As a commissioned notary public, you may experience a life change during your notary term of office. You could move out of town, move out of state, or change your name. These life changes mean your information on file with your state commissioning authority must be updated to avoid any fines or the suspension or revocation of your notary commission.
What should I do if my name changes?
Your name could change for a variety of reasons. You might get married and take your spouse’s last name. You might divorce and revert to a family name. You might choose to go through the legal name change process because you would prefer a different name than the one you were given at birth. Whatever the reason for your name change, you will need to let your state notary commissioning authority know that the name on file is no longer your legal name.
Many states require you to inform them within a set period of days after your name change. For example, in Florida, you must notify the secretary of state within 60 days after your name change, whereas in Arizona, you only have 30 days. In some states, such as Texas, there is no set number of days; rather, you may continue to perform notarizations using the name on your notary commission certificate until it expires and then change your name upon commission renewal.
Typically, you may change the name on your notary commission by sending the following to the secretary of state (or other state commissioning authority):
- A name change application form.
- Your current notary commission certificate.
- An application fee (usually anywhere from $10 to $25).
You may also have to send a rider or endorsement from your current insurance agency or surety noting the name change. Some states may even require you to submit a new notary application for appointment with all the legal requirements for a new commission.
Updating your name with your state commissioning authority is essential. In some states, your notarial acts may be rendered invalid if you use a name under which you were not commissioned. This could result in numerous problems for your clients and might make you vulnerable to a lawsuit. A failure to inform your commissioning authority of a name change could also result in a fine or even the suspension or revocation of your notary commission.
Once you have notified your state commissioning authority of your name change, the state will send you a new notary commission certificate with your new name. Some states may require that you refrain from performing notarizations until you have received your new commission. Always check the notary laws of your state.
What should I do if my address changes?
If your residential (or, for a non-resident notary, work) address changes, you should notify your state commissioning authority. Depending on the state, you may have between 10 (i.e., Texas) and 60 (i.e., Florida) days to submit your address change notification. In a few states, if you move out of your resident county, you may have to resign your notary commission and apply for a new one.
Failing to update your address with your commissioning authority could lead to future problems. If a complaint is filed against you by a former client, the state will notify you using your contact information on file. If your address has changed, you may not receive this crucial information in a timely matter, and you may lose the opportunity to defend yourself appropriately. You may also miss important reminders to renew your commission when it is about to expire.
Most states will provide you with a way to update your address by mail or online.. As always, check your state’s notary laws and be sure to follow them.
What should I do if my notary stamp or notary journal is lost or stolen?
It is your duty as a notary to keep your notary journal and stamp secure and under your exclusive control, but sometimes loss or theft does happen. If you lose your notary journal or stamp, or either is stolen, you should report the loss or theft to your state commissioning authority as soon as possible. In the case of theft, also notify law enforcement. This is crucial because a lost or stolen stamp could be used to perform fraudulent notarizations, and a notary journal contains sensitive information. If your stamp is stolen and later used fraudulently, you will have a much better chance of proving your innocence if you promptly reported the theft to the appropriate authorities.
Most states will require that you report the loss or theft within a specific time period after it occurs. For instance, in Colorado, you have 30 days to inform the Colorado Secretary of the State of the incident. A failure to report in a timely manner could subject you to penalties, but more to the point, you could end up falsely accused if someone uses your stamp or journal fraudulently.
If your notary stamp is lost or stolen, it’s a good idea to:
- Report the loss or theft immediately to your state commissioning authority, either online (if that’s an option in your state), in writing by mail, or via a form specified for that purpose.
- File a police report if theft is involved.
- Order a notary stamp with a different design. This will enable authorities to tell in the event that the old stamp is used to commit fraud. If allowed by your state, you might choose a different ink color or border.
- Make a note in your notary journal when the stamp was reported stolen and when the new stamp was put in service.
If your notary journal is lost or stolen, it’s best practice to:
- Report the loss or theft immediately to your state commissioning authority by whatever means your state requires.
- File a police report if your journal was stolen.
- Obtain a new journal before you resume notarizing documents. Make sure your new notary journal is a tangible, permanent, bound register with numbered pages to deter fraud, or, if allowed by your state laws, an electronic journal in a permanent, tamper-evident electronic format complying with your state's rules.
The precise procedures for reporting name and address changes and lost or stolen stamps or notary journals vary from state to state. These are some general guidelines and best practices, but be sure to consult the rules and laws of your particular state to avoid any issues with your notary commissioning authority.