Disclosure

This website does not provide legal advice and Provider is not a law firm. None of our customer service representatives are lawyers and they also do not provide legal advice.

The Supreme Court of Florida has approved several forms for use by individuals or by attorneys. These forms pertain to matters of family law, landlord-tenant law, and certain residential leases, and allow the notary to provide additional, but limited, assistance.

When using one of the forms approved by the Supreme Court, you may engage in limited oral communication with the customer to elicit the factual information that goes in the blanks on the form. For example, if using the form for a simplified dissolution of marriage, you may ask for the name of the husband and wife, what county they live in, when and where they got married, and whether the wife wants her former name back, and then complete the form accordingly. But, under no circumstances may you give legal advice about possible remedies or courses of action.

Generally speaking, a non-lawyer may only sell legal forms and then type those forms which have been completed in writing by the customer. As an example, we could sell a will form to an individual. The customer would have to fill in the blanks for the factual information customizing the will to his or her own needs. We can have no oral communication with the customer regarding how the form should be completed, and we may not correct mistakes. We may simply type the information written down by the customer.

Notaries are often asked to provide assistance in matters concerning bankruptcy and immigration. There are no Supreme Court approved forms for these legal actions as they are governed by specific federal laws. As in other matters, a nonlawyer may only sell forms and type those forms with information completed in writing by the customer. There are additional requirements and restrictions in the bankruptcy area, and you should consult the federal laws before attempting to complete any of these forms. Of course, you are prohibited from counseling your customer about appropriate legal action.
Not only can a nonlawyer run into problems when assisting an individual in completing forms, the nonlawyer also runs afoul of the unlicensed practice of law if the nonlawyer gives legal advice. This is especially problematic where the customer is relying on the nonlawyer for proper advice and guidance. Generally, the Court has held that, if the advice affects an individual’s important legal rights, it will probably be viewed as legal advice. For example, your friend needs to authorize another member of her family to provide care for her child while she is temporarily out of the country. Because you are a notary public, she asks you to advise her. So, you assist her in preparing and wording a power of attorney. Unfortunately, you just engaged in the unlicensed practice of law and may be subject to one or all of the sanctions previously discussed.
Representation of an individual in court proceedings obviously constitutes the practice of law. However, what about matters that are related to the court proceeding, but are not taking place in court? The question of whether a nonlawyer may take a deposition was recently decided by a Florida appellate court. There, the court held that taking a deposition constitutes the practice of law, and therefore, a nonlawyer may not question witnesses in a deposition. (For more information, see Depositions on page 19.)
In most foreign countries, a notary public is an attorney. Some individuals use their notary public commission as a means to advertise and mislead individuals into believing that they may act as an attorney. For this reason, the notary law provides that a notary public who is not an attorney and advertises his or her services in a language other than English must include a notice in the advertisement which states, “I am not an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Florida, and I may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice.” The law also prohibits the literal translation of the term notary public into a language other than English in an advertisement for notary services.
As a notary public, you are held to a higher standard than other individuals because you are a public officer holding a position of trust. This trust is violated if improper legal advice and services are provided. The public is harmed and notaries are held in disrespect. By consistently observing the restrictions placed upon you as a nonlawyer notary public, abuses can be prevented and the public can be spared unnecessary expense and hardship. And, you will not subject yourself to court action, executive suspension, or criminal penalties.

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