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Frequently Asked Questions About Notary Stamps/Seals

by American Association of Notaries
Notary stamps and seals is an important but confusing topic even for the most seasoned notary. So don't be embarrassed if you find yourself looking up this article. The rules can be tricky, and it's important to learn how to best protect yourself from liability or any appearance of impropriety. Below are some common questions we receive.

Is a notary stamp/seal required? Yes. Every notary must keep an official notarial seal that is the exclusive property of the notary. Neither a notary stamp nor a seal may be used by any other person. Your official stamp must be clearly applied under or near your official signature on every notary certificate. Do not stamp over signatures, and avoid stamping over text.

My employer paid for my commission. Who owns the notary seal? The notary stamp or notary seal is the exclusive property of the notary and may not be used by any other person or surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment. You commission belongs to you, not your employer.

What do I do with my notary stamp/seal when my commission expires or when I am no longer a notary public? When your commission as a notary expires, or you otherwise cease to be a notary, you should destroy the notary seal to prevent possible misuse by another individual. Otherwise, any wrongdoing could be imputed to you, the non-practicing notary.

I changed my name before my commission expired. Is there anything I need to do? In most states, you may continue to use your current official signature and notary stamp/seal until the commission expires. If you would like to change your official signature and notary stamp/seal prior to the expiration of the commission, you may do so. However, you would need to purchase a new notary stamp/seal and update your commission information with the state. Always check your state's notary laws to learn the steps you must take when your legal name is changed.

What if I lose my seal? Every commissioned notary has a duty to safeguard his or her notary materials. However, mistakes can and do happen. If your notary stamp or notary seal (or record book/journal) has been misplaced or lost, notify in writing your state's notary regulatory office (normally the secretary of state). Detail the circumstances in which the materials went missing, the last time you used them, and any other relevant information. File a report with your local law enforcement office and enclose a copy of that report with your letter.

Do I need a new seal when I renew my commission? Yes. With each new commission (re-commission), your state will issue a new date of expiration. You will need to obtain a new notary stamp or seal with the updated information.

As always, be sure to consult your own state's laws to ensure that you are in total compliance with the law.

Susan Jimenez is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information and ideas for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary educations, and securing their notary supplies but makes no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained . Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding federal laws and statutes and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered the information from a variety of sources. We do not warrant the information gathered from those sources. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of an attorney in their state if they have legal questions about how to notarize.
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