Notarize Blog
Bringing notarization into the modern era

Go Back April 14, 2016

Why we notarize documents

Many of life’s most important transactions must be notarized. Collectively, we notarize more than 1.25 billion documents per year. While that’s an enormous number of notarizations, some people only notarize a few documents in their lives and are unfamiliar with the purpose… they wonder: why does a stranger need to watch me sign a document?

Notarization serves three purposes:

  1. To ensure the person signing a document is properly identified
  2. To ensure the intended person signs the document under their own free will
  3. And, to ensure the transaction can be independently verified after the fact

Notarization is a system to prevent fraud and notary publics are front line officers in that battle.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a frequently notarized document. When executed, a POA gives someone the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. Many private wealth managers require a POA to manage your money. By requiring notarization, a financial institution can be certain their client actually signed the document under their own free will. And, as a consumer, you are also protected by notarization. Because someone must identify themselves when visiting a notary, it is an important safeguard to ensure someone cannot fraudulently grant power of attorney on your behalf. This same system ensures someone cannot purchase a home in your name or execute a will in your name… and it gives both financial institutions and government recording agencies confidence in the validity of documents.

A remote notarization with Notarize is a stronger form of notarization that improves upon each of the three principles listed above.

In an in-person notarization, a notary visually inspects a driver’s license to confirm identity. They can rely only on their own discerning eye. [They may also just claim to know the person, but that’s a conversation for another day.] Using Notarize, a customer must answer identity challenge questions, referred to as knowledge based authentication. They must also present a valid photo ID that must pass a forensic analysis. And, the notary must determine they are the same person as shown on the ID.

In an in-person notarization, a notary watches as someone signs. Similarly, in a remote notarization with Notarize, the notary observes as the person signs on their phone or desktop. Should the notary feel the customer is under duress or unable to sign the document for any reason, they may terminate the transaction immediately. Because they are remote, they are shielded from the pressures that can be placed on them in an in-person scenario and are better able to terminate a notarization.

The ability to verify a notarization after the fact is perhaps the most significant feature. In an in-person notarization, most states require a notary to maintain a paper journal. Should any institution need to verify the notarization, they must track down the notary and inspect this journal [assuming it is even available].  If they make it that far, the journal only has basic details like the person’s driver’s license number and street address. In a remote notarization with Notarize, the entire transaction is recorded. A digital audit trail is created that includes the photo ID provided, a video of the transaction, and metadata like the person’s location and device ID. Should a person ever try to claim they didn’t execute a document, an institution can now prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. But, equally important, should someone ever fraudulently execute a document in your name, you will now be able to definitively prove it wasn’t you.

At Notarize, we deeply believe in the principals of notarization. Yes, Notarize is ten times more convenient than traveling to meet a notary in person. It is also ten times more secure and verifiable, better ensuring that we can rely on the most important transactions of our lives.