Making a document official usually requires a notary stamp. Whether signing real estate and loan documents or needing to prove, without a doubt, that the signature is authentic, hiring a notary is one way to do it. Each state has its own rules for notarized documents. In California, the secretary of state oversees the licensing of notaries and requirements for the documents.
The role of a notary public, generally referred to as "notary," is to ensure that the person signing a document is who he claims to be, is in his right mind, understands the contents of the document and that no undue pressure is present to sign it. To become a notary in California, you must live in the state, be at least 18 years old, complete a course and testing by the secretary of state and pass a background screening.
Part of the notary's certification process is to stamp a seal on the document being notarized. California rules require that this seal be kept under lock and key and the notary must take steps to secure it against theft or misuse. The seal is a rubber stamp;, though sometimes an embosser is used. It must be legible and dark enough to show up in a photocopy of the document. These stamps are custom made so that your name and notary identification number, the expiration date of your commission and the California county where your took your oath appear on it.
The identity of the signer is one of items that the notary is confirming when certifying a document. In California, those signing must appear in person before you, as online notarization of documents is not legal in the state. Proper identification must be presented to you before you can notarize a document. Examples of valid identification include a California Department of Motor Vehicles driver's license (or that issued by another state, Canada or Mexico), passport or an ID card from any state. In California, witnesses can be a replacement for the signer's ID. However, they must present their identification to you, instead of the signer. Some forms of ID that are not acceptable for notarizing a document in California are a Social Security card, birth certificate or credit card.
A California notary is required to keep a journal of all notarized documents in order of when they were certified. Just as the requirements for the seal, the journal should be kept secure at all times. The journal contains the date and time, the type of document notarized and ID used, the fee charged and the signature of each person requiring the notary stamp. If the document notarized is related to a real estate transaction or power of attorney, then each person whose signature was notarized must provide a print of their right thumb in the journal. The journal is your property and may not be shared with anyone, including another notary or your employer, even upon termination.