Notaries are “ministerial” officials which means their duties are limited to the specific procedures established by their state law and they cannot exercise any individual judgment or discretion.
A “judicial” official, by contrast, is given broad discretionary authority by comparison.
It is considered Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) for a Notary to offer legal advice or draft documents for another person, unless they are also an attorney or a trained and credentialed expert in a relevent field.
A Notary may not even choose for the signer the type of notarial act to perform if the document does not contain notarial verbiage. The Notary must explain the difference between an Acknowledgment and a Jurat and allow the signer to select which notarial act they want or have them contact the originator of the document for guidance. If the signer has a question about a document, they must be referred to an attorney or the documents issuing or receiving agency for an answer.
Acts that Constitute the Practice of Law
- Preparation, drafting or selection or determination of any legal document
- Giving advice in relation to any legal document or matter
If a Notary is asked to perform such tasks, they should decline and refer the requester to an attorney. To do otherwise is considered Unauthorized Practice of Law (UPL) and grounds for civil and criminal penalties.
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