Why Are Notary Journal Entries Important?

All states should require notary journals, but they don't. Texas requires them, but New Mexico doesn't, though they encourage their notaries to use them. I couldn't imagine not keeping a record of the notarial transactions I performed. Not only does recordkeeping deter fraud, but it also serves as a memory jogger and a means to cover your tracks while providing a paper trail.

At each appointment, whether a closing or a general notary assignment, the first thing I pull out is my notary journal. This reminds me that before I do anything else, I need to verify the signers' IDs, and annotate the information in my journal. While I'm adding the information from the ID to my journal, I am also making sure that the ID is current and meets the state requirements. On several occasions, I have been unable to complete a notarization because the ID had expired, was mutilated, or just did not meet the state's requirement.

Recently, I was notarizing a will for a gentleman who was staying at a local hotel. In Texas, a will requires two witnesses. The gentleman had made arrangements for the hotel clerk to serve as one of the two witnesses. I asked her for her ID card, and she produced a driver's license that was so mutilated that I couldn't read the expiration date. I told her unless she could produce another form of ID, she could not be a witness.

After verifying the signer's ID, I review the documents being notarized and add them to the notary journal. I make sure that the documents are completely filled out with the exception of the notarial certificate and ensure that the documents include notarial certificates. I review the signature requirements to determine if the document needs to be signed in front of me or if a signature needs to be acknowledged.

All of the information discussed above is annotated in my journal. If for some reason any of the elements listed above do not meet state requirements, then the process will stop, and I will annotate in my notary journal why the notarization was not completed.

A couple of years ago, I received a call from a client who had hired me to notarize an estate package for his ex-wife. She was in a nursing facility under hospice care, with stage four cancer. She was able to sign the documents and understood what she was signing. Unfortunately, she passed away two days after signing the documents. I was asked to appear in court as a witness, as there were some questions about the signing of her will since she died so soon after signing the document. I brought my notary journal with me to court in case it was needed.

The judge asked me several questions about the signing, which I could answer easily, because everything had been annotated in my journal. There is no way I could have answered those questions under oath had I not had that information in my journal.

You may ask if using a journal is really necessary, especially if you live in a state that does not require one. My answer to that is "yes."

-- Phyllis Traylor, U.S. Army Retired is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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