Notarized Letter

A notarized letter is a letter that has been certified by a notary public. A notary public is someone who is authorized to certify certain legal documents, such as deeds or contracts. A notarized letter is certified when a notary public adds his stamp or seal to the document, ensuring that the signature on the letter is authentic. To explore this concept, consider the following notarized letter definition.

Definition of Notarized Letter

Noun

  1. A letter that is made certified by a notary public.

Origin

1275-1325       Latin notārius

What is Notarization

Notarization is a process that is used to prevent fraud in written documents. A notary public is present for the signing of a letter, contract, deed, or some other such legal document to ensure that the parties who are signing the item are, in fact, who they claim to be. Notaries screen the parties by checking their identification, such as their driver’s licenses, before permitting them to sign the document.

The notary helps ensure that the parties to the transaction are not being pressured or intimidated into signing the document. It also prevents someone from presenting a legal document that has been forged by one party. For example, a notarized letter giving permission for the school to release a child to a daycare provider can be accepted by the school without fear that it is forged by someone who wants to abduct the child.

There are three things a notary screens for: identity, willingness, and awareness. Not only does this process help prevent document fraud, but it also protects the rights of citizens who might otherwise be exploited. This can happen when others believe them to be vulnerable, and then prey on that vulnerability in order to trick them into signing a document they may not otherwise sign. Not only do false transactions harm those involved, but it also causes a lot of work for the court system that can otherwise be avoided by having a notary certify these transactions.

Types of Notarial Acts

There are three types of notarial acts that can be used to certify a legal document. Those types of notarial acts are:

  • Acknowledgments – An acknowledgment is usually used for documents that have control over or transfer valuables. For example, a notarized letter that includes an acknowledgment may be used in transactions involving real property or trustees. For an acknowledgment, the signer must be physically present to sign the document, and must be able to declare (or “acknowledge”) that the signature on the document is his, that he willingly signed the document, and that the terms within the document are meant to be followed as written.
  • Jurats – A jurat is included on a legal document that can serve as evidence in litigation. An example of a notarized letter that may include a jurat is one that accompanies an affidavit made by one of the parties to a case. Like an acknowledgment, the signer must be physically present to sign the document. He also must speak aloud an oath or affirmation solemnly swearing that everything being presented in the document is the truth. Should he be found to be lying about the authenticity of the document, then the signer may be prosecuted for perjury later on.
  • Certified Copies – A copy certification, or certified copy of a document, is the confirmation that the reproduction of the original document is an exact and complete copy of the original document. An example of a notarized letter that may accompany a certified copy of a document is one that is included with a college degree or a passport. This type of notarization is not officially recognized in every state, and in some of those states where it is allowed, it may only be permitted if it accompanies a particular version of the original document.

Every state has its own laws when it comes to notarial acts, though the rules regarding notarial acts are pretty standard. Still, some of the laws dictating notarial acts are rather unusual. For instance, someone who performs marriage rites in the states of Maine, Florida, and South Carolina is actually performing a legally recognized notarial act.

How to Get a Notarized Letter

Having a letter or other document notarized is simply a matter of locating a notary public, and taking the document, with your valid photo ID, to sign in his or her presence. Notaries are employed by a wide variety of businesses. In fact, most banks will notarize a document for free, provided the person asking for the notarization is a member of the bank. If the person is not a member of the bank, he may be charged for the notary service, which is usually only a few dollars.

All one needs to do is present the document to the notary, show a valid form of photo identification, and then sign the document in front of the notary. The notary then witnesses the signature using an official stamp, writes in the date, and adds his own signature to the document. The notary also writes all of the information into his official notary journal, so that he could later testify to the validity of the notarization should need arise. In essence, having a document notarized is a third-party verification that the person signing the document is who he says he is.

Additional business that may also have notary publics available include:

  • Acknowledgments – An acknowledgment is usually used for documents that have control over or transfer valuables. For example, a notarized letter that includes an acknowledgment may be used in transactions involving real property or trustees. For an acknowledgment, the signer must be physically present to sign the document, and must be able to declare (or “acknowledge”) that the signature on the document is his, that he willingly signed the document, and that the terms within the document are meant to be followed as written.
  • Jurats – A jurat is included on a legal document that can serve as evidence in litigation. An example of a notarized letter that may include a jurat is one that accompanies an affidavit made by one of the parties to a case. Like an acknowledgment, the signer must be physically present to sign the document. He also must speak aloud an oath or affirmation solemnly swearing that everything being presented in the document is the truth. Should he be found to be lying about the authenticity of the document, then the signer may be prosecuted for perjury later on.
  • Certified Copies – A copy certification, or certified copy of a document, is the confirmation that the reproduction of the original document is an exact and complete copy of the original document. An example of a notarized letter that may accompany a certified copy of a document is one that is included with a college degree or a passport. This type of notarization is not officially recognized in every state, and in some of those states where it is allowed, it may only be permitted if it accompanies a particular version of the original document.

Another perhaps unexpected place in which one may find a notary public is at his local travel agency.

Penalties for Notary Misconduct

Because a notary’s sole purpose is to ensure that the person signing a document is, in fact, who he legally claims to be, there are serious penalties for notary misconduct. Here are a few examples of the kinds of crimes that a notary can commit, as well as the potential penalties for notary misconduct:

  • Issuing false certificates or acknowledgements – Notaries who issue false or backdated certificates or acknowledgments are guilty of a misdemeanor in most states, and a false acknowledgment can be considered forgery. Notaries who are guilty of this may be fined a hefty sum per incident, and have their notary commissions revoked. A notary’s commission is a legal certification that specifies the period of time during which the notary is permitted to act in such a capacity.
  • Failure to identify a credible witness – Notaries can be fined up to $10,000 per incident for failing to check a credible witness’ identification and confirm that the identification provided is indeed valid.
  • Asking a notary for an improper notarization – This is a misdemeanor that can be perpetrated by someone needing a notarization. If the request involves real property, however, the crime can be treated as significantly more serious. An improper notarization request is a request that involves a client being notarized with a different name, without being required to show ID, or with a false date. If this request is made of a notary, he or she is supposed to report that person to the Secretary of State.

Notarized Letter Example in a Wire Fraud Case

Henrik Sardariani of Glendale, California pleaded guilty in 2012 to five felony charges after admitting that he had defrauded money lenders out of over $5 million. He and his brother, Hamlet, apparently did this by fabricating legal documents and saying that he owned properties that he did not, in fact, own. The charges he pled guilty to included conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering, and he and his brother Hamlet were arrested in 2010 by special agents of the FBI and the IRS.

Sardariani admitted that he had created fraudulent property records to make it look like the prior loans on the property had been paid off, so that he could secure new loans on the property. The fraudulent documents in the case had contained fraudulent notary acknowledgements, created by the Sardarianis by cutting and pasting legitimate notarizations.

As a result of his false claims, Sardariani convinced money lenders to lend him over $5 million. In order to obtain one of the loans, he fraudulently used a house as collateral, then claimed to be the president of the company that owned the property the house was situated on. In order to support this lie, Sardariani actually created falsified corporate records, which he then presented to the lender.

Both of the Sardariani brothers pled guilty. While Henrik’s sentence involved a statutory maximum of 75 years in federal prison, he was ultimately sentenced to only 10 years in prison, fined $100,000, and ordered to pay $5.422 million in restitution to his victims.

Hamlet was sentenced to 78 months (6.5 years) for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, identity theft, tax evasion, and money laundering. Hamlet was unhappy with his sentence, and appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that his sentence was “unreasonable.” The Court disagreed, and affirmed his sentence as being rather reasonable, given the “amount of loss combined with the complexity of the offense.”

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Affidavit – A written statement made under oath, for use as evidence in court.
  • Power of Attorney – A legal document that gives someone the authority to act on another person’s behalf in all legal or financial matters.
  • Trustee – A person or entity nominated to manage assets set aside to benefit another .
  • Will – A legal document in which a person specifies who should receive his assets upon his death.

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