In Michigan, a notary public is an individual commissioned by the Secretary of State to serve as an unbiased and impartial person who’s most common function is to certify an individual’s identity and witness their signature.
While it is common knowledge that a notary public is not allowed to provide legal advice, what constitutes “legal advice” may surprise some individuals, including notaries themselves. Listed below are common things that are considered legal advice, or the “unauthorized practice of law”:
- Preparing or assisting in the preparation of any legal documents, including but not limited to a Will or a Power of Attorney or other similar documents
- Telling individuals what type of documents are needed to perform a certain task
- Advising an individual as to what type of notarial wording or certificate is needed (acknowledgment, jurat or signature witnessing)
- Explain documents in detail
- Issuing a certified copy of an original document
- Performing a marriage
The exception to the above rules would be an individual specifically trained or licensed in a specific field (real estate, escrow, officiant, etc.) or paralegal under the guidance of a licensed attorney.
A notary must always be very careful, especially when they notarize the same type of documents over and over that they do not slip and give more information than what is required (which could be construed as legal advice). Always refer the individual with questions back to the individual or agency that prepared the documents, or suggest they confer with a professional or do some research on their own.
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