both an offer an an acceptance. One party is offering to enter into the contract and the other is accepting its terms. The terms must also be present and spelled out clearly. Both parties must be legally able to enter into a contract. This generally means they must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind. Minors can enter into contracts but have the legal ability to get out of the contract. Therefore, many parties will not contract with a minor. The final requirement for a legal contract is the signatures of both parties that signal agreement to all terms of the deal.

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