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I am familiar with two forms of notary and three other forms that I would consider more or less as authentications.

The notary public is probably what you are most familiar with. Notaries are appointed and commissioned by the local probate judges and in addition to the application must be bonded for $25,000.00. The notary is reported to the Alabama Secretary of State to include the expiration. If you want to make sure that your notary is authentic, you can look them up on the Alabama Secretary of State web site.

Notary Publics, though commissioned by a county probate judge are able to perform their duties anywhere in the State of Alabama. A notary may :

1. Administer oaths; or

2. Attest and certify, by his/ her signature and official seal, certain classes of documents, in order to give them credit and authenticity; or

3. To take acknowledgments of deeds and other conveyances and certify the same; and

4. To perform certain official acts, usually in commercial matters, such as the protesting of notes and bills, the notice of foreign drafts, and marine protests in cases of damage.

Notaries are entitled to a fee of five dollars for each act that they perform though I have been familiar with notaries that charge much higher fees. If a notary performs an act knowingly after their commission has expired, it is a Class C Misdemeanor which can result in up to three (3) months in jail and no more than a five hundred dollar ($500) fine or no more than double what the victim lost or the defendant gained. Comparatively, taking a shopping cart from a store or not having a gun permit (when you have a gun concealed) is also a Class C Misdemeanor.

A second form is the Alabama Civil Law notary. A civil law notary must be an Alabama attorney having at least five years of experience. Application is made through the Alabama Secretary of State to which the Secretary of State is responsible for the appointment of a civil law notary.

In addition to being able to perform the same duties as a notary public, a civil law notary can also attest to facts of a transaction and signatures, or they may attest to the authenticity of a signature or a fact or contract of a private document (also called a brevet). They may also authenticate a narration of a finding or fact that influences the rights of private parties. The civil law notary must have personal knowledge of an authentic act, but because of the nature of such it does not constitute a contract. Such narrations are considered as “Minutes” and a civil law notary can with personal knowledge also correct minor errors in prior authentic acts or make additions to preserve a document, provide limited memorialization of domestic private documents and/ or the execution of foreign legal documents. A civil law notary cannot represent a party in an authentic act but must equally and accurately to advise the parties of the nature and legal consequences of the transaction.

The third form does not notarize an event but rather guarantees a signature in the transfer of securities and is done by a bank. It is called a medallion signature guarantee and not only does the bank guarantee a signature against forgery but it also accepts any liability for a forgery. Unlike a notary it does not suggest that the document was signed voluntarily nor even that there was proof of identity. The requirements of the bank to execute a medallion signature guarantee may vary from bank to bank.

The final two are authentications provided by the Alabama Secretary of State. A document to be authenticated for use in a foreign country must be an Alabama public document and may be a birth certificate, marriage certificate, marital status statement, articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws, certificate of merger, powers of attorney, diplomas, school transcripts, deed or an ABI background check. In countries that are parties to the Hague Convention (unlike members to the Hague Convention), an Apostille is used and the document must bear either the seal of a currently commissioned Alabama notary public, a probate judge or the Alabama State Registrar. If the authentication is to go to a country that is not a party to the Hague Convention then a Certification may be affixed to a document which has the signature and seal of a currently commissioned probate judge, circuit clerk or Alabama State Registrar. The documents also require a second county authentication of the notary commission, which is done by the probate judge. I have used an Apostille authentication in sending a legal document to a country that is a party to the Hague Convention and I found it to be a relatively easy and quick process.

There may be other notarial type positions that I am unfamiliar with but I hope that this expands your knowledge of avenues of proving, certifying or authenticating certain documents.

This article is informative only and not meant to be all inclusive. Additionally this article does not serve as legal advice to the reader and does not constitute an attorney- client relationship. The reader should seek counsel from their attorney should any questions exist.

"No representation is made that the quality of legal services performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyers."

Mailing address: Ronald A. Holtsford, Esq. • Ronald A. Holtsford, LLC • 7956 Vaughn Road, Box #124 • Montgomery, AL 36116

(334) 220-3700 •


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