The following documents require particular attention from notaries:
Ohio Vehicle Titles
This document is very often completed incorrectly for private sales between individuals, resulting in the need (and expense) to obtain a duplicate title. Important points to remember:
Do not complete any of the spaces, or sign the title, until the notary is present. Any erasures or other alterations to the title WILL VOID IT!
Make certain the deal is going to be completed before executing the Assignment of Title. The buyer does not need to be present for the seller to complete the Assignment section; but, the seller must have the name and address of the buyer in order to complete the section and have their signature notarized.
Both the Assignment of Title and Application for Ownership sections are SWORN statements by the signers, that the information they are providing for the title transfer is truthful and correct. This includes the buyer’s name, the odometer reading, and the sales price. The two sections can be completed separately, but each signer must be ID’d, given an oath, and sign in the presence of the notary; the signature cannot be acknowledged days or weeks after it was executed.
The Assignment of Title signature(s) cannot be notarized with any blank spaces on the section.
Note that there is no such thing as an “open” title for a private sale. The seller cannot just sign over the title to the buyer, and have it notarized later. Again, the seller MUST appear, show ID, complete all spaces, be sworn, and sign before the notary. This is the reason the state requires notaries for this process – to prevent fraud. Otherwise, someone could steal a title document, forge a signature as the seller, and then acquire a new title. The only exception to this is if the signer has executed a Power of Attorney form permitting a third party to act and sign on his/her behalf. This POA form is available at all BMV locations or their website, and must also have a notarized signature.
Living Will and Health Care Power of Attorney
These two important documents go hand-in-hand, and everyone should have both of them. They are essential to conveying your wishes regarding your health care, and for designating a family member or other person of your choice to make health decisions on your behalf if you become unconscious or incapacitated.
These documents are readily available from the Ohio Department of Health website, senior citizen centers, county agency on aging, or the social services departments of most health care facilities. Please don’t wait until you’re already in the hospital, or very ill. If the notary cannot determine that you are aware of, and fully understand, what you are signing, the notarization cannot legally be completed. Get these documents completed BEFORE you need them, and have copies available whenever you enter a health facility. This provides you and your family the peace of mind of knowing your wishes will be followed.
General or Financial Power of Attorney
This is another very important document that permits a person/agent of your choice to handle your financial and personal affairs in your absence, or if you are unable to. These may include your bank accounts, securities, home mortgage, and other essential activities. A POA is a very powerful instrument that should be drawn up and executed with the utmost care and consideration. While there are generic forms available at local stores and on the internet, these may not necessarily be compliant with state or county requirements.
Always check with your financial institution to determine what format they will accept in the handling of and access to your accounts; they may also have their own POA form that they prefer you use. It is always best that this form be drawn up to your specific wishes by an attorney - it's well worth the cost to ensure it is done properly, and to avoid potentially unpleasant surprises later.
Again, Ohio law requires that the document signer is signing freely, without any coercion. If the notary is not satisfied that the signer is fully aware of the document content, and signing it freely, then the notarization cannot occur.
In Ohio, notaries are not permitted to directly certify, or affix a seal to, copies of documents, photographs, or anything else not involving a signature. However, the person providing the document copy can make a written statement attesting that the copy is a true reproduction of the original, and then have their signature notarized on that statement, which is then attached to the copy. The statement can also be made and signature notarized directly upon the copy if requested by the signer.
Please note that this does NOT include U.S. vital record certifications such as birth, death, marriage, or divorce. Certified copies of these documents can only be obtained from the county health department or court jurisdiction where they were originally filed. Additionally, copies of U.S. military IDs cannot be copied or certified.
Note that the signer must be asked which type of notarization they prefer, and the proper notarial certificate provided with the signer's statement.
Last Will & Testament
If a person dies without a will, the state will determine what happens to the assets they spent a lifetime building, and it may not be in the way they would have wanted. In Ohio, testator signatures on wills are NOT notarized. The signature(s) are witnessed (by two unrelated, and completely disinterested persons) rather than notarized, although the witness signatures may be notarized if requested.
These Homeland Security forms are frequently presented to notaries by Ohio residents who are employed by out-of-state companies, with a request to notarize them. The document does not contain a notary certificate; it asks that the person's ID documents be verified, and the employee also signs the certificate.
While a notary could notarize the signature by using a loose certificate, the company often asks the notary to sign a statement that the IDs were checked, and that the person has the legal right to work in the United States. While permitted in some states,the latter is not a notarial act in Ohio, and cannot be completed as a notary public. We cannot certify or affix a seal to anything, except a notary certificate accompanying a document signature.
You MAY sign as a third-party "Authorized Representative" of the company, if there is an accompanying letter permitting you to do so. But you should not sign an I-9 as a Notary Public, nor affix your seal to this document, or any accompanying document that asks you to certify as a notary public.
Help Is Available
In the Columbus area, if you have questions or need assistance with a Living Will, Power of Attorney, Last Will & Testament, or other legal documents, contact an attorney. The Capital University Legal Clinic at (614) 236-6245, and Legal Aid at (614) 224-8374 are also agencies you can turn to. Social Services staff at health care facilities may also be able to assist. Additionally, legal help statewide for those over 60 is available from ProSeniors at (800) 488-6070.
Check with your local senior citizens center or county agency on aging for additional resources, or if you have limited income. The Columbus Bar Association also operates a lawyer referral service if you don’t have an attorney. Similar agencies are available throughout Ohio.
Notarization of a signature does not make a document "legal"; it simply means the signer personally appeared to the notary, provided ID, was aware of the documents contents and signed the document freely, and was administered an oath/affirmation if required, in addition to the other required elements for notarization (see "Notarization Elements" tab).
Unless also an attorney, a notary public may not provide legal advice, or otherwise engage in the unauthorized practice of law (UPL).