If you are interested in becoming a notary for the first time, the amount of information you find online may be overwhelming. This article will explain step-by-step how to become a notary, and you will find that obtaining a notary commission is actually quite easy.
Requirements to Become a Notary
Each state has different requirements to become a notary. However, most states allow “one-stop shop” bonding agents, such as the American Association of Notaries, to furnish the application, bond, and seal, thus making the process to become a notary very simple. In most states the general requirements to become a notary are:
- that you be eligible to hold the office of notary public under state law;
- that you complete a notary education program;
- that you obtain a surety bond, and
- that you take an oath of office.
Eligibility to Become a Notary
First, it is generally required that notary applicants be at least 18 years old and legal residents of the state where they are applying for a commission. Some states allow those who work in the state, but who may reside outside of the state, to hold a notary commission. A few states require additional documentation for non-U.S. citizens who are legal residents of the state. Be sure to consult the laws of the commissioning state to make sure you are eligible to hold the office of notary public. It is usually necessary that you maintain the required residency for the duration of the commission (typically four years).
Notary Education Requirements to Become A Notary
Not all states require notary education, but many do - and that number increases almost annually. Even when not required, a notary education course is highly recommended. While notarizing a signature may seem simple enough, there are many steps to the process, and notaries are personally liable for their negligent acts. Some states require an exam, and some states offer a free online course. Consult your state's commissioning authority for the most accurate information. The American Association of Notaries offers online notary education courses in many states.
Application to Become a Notary
Most states requires applicants to complete an application to become a notary. Many states offer notary applications on their websites. Most notary applications are easy to complete and straight forward. You will be asked to choose your official notary name and official signature. Enter personal information about yourself, your date of birth, resident address, and resident county. Be sure to disclose any criminal history. Most states require you to pay a filing fee. The application process varies among states, from a few days to several weeks.
Notary Bond Requirements to Become A Notary
Most states require that notaries post a notary bond when applying to become a notary. The bond can be obtained through a licensed bonding agent, like the American Association of Notaries. The amount of the bond and the cost for obtaining one can vary greatly from state to state. Like other public officials, notaries are required to post bond in the event some member of the public suffers a loss as a result of improper conduct on the part of the notary. For this reason, it is imperative that notaries take the utmost care in exercising their duties. If a member of the public files a claim against a notary’s bond, the bonding company is very likely to sue the notary to retrieve those funds.
Not all jurisdictions require a notary to post notary bond, so you should check with your state's commissioning authority for more information. However, regardless of whether or not a bond is required in your state, the bond only protects members of the public. It does not protect the notary. The best way to protect yourself as a notary is with the purchase of errors and omissions insurance (E&O insurance), which is available through most bonding agents.
Notary Errors and Omissions Insurance
Notary errors and omissions insurance (E&O insurance) will cover any unintentional error on your part, such as completing a certificate incorrectly or dealing with forged I.D. situations. If someone were to suffer a loss or take you to court over an incident of unintentional notary misconduct, your E&O policy would pay for the legal expenses incurred by you. These policies are reasonably priced and are available with many different limits, ranging from $2,500 to $500,000. It is recommended that you maintain E&O insurance that covers at least the amount of your public bond if you have one.
Oath of Office and Registering With County Clerk to Complete the Notary Application Process
All states require that a notary public, as a public officer, take an oath of office. An oath of office typically requires the officer to take an oath that he or she will support, protect, and defend the constitution and government of his or her state and of the United States of America and that he or she will faithfully execute the duties of the public office with which he or she is being entrusted. While many states include the oath of office as part of the application process, there are a few states where it will be necessary for the notary to be sworn in by another official - usually a county clerk. The notary is then responsible for filing the written oath with the appropriate office - the Secretary of State's office, the County Clerk's office, or both. Some states require that the notary's commission be recorded with a County Clerk as well. Consult your state laws and commissioning authority for more detailed information.
Obtaining a Notary Stamp and a Notary Record Book
Once you become a notary, the final step is to obtain a notary stamp or a notary seal to perform notarial acts. The official notary stamp on notarized documents proves that the notary is a commissioned officer of the state, has been duly commissioned to become a notary, and that the notary performed the notarial act according to his or her state’s notary requirements.
Even in states that do not require notaries to record notarial acts in a notary journal, the American Association of Notaries recommends that you keep one in case you are asked to testify in court about a notarial act that you performed. A record book entry proves that the signer appeared before the notary when a signer claims that he never signed that document.
The American Association of Notaries is a leading provider of notary bonds, E&O insurance policies for notaries, and notary supplies. To learn how to become a notary, visit our website www.notarypublicstamps.com. If you have any questions about the application or bonding process, please contact the AAN by calling (713) 644-2299 or by visiting our website at www.usnotaries.com.