A notary public is a person who can administer oaths, solemn affirmations, and statutory declarations, and act as a formal witness to the execution of a myriad legal documents, from simple forms to complex international agreements. A notary public may also certify documents to be true copies of the original.
In some jurisdictions, a notary public can also draft contracts, promissory notes, wills, mortgages and other legal documents. Almost always, the powers of a notary public in each province or state are derived from provincial or state legislation.
For example, in Ontario, a notary public derives his or her authority from the Notaries Act which states: “[a] notary public has and may use and exercise the power of drawing, passing, keeping and issuing all deeds and contracts, charter-parties and other mercantile transactions in Ontario, and also of attesting all commercial instruments that may be brought before him or her for public protestation, and otherwise of acting as is usual in the office of notary public, and may demand, receive and have all the rights, profits and emoluments rightfully appertaining and belonging to the calling of notary public”.
In some jurisdictions such as a number of provinces, the requirements for becoming a notary public effectively result in only lawyers being able to provide notary public services.
A notary public administering oaths, solemn affirmations and statutory declarations need not affix a notarial seal to the document. However, if the document is to be used outside the jurisdiction, especially internationally, a notary seal will usually be required.