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Notaries public in New York are commissioned by the Secretary of State of New York after passing a short examination in law and procedure. A notary's commission is received from and kept on file with the county clerk of the county in which they reside or do business, but notaries are empowered to actually perform their duties anywhere in the state.
Notaries must be residents of the state or have a business in the state. Attorneys at law may automatically be appointed notaries simply by submitting the filing fee. Someone who is a commissioner or inspector of elections may also be a notary. One designated employee of the county clerk may be appointed a notary without taking the test. A state legislator may also be a notary, without any conflict of interest. Since the passage of the Married women's property acts in the mid-19th century, a married woman can be a notary.
Certain persons cannot be licensed as a notary in New York. These include a non-citizen, someone who has neither a residence nor a business in New York, a person convicted of certain felonies, a person removed from office as notary or commissioner of deeds, and a convicted draft dodger. By a New York law that bars them from holding any other office, sheriffs may not be appointed notaries.
New York notaries are empowered to administer oaths and affirmations (including oaths of office), to take affidavits and depositions, to receive and certify acknowledgments or proof of deeds, mortgages and powers of attorney and other instruments in writing. Notaries may also demand acceptance or payment of foreign and inland bills of exchange, promissory notes and obligations in writing. Finally, they can witness the opening of a safe deposit box.
Notaries have no other powers: notably (as emphasized by official publications) they may not certify copies of documents (for instance, "I hereby certify that this is a true and correct copy...," is beyond the authority of a New York State notary). However, a notary may sign a form of affidavit on a copy where the document's custodian signs and swears to the authenticity of the document (usually a government issued picture ID). This can suffice as a "notarized copy" in most instances, but is not a certified copy. A notary cannot prepare legal documents, offer any advice, or review documents for legality (even offering an opinion as to whether a document needs notarization is considered to be "practicing law without a license" in New York); and they may not solemnize marriages. Further, a notary is not needed to witness a will: in New York, two witnesses, who do not need to be notaries, must attend the will signing ceremony and be able to attest to the mental competence of the testator. A notary may, however, notarize a self-proving affidavit signed by the maker of the will and the two witnesses, which will facilitate the proof of the will in probate.
New York does not require that notaries use an official seal or stamp - the embossed seal is now a decorative addition to a document rather than a requirement of law, and is itself insufficient for a notarization. New York notaries may write in black ink, or may stamp with a rubber stamp, the required information for notarization: their name; the words "Notary Public, State of New York"; the county in which they are qualified (that is, the county in which the county clerk holds their original certificate and signature card); the county which additional signature certificates are filed (done for convenience of authenticating their notarizations); the date that the notary's commission expires (commissions are renewed every four years); and, only if qualified in New York City (the counties of The Bronx, Richmond, Kings, Queens and New York) a registration number. This information, with the notary's signature and the date and place of notarization are required for a legal notarization.
John Doe Notary Public, State of New York Qualified in Bronx County No. 12345 My commission expires January 1, 20....
A typical layout for a notary's rubber stamp, for use beneath the notary's signature.
Notaries may charge fees (the maximum is $2), but many choose to waive them (for instance, for clients and customers of their other services; for example, many banks have notaries on duty to serve their depositors for free). Each county clerk also has a notary on duty in the clerk's office to serve the public at no charge.
New York has another official similar to a notary, a commissioner of deeds.