Apologies as I spend most of my time on math.stackexchange.com but this question has been vexing me and I'm not sure if it would be too open ended/vague for here: (Possible duplicate of Why the law is written in a certain way? Is this on topic? but I wasn't 100% sold)

Would a question about why a given statute was written to require witness signatures but no notary be too vague/open ended? (For context and explicitly not wanting answers to the question itself here: https://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2012/0765.202 health care surrogate form). Or would there possibly be some general legal principle that governs when forms do and do not require a notary that could provide a closed form answer?

2 Answers 2


Is "Why would a given thing require/not require a notary" on topic?

Yes. That type of questions often traces back to concepts such as legislative intent, and legislative intent is in scope on LawSE. Even if the requirement of a notarized document in a specific scenario is not premised on statutory law, the procedural and evidentiary implications of notarizing a document suggest that this type of questions should not be considered off-topic.

It just seems that such on topic questions would not elicit answers other than the broad, general reason for requiring a document to be notarized; namely, for the notary to witness/certify that the person is signing the document out of his free will rather than the signature being coerced or forged.

would there possibly be some general legal principle that governs when forms do and do not require a notary that could provide a closed form answer?

No. If one legal principle were general enough to determine this issue for any context, that principle would be broadly incorporated in the legislation. That would obviate the need for legislators and contract parties to specify the circumstances where notarization is necessary. The reality is that statutory law and contracts prescribe the particular scenarios that require notarization.

There are matters for which most jurisdictions (if not all) acknowledge only a document that is notarized. Examples can be found in real estate, mortgages, and procedures for being authorized to exercising certain professions. But that element is something the policymaker decides for each kind of scenario.


On rare occasions, "why" questions in law can have a factually-based answer, but when it comes to discerning the political history of a particular law, that requires evidence that is typically not available – therefore, such questions are de facto requests for opinion. If you think that discerning the "why" behind a law is a simple mater of looking at the historical record, pick come piece of legislation in your favorite state and research where the statutory language came from. Trace any amendments in the wording of the bill; determine what staffer wrote the initial draft; find out what the staffer's pre-submission drafts looked like. Most of the time, there isn't a concrete record of how the wording of the bill changes from an idea ("We should outlaw X – how do we do that") to actually-enacted legislation.

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