Signature Guarantee vs. Notary Seal

Whether to use a signature guarantee or a notary seal depends on the document being signed.
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The difference between a medallion signature guarantee and a notary seal can be confusing because, in both cases, a signature is verified and marked with an official stamp or seal. They are not, however, interchangeable. If a document requires a medallion signature guarantee, notarization will not be accepted in its stead. If you're unsure which one you need, the most important clue is the type of document that requires your signature.

Medallion Signature Guarantee

A medallion signature guarantee, also called a medallion guarantee, is required by federal law for the transfer of securities and is typically used by banks and financial institutions. Bank officials are often trained and certified to provide medallion guarantees. When the official provides such a guarantee, he attests that the individual's signature is valid and the financial institution he represents accepts liability for any forgery.

How to Obtain a Medallion Guarantee

A medallion guarantee is only available at financial institutions that participate in a medallion guarantee program. Financial institutions may require an individual be a customer before providing a medallion guarantee and will require proof of the signer's identity. They may also charge a fee for the service.


Most other documents will use notarization. Each state has different rules as to how an individual can become a notary and what authority a notary holds. A state may require a prospective notary to undergo training, a test or verification of good character. A notary's authority may include the power to witness a signature, certify copies, witness affidavits and attest signatures. The types of documents that may require notarization include contracts, wills, powers of attorney and requests for changes to official documents.

Notaries and Lawyers

The legal traditions of the various U.S. states are based in either common or civil law. Common law notaries are not required to be lawyers, and a notary who is not a lawyer cannot give legal advice. Most states have this kind of notary. Louisiana and Puerto Rico maintain civil law notaries. They function more like lawyers, and in Puerto Rico they are required to actually be lawyers. Civil law notaries perform duties such as drafting court documents and transferring real estate.

How to Obtain Notarization of a Document

Notarization is widely available and you can find a notary in almost any local yellow pages. Notaries are permitted to charge a fee for their services, and they will require proof of the signer's identity. Some banks, credit unions and lawyers may provide the service as a complimentary benefit to their clients. Organizations such as AAA may provide reduced-cost or no-cost notary services to members, depending on location and membership level.

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