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Notary Best Practices Tips


Notarizing Absentee (or Vote-by-Mail) Ballots


An absentee or vote-by-mail ballot is a ballot cast in a United States election by mail, rather than at an official polling station. There are various reasons why a voter may choose to vote by mail rather than in person. Some states require that the voter have a good reason for requesting an absentee ballot, such as being stationed overseas in the military, or being homebound due to a disability. Other states allow any voter to use an absentee ballot. Each state also has different requirements on whether such a ballot requires notarization

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Notarizing for Signers who Cover their Faces


As a public officer, a notary cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or religion. However, unintentional discrimination may arise when a woman who covers her face for religious reasons requests your notarial services. When this circumstance occurs, a notary must always act with the utmost caution to ensure that he or she does not discriminate but also follows the law. For this reason, notaries should always consult their own state's laws on matters concerning identification of persons with covered faces. ... Continue Reading

Handling an Attorney-in-Fact Notarization


A power of attorney is a legally binding document that grants a specified person, called an attorney-in-fact, power over someone else's assets, legal-decision making, real estate transactions, and medical decisions in the event the individual is incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. A valid power of attorney requires two parties: the principal, who is the person signing and granting the power of attorney to another person, and the agent (sometimes called attorney-in-fact), who is the person given the power to act on behalf of the principal. ... Continue Reading

Notaries and the Unauthorized Practice of Law


Unless a notary is also a licensed attorney, he or she may not give legal advice or accept fees for legal advice. In civil-law jurisdictions, and in most common-law jurisdictions outside the United States, notaries are essentially lawyers who have extensive training in the drafting of documents. However, American common-law notaries do not have any legal authority unless they happen to also be a licensed attorney. As a result, it would be considered unauthorized practice of law for a non-attorney notary to give legal advice. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Use a Signature Stamp to Notarize Documents?


Most notaries are accustomed to using a stamp to affix their official statement of authority as a notary public. This leads notaries to wonder if they can also utilize a rubber stamp, which is easier to use, in affixing their signature to notarial certificates. If you are a notary who notarizes multiple documents a day, using a signature stamp can be a tempting way to avoid hand cramping and carpal tunnel. However, laws that regulate the acts of notaries are often very strict. This includes using a facsimile signature stamp in lieu of a handwritten or wet signature. ... Continue Reading

Why Notaries Cannot Notarize Their Own Documents


It seems so simple. You're about to purchase some real property, and a number of the documents require notarization. You're a notary (and you obviously know who you are), so why not notarize your own document? There are two primary reasons why notaries public should never notarize their own document: ... Continue Reading

Employer Liability for Notary's Negligence


Is a notary's employer liable for the notary's mistakes? The answer is usually yes. Many state's laws do not provide any limit to the liability of a notary, and when a notary is acting in the course of his or her employment, that liability often extends to the notary's employer. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Notarize a Handwritten Document?


Many notaries ask whether it is acceptable to notarize a document that is handwritten by the client. In general, it is not up to the notary to decide whether a document presented for notarization is valid. Notarization does not make an illegal document legal and does not make an invalid document valid. ... Continue Reading

Top Five Notary Signing Agent Mistakes


Humans make mistakes. We just can't be right 100% of the time. With repetition and sound practices, however, most mistakes made can be eliminated. Here are the top mistakes notary signing agents make so you can be on the lookout. ... Continue Reading

Using an Employer ID Number to do Notary Business


Let me preface this article by stating that I am not an accountant, nor do I specialize in any form of business taxes. I just did some research and decided that, instead of using my Social Security Number (SSN), I should use an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, to do notary business. ... Continue Reading

Handling Missing Notarial Certificates


Most experienced notaries know that they should always keep a stack of acknowledgement and jurat notarial certificates on hand in case a client presents them with a document that does not include a notarial certificate. Unfortunately, not all notaries are experienced. There are a good number of notaries who have been working for a while and yet are not aware that a document cannot be notarized without a notarial certificate printed on or attached to the document. ... Continue Reading

Can you notarize this photograph?


A notary should be prepared to explain to a client that notary law does not allow notaries merely to place their official notary seal and official notary signature on a document or photo in order to make it acceptable by the receiving party. A notary is almost always required to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment and complete a notarial certificate pertaining to the notarial act he or she performed. ... Continue Reading

How Much Do You Charge for Notary Services?


This is a somewhat sticky question for mobile notaries. Why? Well, how much you charge depends on a number of factors. ... Continue Reading

Legal by Notarization


I honestly cannot count the number of times I've been asked the question, Once you notarize my document, will it be legal? If I were to guess, I'd say I'm asked at least once a week (during a slow week). It seems people feel that a notary public can do the same thing an attorney does, but at a cheaper price. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Family Members and the Family Businesses


Our readers have undoubtedly heard the legendary story about President Calvin Coolidge being sworn into the office of President of the United States of America by his father in 1923. ... Continue Reading

Six Critical Steps to Follow if a Notary Stamp is Lost


If you lose your notary seal, will you react like the notary public in today's example? Of course, you won't! Everything that this notary does is wrong. Today, learn from his mistakes and make note of the six critical steps that you must follow when a notarial seal is lost. ... Continue Reading

Understanding Affidavits


An affidavit is a sworn or affirmed statement made before a notary public or any public official who has the authority to administer oaths. It is made under penalty of perjury, and the official must administer an oath or affirmation to the signer(s), witness the signing of the document and certify it by placing his official signature and seal and completing the notarial certificate called a jurat. ... Continue Reading

Protect Yourself: Report Stolen Notary Seals!


Have you recently left a job and had your seal or journal held back by your employer? Have you noticed that one or more of your seals is missing? If so, take immediate action to protect yourself. ... Continue Reading

How to Handle Documents with Pre-Printed Notarial Certificates


If a document has a pre-printed notarial certificate, that certificate serves two purposes: ... Continue Reading

The Contents of a Notary Journal


There are three primary types of notary journals. One has minimal space per entry; one has more generous space per entry but fewer entries per page; and one is designed for notary signing agents and has frequently-seen real estate documents pre-listed in it. Each of these three types can be found in paperback or hardback. Which type you choose is your decision. It is important to see a sample page of the journal before you buy it, as you will be using it for some time. ... Continue Reading

A Notary Signature is Essential on All Notarized Documents


The most critical of the five notary-specific elements on a notarized document is the notary signature. The lack of a notary signature is fatal to the notarization. It is essential that the notary always signs every notarial certificate that he or she notarizes. By signing the notary certificate, a notary is verifying that the venue, notary commission expiration date, and the notary certificate are true and correct. ... Continue Reading

Essential Facts about Notary Certificates


A notary certificate is a statement completed by the notary specifying the details of the notarization. It must contain the date of the notarization and refer to where the notarial act took place. The most commonly used notarial certificates are jurats and acknowledgments. (There is a third form in those states that allow notaries to certify copies. Please see the articles about certifying copies for information on that form.) ... Continue Reading

The Importance of the Venue on a Notarized Document


With a few exceptions, notarized documents contain five notary-specific elements: venue, the notary certificate, commission expiration date, notary signature, and notary seal. This article covers the venue. ... Continue Reading

A Notary Should Know How to Handle Acknowledged Statements


As stated in a previous article, sworn statements and acknowledged statements are the two most common types of notarized documents. The primary difference between the two types is that a sworn statement is made under penalty of perjury and requires an oath or affirmation while an acknowledged statement lacks these elements. If a document does not contain language about being duly sworn or upon oath, and if it has a notary certificate that does not mention an oath or affirmation or being sworn, then you are dealing with an acknowledged statement. ... Continue Reading

Notaries Should Know How to Handle Sworn Statements


Once you have confirmed the identity of the person seeking your notary services and verified that they are prepared to sign freely and willingly, the next duty of a notary public is to determine what type of document they have presented to you. The two most common types of notarized documents are sworn statements and acknowledged statements. Sworn statements are often (but not always) called affidavits. ... Continue Reading

What it Means to Sign a Document Freely and Willingly


A notary public is an official witness to someone signing a document freely and willingly. "Freely and willingly" is one of those phrases that people use without really considering the meaning. This expression has been in use for so long that everyone thinks they know what it covers, but most people do not actually know. ... Continue Reading

Verifying the Identity of the Signer


The most important duty of a notary public is to verify the identity of the person signing the document. How this is done will depend upon the law in the notary's jurisdiction, so please check the following general principles against your state's laws and rules. ... Continue Reading

Personal Appearance of the Signer Before a Notary Is Required


It should go without saying that the signer has to personally appear before the notary public. Unfortunately, people will test this bedrock principle, either out of ignorance or arrogance. ... Continue Reading

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.
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Certifying Copies of a Notary's Record Book Entries


On occasion, a notary public may receive a request from the public for a copy or certified copy of one or more notarial acts that the notary previously performed and recorded in his or her notary's journal (also called a record book, register, or log). For example, a family member is questioning a will that was notarized two years prior, so another family member requests a copy of the recorded notarial act to verify the reliability of the will. ... Continue Reading

Steps to Certifying a Copy of an Original Document


Many states allow notaries to make certified copies of documents as long as the original document is not a publicly recorded document. Documents that clients may ask to have certified by a notary include contracts, letters, settlement statements, agreements, and bills of sale. This list is certainly not all inclusive. ... Continue Reading

Notary Jurat Certificates vs. Acknowledgment Certificates


The two most common notarial certificates used by notaries public are jurats and acknowledgments. They are not handled the same and this confuses many notaries public. Please note the differences explained below. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Handwritten Documents


Perhaps a father needs to have a statement notarized that authorizes his child to go on a trip with a friend's family. He might decide to handwrite it. The same could be true for a building tenant who needs to provide a letter to a housing authority verifying household income. Or, perhaps a separated couple facing an income tax issue may need to quickly submit a notarized declaration that they have lived apart for several months. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Last Wills and Testaments


Wills are highly sensitive probate documents that determine how a person's assets will be distributed after his or her death. The person making the will is called a "testator" if male and a "testatrix" if female. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Blind and Illiterate Individuals


Most notarizations a notary will perform involve signers who are competent, understand the content in the document, and have the ability to sign freely and willingly. In rare situations you may receive a request to perform a notarization from a client who is blind or illiterate. How will you proceed? Will you refuse to perform the notarization simply because the signer is unable to read? Is it enough to ask those signers for proper identification and acknowledge they understand the contents of the document and proceed with the notarial act? What protections will you offer vulnerable signers to ensure a smooth and honest transaction? ... Continue Reading

Do I-9 Forms Require Notarization?


Many notaries across the nation receive requests from an employer to notarize or verify Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) forms. The completion of an I-9 Form for each employee is mandated for every employer or agricultural recruiter/referrer-for-a-fee hirer. (An agricultural referrer is any farm labor contractor or agricultural employer or association.) All such employers and recruiters are subject to periodic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspections to assure that accurately completed I-9 forms are on file for every employee; violators are subject to fines and administrative sanctions. Thus the proper completion and execution of the I-9 form is of extreme importance. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing for Family Members


Notaries must be impartial witnesses to transactions. They may not have an interest in the documents that they notarize. By the same token, notaries are prohibited from notarizing their own signatures, or documents in which they are named. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Previously Signed Documents


There are times, as a notary, when you will be presented with a document for notarization that has been previously signed. This may occur simply because the signer thinks he is being thorough by filling in all the blanks and signing before he meets with you. At other times, a document may have been signed and submitted to the recipient before the signer was aware that notarization was required and now the document has been returned and the signer requires the services of a notary. ... Continue Reading

Is a University ID Acceptable When Notarizing Documents?


The most basic task of the notary public, which underlies all other processes and procedures, is to identify properly the signer of a document. ... Continue Reading

Notarizing Foreign Language Documents


One of the keys to acceptable and accurate notarizations is clear communication between the signer and the notary. ... Continue Reading

Can a Witness to a Notarization Have a Financial Interest in the Notarized Document?


The role of the notary public in society is of vital importance. When a notary places his or her stamp and signature on a document, the document recipient or the receiving institution automatically assumes that the notary has executed his or her responsibility correctly. This means that the notary has maintained impartiality, has performed notarial duties according to state law, and has acted with the utmost integrity. ... Continue Reading

What If There Is No Room for the Notary Stamp or Notary Seal?


One of the most important steps in the notarization of any document is the placing of the notary stamp seal. This step, along with the notary's signature, is the culmination of all the preliminary steps in notarizing, such as identity checking, document scanning, and making record book entries. The notary stamp contains all the identifying information of the notary public - name, commission state and county, notary commission number, and commission expiration date. It is essential and mandatory that all of this information be placed neatly and legibly on every document that the notary executes. ... Continue Reading

Can a Notary Certify a Copy of a Passport or a Driver's License?


State laws vary on the acceptability and procedures for copy certifications. As with every other type of notarial procedure, notaries should study carefully their state's statutes on copy certification to see if, and how, it is administered. ... Continue Reading

Refusing to Notarize When There Is a Question of Benefit


A notary public should comply with every reasonable request when called upon to notarize a document. However, there are times when a request may not only be unreasonable, but may actually be unlawful. ... Continue Reading

What Does the "SS" Stand for on a Notary Certificate?


Every document that a notary will ever notarize must contain a notary certificate. The notary certificate is the portion of the document to be notarized that contains the notary language or notary verbiage. It is this wording that indicates to the notary the type of notarization which he or she must perform - most often, this will be either an acknowledgment or a jurat. ... Continue Reading

Having Multiple Notary Stamps - A Good Practice


While there are several states that do not specifically require the use of a notary stamp, most notaries find that a self-inking notary stamp is the easiest, cleanest, and most expeditious means of inscribing the mandated notary commission information onto a notarized document. ... Continue Reading

How to Handle Lost or Stolen Notary Supplies


Notaries are responsible for safeguarding their notary supplies and protecting them from fraudulent use. ... Continue Reading

How to Properly Use a Notary Stamp


Using a self-inking notary stamp is the easiest way to inscribe the notary commission information on a document to be notarized; it is quick, easy, and neat. ... Continue Reading

Using Notary Gold Foil Seals on Notarized Documents


While the self-inking or pre-inked notary stamp is the convenient tool of choice for all notaries when notarizing documents, there are times when a notary may wish to add extra enhancement to the executed document. ... Continue Reading

Using a Notary Seal Impression Inker on an Embossed Document


As a notary, you are not just a public servant, but you are also a professional and, as such, will want to take pride in your work. There are times when you may wish to give an added flair or enhancement to the document you are notarizing. ... Continue Reading

Notary Supplies That Every Notary Should Have!


The notary is a public officer and, as such, is required to comply with any reasonable request for notarization. Whether you are a notary with your own notary signing service or an employee notary, it is a good idea to keep essential notary supplies with you at all times so that you may be ready to adequately and efficiently serve the public upon request. ... Continue Reading

Employed Notaries - Your Notary Supplies Belong to the Notary


An employee notary is a notary who obtained a commission at the request of his or her employer. Perhaps your company transacts with clients, such as banks or insurance companies, that must have documents notarized on a regular basis. ... Continue Reading

How to Safeguard Your Notary Supplies


Notaries are responsible for safeguarding their notary supplies against fraudulent use. These items include the notary's original certificate or commission, the notary stamp and seal, and the notary record book of notarial acts. ... Continue Reading

How to Properly Destroy Your Expired Notary Stamps and Supplies


When a notary reaches the end of the notary commission term or decides to end his or her notary career, all expired and defunct notary supplies must be disposed of safely and properly. ... Continue Reading

Practicing Law without a License / Unlawful Advertising


The following are issues that are addressed by law in many states and may carry severe penalties. Notaries in those states that do not address these issues should heed the following: ... Continue Reading

Steps to a Proper Notarization


Notaries should follow proper procedures to minimize any risk of liability for an improper notarial act and reduce opportunities for fraud. With every notarization, the notary should use precise measures to: ... Continue Reading

Notaries, Avoid Conflicts of Interest!


Never act in a notary capacity if you have any involvement whatsoever in the transaction taking place. If you are named in the document, or if a family member or close affiliate is named, refuse to notarize. You must be a completely unbiased witness to the execution, and you are not unbiased, if for example, your spouse, your sister, or your boyfriend stands to gain financially or emotionally from the transaction taking place. ... Continue Reading

Notary Fees - How much to Charge


Notaries must know their state notary laws regarding all aspects of their notary commission, and this includes fees. You must NOT charge more than the law allows for any notarization. This can result in severe penalties against the notary. You may of course offer your services at no charge. Discuss fees and how you will handle them with your employer to avoid any misunderstandings. ... Continue Reading

Notaries: Maintain a Notary Journal!


The notary's best defense is the notary record book, or notary journal. Some states require notaries to keep a notary record book and some states do not; however, all notaries are encouraged to keep a journal of every notarial act. ... Continue Reading

Texas Notaries Are Forbidden From Recording ID Card Numbers


As of April 22, 2007 Texas Notaries Public Are Forbidden From Recording Identification Card Numbers in Their Notary Record Books. Section 406.014(a)(5) does not require that the personal information on the identification card be recorded in the notary record book. However, notaries public have recorded the driver's license in their notary record books. ... Continue Reading
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.

Notary bonds and errors and omissions insurance policies provided by this insurance agency, American Association of Notaries, Inc., are underwritten by Western Surety Company, Universal Surety of America, or Surety Bonding Company of America, which are subsidiaries of CNA Surety.