How long must I retain my notary journals?

A document signer expects a notary not only to exercise reasonable care in notarizing his or her signature on a document, but also to be able to show evidence, often years after the date of the act, that the notarization was performed in accordance with proper notarial procedures.

It is in the best interest of a notary public to record every notarial act properly in a notary journal and to archive his or her notary journals securely and indefinitely, or at least for the retention period set forth in his or her state's notary laws. It is very important to read your notary laws to determine the length of time to retain your notary journals.

Below are examples of the notary laws of certain states that have addressed the retention periods for notary journals.

Arizona: Requires notaries to keep all notary records and journals for at least five years after the date the last documented notarial act was performed. If a notary resigns, or decides not to renew his or her notary commission, the notary must deliver his or her notary journals to the Secretary of State within 90 days. Notaries who neglect to turn in their notary journals within the specified time may be fined up to $500.

Nevada: Requires notaries to retain their notary journals for seven years from the time they resign or do not renew their notary commissions.

Oregon: Requires notaries to retain their notary journals for ten years after the performance of the last notarial act recorded in their notary journals.

Texas: Requires notaries to retain notarial records for the duration of their notary commissions or three years after the last notarial act they perform (whichever is longer).

California: Upon resignation or non-renewals, notaries are required to deliver notary journals within 30 days to the county clerk's office where their oaths are on file. Notaries who neglect to abide by this law may be found guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be held personally liable for damages to any person injured by their actions or inactions.

Montana: Requires all notaries who resign or choose not to renew a commission to submit their notary journals to the Secretary of State's office.

States that do not mandate notarial recordkeeping (such as North Carolina, Michigan, and Florida) nonetheless require notaries who have voluntary decided to maintain notary journals to retain them for at least five years.

The importance of retaining notarial journals after the lapse or expiration of a notary commission has been widely underestimated by many notaries. Comprehensive legal protection is derived from keeping and maintaining a journal of notarial acts performed, even if a journal is not mandated by a notary's state. This protection extends to the public years after the expiration of a notary's commission.

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. 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 notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

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