I am required to use a notary public when signing some papers. What is a notary public and why do I need one?

Definition of Notary Public:

The definition of a notary public, as defined in Black's Law Dictionary, is as follows:

"A public officer whose function it is to administer oaths; to attest and certify, by his hand and official seal, certain classes of documents, in order to give them credit and authenticity."

Purpose of a Notary Public:

Many documents, including real estate transactions and legal other documents to be filed, for example, with a county auditor's office or a county clerk's office, require the signatures to be "notarized" (witnessed) by a notary public.  The notary public, as part of his or her oath in being granted this title, must require proper identification when witnessing a signature. Therefore, a notary's seal (or stamp) on a document is accepted as proof that the person identified in the document is actually the person whose signature appears on the document.

How to Find a Notary Public:

Most banks (including credit unions, savings banks, and mortgage companies), title insurance companies, county clerk offices, and law offices have a notary public on staff. Other businesses also offer notary services, such as mail and shipping outlets. Individuals also offer notary services. You can call such an office, business, or individual close to you to verify there is a notary present before going there.

The Washington State Department of Licensing offers a License Query System to locate people or businesses holding a certain type of license in Washington.  To search for a notary public, select Notaries from the License Type drop-down box.

The Web site www.local.com can be used to search for a notary public in your area. In the search box for "Business and Services", type notary, or notary public. In the search box for "ZIP, City & State, Street Address," enter your Zip Code or your City, State. (You can also enter your street address to narrow the search even further.) Then click the Local Search button.

Some notaries charge a nominal fee for their services; others do not. 

Additional Information About Notaries Public:

The Notaries Public page of the Washington State Department of Licensing Web site includes more information about Notaries Public, including:

  • How to become a notary public.
  • Fees.
  • Frequently asked questions.

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