Does a contract have to be notarized?

While some documents are legally required to be notarized, such as a real property deed, a contract does not have to be notarized to be valid. Unless specifically required by state or municipal law, a contract does not have to be acknowledged before a notary public. If you need more information about contract notarization, use our free legal help tool below.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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A contract typically does not have to be notarized. A notary public (or simply “notary”) provides an acknowledgment that the signature appearing on the document is that of the person whose signature it purports to be. There is a requirement that some documents be notarized, such as a real property deed. Unless specifically required by state or municipal law, a contract does not have to be acknowledged before a notary public.

A notary is a person licensed to approve other’s signatures. Most notaries are simple notaries, meaning the only thing they are certified and trained to do is review identification papers and approve a signature. There are some specialists in fields such as real estate who also know how to draft the document that the person is signing.

What are some examples of contracts that do not require a notary signature? Any private contracts for sales of goods or services do not require a notary signature. In addition, come court papers, such as petitions and motions do not have to be notarized, mainly because the person filing the form is the person who drafted it. With a few states as exceptions, divorce papers do not require a notarized signature either.

The most common paperwork that you will encounter that requires a notary is real estate papers. When you purchase a new home and sign all the paperwork, the real estate office will most likely have a notary present during the signing. This notary will notarize the documents with their stamp as you sign them, giving an extra proof of validity. In addition, adoption papers, wills, trusts, and medical release forms all require a notary signature. In general, you will see a box at the bottom of the document that says, “notary signature” if the document has to be notarized. 

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