A Florida notary is appointed by the Florida Governor. The Governor also has the authority to reject notary applications and suspend or revoke a notary commission. Florida notaries are governed by Florida notary statute Chapter 117. Before you become a notary public in Florida, you should familiarize yourself with a notary’s authorized duties outlined in the Florida Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries.
Whenever a Florida notary notarizes a signature, they are required to perform one of two official notarial acts:
- Taking an acknowledgment from the document signer
- Administering an oath (or affirmation) to the document signer
When performing a notarial act, look for the key words “acknowledged” (for an acknowledgement) or “sworn to” (for an oath) in the notarial certificate to determine which of these two acts to perform. Whichever of these two notarial acts you perform after you become a notary in Florida, you must positively identify the signer. You may do so using an acceptable government-issued photo ID (such as a U.S. passport or Florida driver’s license), using the “personally known” identification method (that is, you know the signer well enough to be certain of his or her identity), or using the oath of a credible witness (who is either personally known to you or whom you positively identify).
Florida notaries public also have the authority to:
- Attest to photocopies of certain documents
- Certify the contents of safe deposit boxes
In addition to these four duties, a notary public in Florida has two uncommon notarial powers that are not often granted to notaries in other states:
- Solemnizing marriage
- Verifying vehicle identification numbers (VINs)
Each of these six authorized notary duties will be outlined in more detail in the course of this article.
One of the most common notarial acts performed by Florida notaries public is the taking of acknowledgements. To perform this duty faithfully as a notary, you must ensure that:
- The signer appears personally before you.
- You positively identify the signer.
- The signer declares that he or she has signed the document voluntarily.
- The signer understands the document and has not been coerced into signing.
- You complete a proper notarial certificate indicating an acknowledgement was taken.
In an acknowledgement act, it is not necessary that the signer actually sign the document in your presence. The document could have been signed two minutes, two days, or two years ago. The important thing is that the signer acknowledges their signature on the document. You may wish to ask the signer, “Do you acknowledge that this is your signature and that you are executing this document of your own free will?” If you have any question about the signer’s willingness to sign or understanding of the document, you should decline to perform the notarization.
A variety of documents may require an acknowledgement, including:
- Powers of Attorney
Administering Oaths and Affirmations
When a signer is required to make a sworn statement about certain facts, a Florida notary public administers an oath or affirmation. The difference between an oath and affirmation is that an oath makes reference to a deity while an affirmation does not, but both have the same legal weight.
To perform this duty as a Florida notary public, you must ensure that:
The signer personally appears before you and signs the document in your presence.
You ask the signer, “Do you affirm [or solemnly swear] that the information contained in this document is true [so help you God]?”
You complete a proper notarial certificate indicating that an oath or affirmation was taken.
Common types of oaths include:
Attesting to Photocopies of Certain Documents
A notary public in Florida is authorized to attest to the trueness of photocopies of certain documents. (Florida notary law calls this “attesting to” copies not “certifying” copies.) A Florida notary can only attest to photocopies of documents that meet the following criteria found in Section 117.05(12) of the Florida Statutes:
- The document is an original document (not a photocopy or a certified copy).
- The document is not a public record. If the document is a public record, the individual should obtain a certified copy from the appropriate public official. For example, certified copies of birth and death certificates may be obtained from the Florida Department of Health, and certified copies of transcripts may be obtained from educational institutions.
In order to attest to a photocopy, a Florida notary public must:
- Supervise the making of the photocopy. This is easiest to do if you make the photocopy yourself.
- Complete a notarial certificate that is typed, stamped, or written on the front or back of the photocopy or attached as a separate page.
Some documents that can be photocopied from the original and attested to by a notary include:
- A Florida driver's license
- A diploma
- Medical records
- A bill of sale
- A contract or lease
- A personal letter
Certifying the Contents of Safe Deposit Boxes
Sometimes, it becomes necessary for banks and other financial institutions to open safe deposit boxes when the rental fee is past due. When this happens, Florida law requires a notary public to be present to inventory the contents of the box and make a certificate of the opening [Section 655.94(1), Florida Statutes].
When you become a notary in Florida, to certify the contents of a safe deposit box, you must:
- Be present when the safe deposit box is opened and be accompanied by an officer of the financial institution.
- Not be an employee, officer, director, or stockholder of the institution.
- Inventory the contents of the box.
- Complete a certificate including the name of the box holder, the date of the opening, and a list of the contents.
- Make copies of the certificate.
- Put the original certificate, along with the contents of the box, in a sealed package.
- Record the name of the box holder and the date of opening on the outside of the package and leave it with the financial institution.
There are only three states in the Union that allow notaries to perform marriage ceremonies, and Florida is one of them. To solemnize a marriage as a Florida notary public, you must:
- Examine the couple’s marriage license to make sure it is valid and has not expired.
- Require identification of the couple if they are not personally known to you.
- Perform the marriage ceremony. The ceremony can take any form, but the couple's vows must state an intention to make a legally binding commitment to each other.
- Make a certificate on the appropriate portion of the marriage license. It is recommended that two witnesses also sign the certificate.
- Return the license to the office of the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court which issued it within ten days.
Verifying Vehicle Identification Numbers
When an individual applies for a used motor vehicle title in Florida, the owner of the vehicle must sign a sworn statement that the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the odometer reading on the vehicle are correct, and an authorized person must physically inspect the vehicle to certify the VIN.
A Florida notary public is authorized to certify VINs [§ 319.23(3)(a)(2), Fla. Stat]. To do so, you should:
- Physically inspect the car to verify the vehicle identification number.
- Complete the notarial certificate on Part A of form HSMV 82042, after ensuring that the owner has filled out the information on the VIN and odometer reading.
- Complete Part B to verify that you have physically inspected the vehicle to ensure that the VIN matches the number recorded on the form.
- Date and sign the document.
- Print your name and affix your notary seal.
When you become a notary in Florida, you will be authorized to perform all six of these duties.
The American Association of Notaries can handle your Florida notary application from start to finish. We are a one-stop resource for all your notary needs, and we have been serving notaries since 1994. When you are commissioned as a Florida notary, we will manufacture and ship your Florida notary stamp and notary supplies.
Click here to learn how to become a notary in Florida.