What exactly is a notary public?
A notary public comes from a long tradition of scribes. Back when only the elite were literate, a scribe filled the important duty of reading and writing for the masses. Now that an education is free for all, this has specialized into the notary. Any person who is approved for a state notary license can claim the title. Duties can include witnessing legal proceedings, validating document copies and swearing in public officials. (These and other duties may vary by state.) The main use, however, is certifying signatures on documents as authentic.
A person utilizing a notary in this manner must present identification and sign the document in his or her presence. The notary will either stamp, sign and date the document itself, or a certificate they attach, using an embossed or ink stamp with their name and license information.
In order to qualify as a notary public, a person must apply and pay for a license, obtain a notary bond (insurance, usually through the licensing agency), supply character recommendations from fellow notaries and sign an oath. Once approved, the most common length of term is 4 years. Again, specific requirements may vary by state.
If the life of a notary appeals to you, there are a number of ways you can begin. Go straight through your state’s Department of Licensing site (in Washington, the application can be found HERE, or choose a full service company to walk you through the steps and fulfill the other obligations such as creating a notary stamp and securing a bond (such as LMI Notary).
Finally, check online for further information. The American Society of Notaries has some good resources, such as notary requirements by state.