Florida Civil Law Notary vs Notary Public: What’s the Difference?

business man writing on a document, civil law notary

While “legal documents” may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you wake up in the morning, every adult needs some legally binding contracts in their drawers. If you reside in Florida, a notary public or civil law notary authorized by the state needs to oversee your signature on these forms.

Here, we’re going to talk about the differences between these two notary types. Read on to learn how to find someone who best fits your needs when you need a legal document verified.

What is a Notary?

A “notary” is a type of public official. They’re licensed by the government to act as witnesses when people sign official legal documents.

This is important because impartial and unbiased witnesses can prove the authenticity of legal signatures on these forms. They serve to protect the public from fraud.

Note that notaries can only act as witnesses in legal affairs that don’t have any contention behind them. Part of the notary’s job is to ensure that the person who signed the document was not being pressured or forced to do so either with intimidation or violence. They can witness people signing documents like marriage licenses, property deeds, wills, and powers of attorney.

The Basics of a Notary Public

A notary public is the most common form of notary out there. They get their name because they’re public officers of common law rather than being appointed by Florida’s Department of State.

Anyone is eligible to become a notary public in Florida if they:

  • Are a US citizen (born or naturalized)
  • Reside in Florida
  • Have no felony record (in any jurisdiction, not just Florida)
  • Are over the age of 18

To become a notary public, the applicant needs to provide documents verifying all of this information. Then, all an eligible person needs to do is complete a 3-hour course on notary public duties. At this point, they’ll be able to oversee signatures and notarize them right away.

It’s important to note that there are some restrictions on what a notary public can notarize. They only are licensed to notarize documents in the state of Florida. They also cannot preside over the signatures of themselves or immediate family members.

What Is a Civil Law Notary?

Civil law notaries have all the same powers as a notary public. However, they aren’t subject to as many regulations or restrictions. They have the power to sign more document types than a notary public would.

This is because civil law notaries are appointed by Florida’s Department of State. The appointment lasts a lifetime. Because of this prestigious appointment, they are vested with more power than other notaries.

Additionally, a civil law notary needs to undergo more training than the 3-hour course notary publics take. They have training similar to an attorney can can therefore take on similar responsibilities to one. They don’t just oversee signatures but also can provide legal advice.

It’s also possible for a civil law notary to certify full legal documents rather than just signatures.

The Differences Between a Civil Law Notary vs Notary Public

The biggest difference between notary publics and civil law notaries is how much training and education they have.

A notary public is an average everyday person. Basically anyone can become a notary public. All they have to do is complete 3 hours of online training, fill out an application, and apply for a commission from the governor.

The path to becoming a civil law notary is much more challenging. These professionals need to be a pre-existing member of the Florida Bar. They need to have practiced international law for at least 5 years, so they’re an attorney with quite a bit of legal training and experience.

Duties and Responsibilities

More training and experience naturally translates to more power as a notary.

Public notaries are only able to oversee the signing of private documents. Wills, trusts, power of attorney, mortgage closing documents, loans, property deeds, and marriage licenses are private. If your needs don’t extend beyond the individual or inner circle, a notary public can likely assist you.

However, some bigger-scale documents require oversight from a civil law notary. If you’re unsure of what you require, a quality attorney can help you determine what’s best for your specific needs.

Appointment Term Length

In Florida, a public notary appointment is only four years long. They will need to re-take the course after this time period elapses and get re-appointed.

A civil law notary is appointed for life. They never need to undergo new training. They will be able to oversee legal documents in Florida forever.

This means that those who hire a civil law notary tend to get someone with more experience than those who hire a notary public do.

Who Needs a Civil Law Notary?

There are certain documents that you’ll need a civil law notary to overlook. Some of these documents include:

  • Real estate deeds, including transferring them to or from Florida’s jurisdiction
  • Corporate transaction documents for business owners
  • Documents verifying the validity of expert testimony in a court of law
  • Proof of private records like insurance and financial documents
  • Pension claims so that Florida residents can get monthly benefits from governments
  • You also can use a civil law notary for additional peace of mind, even when signatures could be overseen by a notary public. Some such documents are:
  • Marriage documents drafted in the state of Florida
  • Wills and probatedrafted in the state of Florida
  • Execution of private power of attorney

There’s also the added advantage that a civil law notary can validate and notarize the entire document rather than exclusively the signature.

Get Legal Advice Today

Now that you know how a civil law notary differs from a notary public, it’s time to begin filling out and signing the legal documents you need. Our team is well-versed in business and commercial law, estate planning, immigration, and probate.

We’re committed to giving you the highest-quality advice and the best possible representation. Contact us with any remaining questions you have and schedule a free consultation today.