The following are the most common frequently asked questions we hear when becoming a notary or renewing a notary commission.  If your question(s) aren’t answered here, please email us or call us.

  1. What is a Notary Public?

    A notary public is a state public officer appointed and commissioned by the Governor or Secretary of State. Notaries are authorized by law to perform the following six basic duties:
    1. Administer oaths or affirmations
    2. Take acknowledgements
    3. Attest to specific document photocopies
    4. Solemnize marriages
    5. Verify vehicle identification numbers (VINs)
    6. Certify the contents of safe deposit boxes

    Simply put, however, a notary’s main duty is to authenticate identities (i.e. ensure that document signers are who they claim to be) in order to prevent fraud. As such they are also on the front lines of helping to stem identity theft, which is growing at an alarming rate in the US and other countries.

    Since most people enter into business agreements with “strangers,” notaries also make sure that all parties have entered into them knowingly and willingly. Additionally they create trusting environments where individuals feel comfortable sharing documents with full confidence in their authenticity.

  2. What documents can be notarized?

    Notarized documents must contain the following three elements:
    1. Copy/text that commits signers in some way (e.g. agreements)
    2. Signers’ original “wet ink” signature(s)
    3. Notarial certificate, which may appear on documents or as attachments. Notaries complete notarial certificates, sign them, and then apply their notary stamps/seals to complete the process.

  3. Is notarization required by law?

    Yes and no. Some documents require notarization in order to be legally binding… others do not. The types of documents that must be notarized affidavits, real estate deeds, financial agreements and more.

  4. How does a notary identify a signer?

    In order to verify their signers’ identities notaries will request current identification documents that include photographs, physical descriptions and signatures. Driver’s licenses, military IDs and/or passports are acceptable forms of identification.

  5. How much do notaries charge for their services?

    Fees vary widely depending on the types of documents, state regulations, etc. For example, notaries in some states may charge $10 per notarization, while others may receive far less.

  6. Can notaries refuse to notarize documents?

    Yes, notaries can refuse to notarize documents if they are uncertain or uncomfortable about signers’ identities; question their willingness to enter into agreements or have reason to suspect fraud. However, notaries should not refuse service to people based on their race, religion, nationality, lifestyle or because they are unknown (as long as signers provide proper identification).

  7. Does notarization mean that a document is “true” or “legal”?

    No. Absolutely not… Notaries are not responsible for the accuracy or legality regarding the documents’ contents. Their job is to certify the identity of signers. Period.

  8. May notaries give legal advice or draft legal documents?

    No. Notaries may not prepare legal documents for others or act as a legal advisors unless they are also attorneys. Violators will be fined or jailed for the unauthorized practice of law.

  9. How does a notary in the United States differ from a “notario public”?

    A US notary is quite different than a notario public. For example, in Latin, a notarios publico is often a high-ranking official very much like a judge or attorney who, unlike US notaries, may prepare legal documents and/or provide counsel on immigration and other legal matters.

  10. How do I become a notary public?

    Simply provide the information requested on our website form. Once completed, you’ll print the notary forms, sign where indicated and mail them to our offices (our address is on the form). They must come to us first, because US states require that we keep a copy of your original forms with your “wet” signature.

    For your convenience, we also offer a state-approved online notary course, which is a requirement in many states before you can submit your application. After you finish the course, will print your notary education certificate and include it with the forms you mail to us.

  11. How do I meet the notary education requirement for new notaries and renewing notaries?

    A first-time applicant for a notary commission and sometimes a renewing notary must submit proof that the applicant has, within one year prior to the application, completed an interactive online course or have had classroom instruction. This includes information on electronic notarization and other notary public duties. Courses satisfying this are offered by Huckleberry Notary Bonding, ApplyForNotary.com or Notaries.com which are registered, approved and license by the state as a notary education provider.

  12. What is a Notary Bond and why is it required?

    A notary bond is required by the State. This is included as part of your package. This bond protects individuals (i.e. your clients) who may be harmed as a result of errors committed by you in your role as a notary public.

    A notary’s bond is their promise to comply with the law and perform their duties with the utmost care. If a notary doesn’t do that, then their bonding company may have to pay the claim. If a bonding company has to pay the claim, they have the right to collect damages from the notary until it gets reimbursed for all losses, costs and expenses. That is why notary liability insurance or Notary Errors and Omissions Insurance is so important.

  13. What is a notary stamp/seal?

    The notary stamp/seal is self-inking and normally contains four elements which are the following:
    • The words “Notary Public State of________,”
    • The notary’s commissioned name,
    • The notary’s commission number and
    • The notary’s expiration date.

  14. What is Notary Errors & Omission Insurance?

    Peace of mind for you.
    Let’s face it… we all make mistakes. And if they’re minor we usually don’t worry too much about them. However, as a notary, you’ll be working with very sensitive documents such as wills, titles, contractual agreements etc., and seemingly insignificant errors or oversights – even if they’re not your fault – can lead to costly law suits. If this occurs, and you’re not covered by E&O insurance, you’ll be responsible for paying all legal fees associated with your defense. However, with E&O coverage, all of your legal fees would be paid for you.

    Yes, E&O insurance is optional, but why take the risk when you can be completely covered for the duration of your four-year bond for one, very affordable, flat fee?

    Remember, you pay one flat fee for four years of continuous coverage!

  15. How long does it take to become a notary or to renew my notary commission?

    This process normally takes three weeks from the time we receive your original and properly completed and signed application, bond and education certificate from you. These forms are then processed by our office electronically to the state. Then, your notary commission will be issued by the state. Once your notary commission has been issued, you will receive your notary package from Huckleberry Notary or its subsidiaries that will include your commission certificate, notary stamp/seal and any other notary tools that you purchased.

  16. Do you make notary stamps, seals and embossers?

    Yes. These items are custom made to your state’s specifications and cannot be manufactured until all required documents are received by the Huckleberry Notary Bonding or Huckleberry Apply for Notary. All of our stamps, seals and embossers exceed minimum state requirements.

  17. Can I notarize a signature without the person being present if another person swears that the person signed the document?

    No, even though some notaries believe it’s permissible to notarize a signature when the person is not present if someone who witnessed the signing of the document appears before the notary and swears that the person actually signed the document.

  18. May I refuse to provide notary services if I’m not comfortable with the situation?

    You certainly can under certain conditions. Most notaries will be faced with the issue of whether they may refuse to provide notary services when requested especially if the signer does not have proper identification.

  19. May I notarize a will that has not been prepared by an attorney?

    Yes, you may notarize a will whether prepared by an attorney or not, provided the required conditions for a notarization are met.
    • The document signer must be present and competent to execute the document.
    • The signer must be personally known to you or produce appropriate identification.
    • The document must have a jurat, or the document signer must direct you to provide a jurat.

  20. May I notarize a will that has not been prepared by an attorney?

    Yes, you may notarize a will whether prepared by an attorney or not, provided the required conditions for a notarization are met.
    • The document signer must be present and competent to execute the document.
    • The signer must be personally known to you or produce appropriate identification.
    • The document must have a jurat, or the document signer must direct you to provide a jurat.

  21. May I notarize a signature on a living will if there is no prepared notarial certificate on the document?

    Yes, if you add the appropriate notarial certificate determined by the principal (the person making the living will).

    The law provides that a competent adult may make a living will directing the providing, withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event such person suffers from a terminal condition. A living will must be signed by the principal in the presence of two subscribing witnesses one of whom is neither the spouse nor a blood relative of the principal.

    If you are not an attorney, do not advise your customer about the contents of the document or the correct procedures for executing the document. If your customer has any questions it is advisable that you the notary suggest that he or she consult an attorney for assistance.

  22. What should I do if a person produces identification with a name different from the name being signed?

    This problem may occur in different situations. In some situations, individuals may have simply neglected to update their identification cards after a name change. You should direct them to the appropriate county or state office to make the necessary changes.
    In some instances, individuals may need to sign a document with their former name after making the necessary updates to their identification cards. A classic situation arises when a man or woman changes her name after marriage and has to sign a document, such as a warranty deed, in her former name. You may notarize her signature if she signs both names, but you may want to indicate that fact in your notarial certificate.

  23. May a notary public accept the sworn testimony of a person who witnessed a signature in lieu of the signer being present for the notarization?

    No. Some notaries mistakenly believe that they may call the signer on the telephone to verify the signature and then proceed with the notarization. The law prohibits a notary from notarizing any signature if the signer is not present at the time of the notarization.

  24. When I personally know the signer, am I required to indicate that fact in my notarial certificate?

    Yes. When notarizing a signature, a notary public must always certify the type of identification relied upon, either through personal knowledge or some other form of identification produced. This can be done as part of the main wording in the notarial certificate or at the bottom of the certificate.

  25. May I notarize a signature on a document that has been prepared in another state, or on a document that will be sent to another state or country?

    Yes, but you should indicate the correct venue (State of______, County of ______) where the notarization occurred and complete a proper notarial certificate with all the requirements of the notary law. Always include the name of the person whose signature is being notarized and the type of identification relied upon even if the form provided does not request that information.

  26. Recently, I quit my job and my employer kept my notary seal and commission certificate and refuses to return them to me. What should I do?

    Even if your commission, bond, and seal were paid for by your employer, your employer has no right to keep these items. It could be a criminal offense to do so. Remember, you were appointed as a notary public for a four-year commission and not your employer.

    You should take several precautions if you’re notary seal and commission certificate is kept by your employer. First, notify the Secretary of State or the Governor’s Office in writing that your seal is in the possession of someone else. Be sure to give them your commission number and date of birth for identification, and tell them what the approximate last date that your seal was in your possession.

    Second, you may want to send a written request by certified mail to your employer requesting the return of your notary commission and seal. If your employer does not comply, you should file a report with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction. This may protect you in the event that your seal is used and a complaint is filed against you. It may also be your defense if you are sued or charged criminally for an improper notarization that you did not perform.

    Third, you may obtain a duplicate notary commission certificate from state and another seal from us. Your notary bond cannot be revoked so you can continue serving as a notary public until the expiration of your term.

  27. May I sign a document as one of the witnesses if I am also acting as the notary public for that transaction?

    A notary public may sign as one of the witnesses and as the notary public on a document. This is common practice among notaries especially on real estate transactions. In most transactions you will see the title clerk sign as one of the two required witnesses and then notarize the document signer’s signature. In addition, a courts has held that “there is nothing to prevent a notary from also being a witness.” However, before signing as a witness, the notary should ensure that the document does not require the notarization of the witnesses’ signatures. For example, a self-proof affidavit on a will or codicil requires the notarization of the signatures of the testator and both witnesses. If the notary signed as a witness, he or she would be notarizing his or her own signature which is a violation of the notary law.

    The notary should also certify in the notarial certificate the name of the person whose signature is being notarized. If there is no specific notation, then the law presumes that all signatures were notarized. Thus, the notary could unintentionally notarize his or her own signature if the notarial certificate is not specific.

    To be clear, providing that the document does not require the notarization of the witnesses’ signatures, a notary can be one of the two subscribing witnesses as well as the notary public.

  28. I will be moving to another state in a few months. May I transfer my notary commission to that state?

    No. A notary commission is not transferable to another state. Additionally, because you are a public officer appointed for the State, you must resign your commission if you change your legal residency and move out of state. You should submit a written letter of resignation to the Governor’s Office for Notaries or the Secretary of State specifying an effective date, and return your original notary commission certificate and your new address, as the Governor’s Office for Notaries or the Secretary of State will send you an acceptance letter acknowledging your resignation.