What it is:
Notaries are important people because they give documents legal weight. Notaries are commonly involved in the creation of wills, trusts, deeds and powers of attorney. Each state sets forth its own requirements for becoming a notary, though most involve passing a test and having no serious criminal history. Some require the purchase of a surety bond.
How it works (Example):
A notary public goes through training and obtains an official seal to affix to paperwork that he or she has witnessed signing. For example, when John and Jane Doe buy a house, they must sign the closing paperwork that makes them responsible for a large mortgage, title insurance and other responsibilities. The notary public comes to the closing appointment and watches John and Jane physically sign the documents. The notary then affixes his seal to the paperwork, proving that he witnessed the signing and that John and Jane Doe are who they say they are.
Why it Matters:
A notary, also called a notary public, is a person who is authorized to witness the signing of important documents.