As notary public instructors, we’ve found many common mistakes made by notaries who are just starting. Today we’re going to run through some of the most common notary errors made by beginners and from what we’ve encountered in our time as notary publics and instructors of notary public classes and how to avoid these pitfalls.
10 Most Common Mistakes:
- Require the physical presence of all persons for whom you perform notarial acts. The person who has signed a document must be physical with you when you complete a jurat or certificate of acknowledgment.
- Ensure all jurats and certificates of acknowledgment you complete are worded the same as required by your state. Sample notarial certificates are available on your state notary commissioner’s website.
- Complete a notarial certificate for every official act. Merely signing and stamping your notary public seal on a document is not a notarial act. The notarial certificate should be endorsed on the paper, or a separate notarial certificate should be stapled to the document. The notary public seal only may be stamped in the area designated on the notarial certificate. Stamping your notary public seal on additional pages attached to the notarial certificate is not permitted.
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4. Keep your notary journal and official seal in a locked and secure place where only you have access. Do not permit anyone to assist you in completing journal entries. Your notary journal and official seal always must be under your direct and exclusive control, and not even your employer can have access.
5. Notify the Secretary of State immediately, in writing by certified mail or registered mail or any other means of delivery that provides a receipt, if your journal or seal is lost or stolen. Include a photocopy of the police report, if available.
6. The notary public must surrender the journal upon request to a peace officer acting in their official capacity and within their authority investigating a criminal offense with a reasonable suspicion to believe the journal contains evidence of a criminal offense. The notary public must notify the Secretary of State that the journal was seized within ten calendar days.
7. The notary public must surrender the journal upon request to a peace officer acting in their official capacity and within their authority investigating a criminal offense with a reasonable suspicion to believe the journal contains evidence of a criminal offense. The notary public must notify the Secretary of State that the journal was seized within ten calendar days.
8. Record, without abbreviations, all the information required by law to be recorded for every notarial act. Any member of the public may request a copy of a specific line item entry from the journal, which would be useless if that line is filled with indecipherable abbreviations or quotation marks. A complete entry is necessary to provide an entire record of the notarial act. California law requires that you record the following in your journal line items: the date and time of each notarial act; the type of notarial act performed (e.g., jurat, acknowledgment, certified copy of a power of attorney); the type of document notarized (e.g., deed of trust, permission to travel); the signature of every person whose signature is being notarized; the details of the identification document used to identify the signer of the document being notarized, including the type of identification (e.g., driver’s license, passport), the government agency that issued the identification, the serial number on the identification and the date of issue or date of expiration of the identification document; the fee charged; and when required, a thumbprint. Suppose one or two credible witnesses are used to identify the document’s signer. In that case, the name of each credible witness and the details of each credible witness’s identification documents must also be recorded in the journal line item.
8. Rely only on the acceptable identification documents listed to establish satisfactory evidence of identification. Identification cards such as social security cards, credit cards, student identification cards, and employer identification cards are not acceptable forms of identification for notarization purposes.
9. Obtain a thumbprint from every person for whom you notarize a deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust, any other document affecting real property, or a power of attorney document.
10. Submit your journal after your commission expires to the county clerk’s office, where your oath is on file.
Conclusion: Create a checklist
Conclusion: Create a checklist of procedures to make sure everything is done properly
A checklist of procedures to make sure everything is done correctly.
Creating a checklist of routine procedures is perhaps one of the best ways to eliminate mistakes. It is always best to create a list of methods before you begin to reduce errors. It may be one of the most critical procedures you will take on as a notary public.
Make sure you’ve done your due diligence before signing any document.
Have you done your due diligence?
Is the document being notarized completed?
Signers identity verified?
Did you collect your signature inside your journal?
Have correct notarial wording?
Doing due diligence will go a long way.
When you’re a notary public, if there’s one thing that can make or break your business, it’s what people think of you. A good reputation is what you need to succeed. Being knowledgeable and avoiding mistakes is a great way to get repeat business.
It is your duty and good practice to learn the laws that govern notary public services in your state. While some don’t require necessary training, we recommend you make sure that you are competent as a notary public and continue to check for updates.