Today, I received a call from someone who is looking to get a “notarized copy” of a government document, in this case school records. I get a request like this from time to time and it always leads to a confusing conversation about what a Notary can do in Tennessee and what the third party who asked the person calling me truly requested.
It is my understanding that a Notary can witness the signing of a document, administer an oath or affirmation if one is required/requested, and then attach the appropriately-worded Notary Certificate or sign the already-present Notary Certificate if one is on the document.
In short, a Notary acts to put his or her seal on a document to say they were an impartial witness to the signing of the document and, if needed, gave the signer an oath or affirmation that the document is true (or that the signer will do whatever actions it says he/she/they will do).
A Notary Public in Tennessee has no authority to certify that a copy is a true copy or a legitimate copy or anything else, except in the limited cases where he or she owns/keeps the original document, such as a copy of a page out of his or her Notary Journal.
(There is one Tennessee Attorney General opinion that said in one specific instance, whoever made the copy could certify it, but it’s unclear whether that applies in any other instances — and certifying copies is not among the listed duties of a Tennessee Notary Public per state law.)
In almost every instance when someone asks for a “notarized copy,” what they actually need is a certified copy, which should be obtained from wherever the original document is held.
If it is a government document, the government agency can issue a certified copy.
If it is a school document, the school can.
If it is a legal document, the attorney named in the document as having drafted or created the document (if any) should be able to help you.
If it is a mortgage document, try the lender.
If you have a Deed and you need a certified copy, check with the County Register’s office in the county where the property is located. They generally record deeds as a matter of public record & can sell you a certified copy of the recorded deed. In Shelby County, Tennessee, the County Register has a website & you can find many of the deeds there for free download.
In summary, a Tennessee Notary Public is not the right person to ask if you are told you need a “notarized copy” as what the person telling you this means (almost always) is a CERTIFIED copy & a Notary can not give you that.
(The preceeding is not intended to serve as legal advice or legal opinion. I am not an attorney & have no authority to give legal opinions or advice. Check with your lawyer on any legal matter before proceeding.) Updated March 11, 2018