Does a contract have to be notarized to be legal? Typically, no.

A notary public's job is important, they have to validate that the signature on the document is that of the person who says they are signing it. Some documents require there to be a notary, but unless it is not specified by state or municipal law, a notary is not required.

Notarization Basics

A notary is licensed to approve other's signatures. There are different types of notaries, but most are trained to review papers and accept signatures. Some notaries specialize in real estate and know how to create the document that will need a signature.

There are documents that don't require a notarization:

  • Contracts for services and goods.
  • Court documents like motions and petitions because the draft was created by the filer.
  • With a few exceptions, divorce papers.

Real estate papers are the most common documents that need a notary. While buying a house, the real estate agent will have a notary present while signing the documents. The notary's stamp will give the documents proof of validation as you sign the papers.

Papers like wills, trusts, adoption papers, and medical release forms need a notary signature. Generally, papers will have space and specifically mention the need for a notary signature if there is a need for one.

What Is Notarization Good for in a Contract?

A notary makes sure that a contract is enforceable in courts, even if a notary's presence is not required. In general, there is no obligation for a contract to be notarized for it to be enforceable. But if one party of the contract wants to head to court, notarization helps.

Notary publics identify the person who is signing the document and attest to the person's signature. A notarized document proves that a person who objects to the agreement was someone who signed it. This is particular for written contracts, so a notarized document can be relevant in documents that have to be written. Having a notarized document is not necessary, but it is helpful if your contract is ever taken to court.

Witnesses in a Contract

Witnesses aren't generally required for a contract to be enforceable in a court of law. Each state, though, is different in their contract requirements, and some states may want a third party to witness a contract signing for it to be valid in their courts. For instance, most states want for there to be at least two witnesses during the signing of a will.

When it comes to commercial real estate, some states want mortgages or deeds being witnessed to be recorded by county or state. In Florida, deeds have to have two witnesses in order to be recorded and validated. If you're unsure whether your contract needs a notary or witness, make sure to consult a legal professional.

Contract Basics

Contracts are usually written in a complex legal wording, but most contracts don't need legal terms to be valid. Agreements are best when written in simple English. Most contracts need two things to be considered valid:

  • All parties must be in agreement.
  • Something that has value has to be traded, like goods, services, or cash.

In some situations, contracts have to be written to be valid. State laws often want written contracts for real estate agreements that last more than a year. Check your state's requirements to understand if your contract has to be written. Even if your state doesn't require it to be written, it's a good idea to have it in writing because, otherwise, an agreement is hard to prove.

Agreement Between Parties

  • Everyone except minors and people with an unsteady mind can enter into an agreement.
  • The contract has to name and identify the parties entering into a contract.
  • Sales contracts also use titles such as buyer and seller to further identify the parties.
  • Even though it seems simple, a valid contract is one where the parties agree to the major points.

Since it is easy to confuse a real agreement between a discussion about making an agreement, the law developed various rules to help clarify these situations.

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