From NNA: What Every Notary Needs To Know About Journals
Updated 1-30-18. If you’ve ever had questions about why you need to keep a Notary journal, or what information needs to be recorded in it, here are answers to common questions that come up.
Should Every Notary Keep A Journal?
Yes. Most states require or strongly recommend that Notaries own and maintain a journal or record book of the acts they perform.
Why is that? It is an important tool that provides a written record of the Notary’s official acts. It contains details of the transaction in the event a notarized document is lost, altered, or if facts concerning the notarization are challenged in court.
For example, one California Notary told the Notary Bulletin how she was contacted by signers nearly a year after notarizing loan documents for them. A lender had misplaced the signer’s papers, and as a result the deed to the signers’ home wasn’t properly recorded. The Notary’s journal record provided evidence that the loan documents had been notarized and helped keep the signers from losing their home.
Even if not required in your state, a well-kept journal can provide supporting evidence that you acted properly during a transaction if you are ever accused of an inadvertent or willful mistake. For example, while Florida does not require Notaries to keep a journal, state officials have strongly recommended that Florida Notaries voluntarily do so.
Information in Notary journals also has helped investigators locate and arrest dishonest signers who attempted to commit fraud or forgeries.
What Kind Of Journal Should I Keep?
Some states require a journal’s format to include certain features. For example, Arizona specifies that Notaries must keep a paper journal and Tennessee requires the journal to be a “well-bound book.” If not specified by state law, the NNA recommends that Notaries keep a journal with bound pages, and that entries be recorded in chronological order to prevent tampering.
What Information About A Notarization Needs To Be Included In The Journal Entry?
Some states specify in their Notary laws what information can and cannot be recorded in a journal entry. California requires Notaries record the date, time and type of notarization; type of document notarized; signature of any signer notarized; how the signer was identified; the fee charged, if any, and the signer’s thumbprint if the document notarized is a power of attorney, deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property
Texas and Montana require Notaries to record how each signer was identified but prohibit Notaries from recording the serial number of any identification documents presented. You should always follow your state’s laws when entering journal information.
If your state does not provide guidance, the NNA recommends including the following information in each entry:
- The date and time of the Notary act (the date and time indicates when the signer appeared before the Notary Public)
- The type of notarization performed (for example, “acknowledgment” or “jurat” or “verification by oath”)
- The location where the notarization took place
- The title or type of document or transaction (for example, “deed” “personal letter” or “Affidavit of Identity”) and the date on the document, if any (for example, a date appearing at the top of the document or date of signing appearing opposite a signature line)
- The printed name and address of each signer (in some states, witnesses’ names are required for certain documents, such as wills, deeds, mortgages)
- The method used to identify each signer (personal knowledge, type of ID document, or credible witness(es))
- The fee charged for the notarization, if any
- The signature of each signer (some states require the signatures of witnesses if used)
- The right thumbprint of the signer (California requires this for all real estate-related documents and/or powers of attorney; Illinois requires this for certain real estate documents filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds)
- Any other pertinent information (for example, “John Smith signed as President of XYZ Corporation”)
When Should I Make The Journal Entry?
The journal entry should be recorded while the signer is present and before you complete the notarization. This way you may obtain all necessary information needed for the journal entry, such as signatures and thumbprints.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.