As a notary public, you are prohibited from giving legal advice. The question most often asked, though, is: What exactly is considered legal advice?
The answer is, “More than you would think.”
The following prohibited acts are examples of giving legal advice:
Giving advice or your opinion on a document or transaction
This may seem obvious: giving legal advice is an example of giving legal advice. The thing that most notaries overlook is that giving their opinion on the document or transaction that is occurring is also considered giving legal advice, whether those were their intentions or not.
Assisting in the drafting or preparing of a legal document
While you may notarize numerous legal documents during your commission as a notary public, that does not grant you authority to draft them. Legal documents, to hold up in a court of law, should always be prepared by an attorney.
Explaining the document or consequences of signing the document
Any questions the signer has in regard to the document being notarized should be directed at an attorney or the drafting party. As a notary, you are not authorized to read and subsequently explain the document to the signer if they are unclear as to its contents.
Telling the client the best way to execute the document and which notarial act should be performed
This is another example that tends to get overlooked. When notarial wordage is not already included in the document, the signer may simply ask you to notarize it without stating which notarial act they want you to perform. As a notary, you are allowed to inform them of their options and what these options entail, but you are not allowed to tell them which notarial act would best suit their circumstances or intentions.
While giving legal advice is clearly illegal, it is also illegal to imply, directly or otherwise, that you retain more powers than those granted to you as a notary public, and equally as illegal to collect attorney’s fees for your services. Many states have even made it illegal to advertise notary services in a language other than English without a clarifier stating (in both English and the language of the advertisement) that you are not in fact an attorney and do not possess the power of an attorney.
NOTE: These acts DO NOT pertain to notaries public that are actual attorneys.