Most states either require or recommend that you keep a record of your notarizations. Keeping a detailed Notary journal is a standard of professional practice that helps you to protect yourself from accusations of negligence and potential lawsuits.
But what information goes into a journal entry? Here’s an essential guide to completing journal entries:
Complete The Journal Entry First
It’s best to complete all parts of the Notary journal entry before finishing the notarization. If you wait until afterward, the signer may depart, and you may be left with an incomplete journal entry and no way to finish it. Also, if you wait too long to write down what happened, you may forget essential details you need later. That could cause problems if the notarization is called into question later.
State Requirements For Journal Entries
If your state requires you to keep a journal, make sure to include all mandated information for every entry. For example, California, which has some of the most detailed notarization laws in the country, requires the following information be taken down in each journal entry:
1. The date and time the notarization took place
2. The type of notarization performed — such as, “Acknowledgment” or “Jurat”
3. The type of document being notarized — for example “Deed of Trust” or “Power of Attorney”
4. The signature or mark of each person whose signature or mark is notarized, as well as the signature of any subscribing witness
5. What type of satisfactory evidence was used to identify the signer, such as “U.S. Passport” (California does not allow Notaries to identify signers through personal knowledge)
6. The fee charged for the notarial act
7. The right thumbprint of the signer if the document is a power of attorney, deed, quitclaim deed, deed of trust or other document affecting real property
For most states with journal requirements, entries generally include some variation of date and type of notarization; type of document; name and address of the signer; and how the signer was identified. But the details of requirements vary from state to state. For example:
Pennsylvania requires an entry for the fee charged, even if the fee is waived; the signature of any credible identifying witness; but does not require the signer’s signature or a thumbprint for the journal entry.
Texas requires entries for notarizations involving property transactions to include the name and address of the person receiving the property; and for proofs of execution by subscribing witness, the address of the subscribing witness and how they were identified. In addition, Notaries are prohibited from recording the serial or identifying number of a signer’s ID.
Where Journals Aren’t Required
For Notaries in states that don’t require journals or specify what information should be included, the Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends including the following as a standard of practice for each journal entry:
1. The date and time of the notarization
2. The type of notarization performed
3. The date and description of the document or transaction
4. The name, address and signature of each person whose signature is notarized or who serves as a witness
5. A description of how each signer was identified who is not personally known
6. The fee charged for each notarial act
Sometimes there may be an unusual circumstance connected to a notarization. While it is not required, it is generally a good idea to include information about the circumstances in the entry. That information can be helpful if you are questioned about the notarization at a later time. For example, you might want to note that a signer was bedridden but appeared alert and aware.
Don’t Record Unnecessary Private Information
You have a responsibility to protect the privacy of their signers and should not ask for sensitive personal information for a journal entry unless required. That could include bank account numbers and Social Security numbers.
David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.