If you are a newly commissioned Notary Public, or are interested in becoming one, be aware that your journal is one of the most important recordkeeping tools available to you. Perhaps you’re unsure if you need to keep a journal, or what to include in one if you do. This guide offers all the information you need.
Why Every Notary Should Keep a Journal
Most states require or highly recommend that notaries maintain a record book of all the notarial acts they perform. Even if your state doesn’t mandate the keeping of a notary journal, such as Florida, the National Notary Association (NNA) strongly suggests keeping a record anyway. Here’s why:
- Deter fraud: The information in your journal can help investigators locate and arrest dishonest signers who have attempted to commit forgery or fraud. Diligently annotating information from a signer’s ID in your journal can even prevent fraud before it happens. For instance, you will be unable to complete a notarization if the signer’s identification has expired, been mutilated, or fails to meet state requirements in some way.
- Jog your memory later on: Recording information immediately as it happens provides the most accurate record possible. If you are ever asked to testify about the legitimacy of a signing, your journal will be an invaluable reference as you recall facts about the transaction.
- Evidence of Best Practices: A well-kept journal provides supporting evidence and may protect you if you are ever accused of making an accidental or intentional error during a notarial transaction. After all, your thorough, chronological entries prove that you acted appropriately.
- Provide a paper trail: In one example, a notary was contacted by signers nearly a year after completing the notarization on a home loan. The lender had misplaced the signers’ documents, so the deed wasn’t properly recorded. The notary’s journal served as evidence that the loan papers had indeed been notarized, helping to prevent the signers from losing their home.
How to Start a Notary Journal
Some states outline requirements for what characteristics a notary journal should have. For instance, Arizona specifically requires notaries to keep a paper journal. On the other hand, Tennessee specifies that journals should either be a “well-bound book” or an “appropriate electronic form.”
If your state doesn’t spell out specific requirements, you may choose to keep a paper journal. The cover can be hard or soft, with a lighthearted or professional design to suit your preference. The NNA, Notary Rotary and others have notary journals with step-by-step instructions that make it easy to record your acts according to state law.
You can also keep an electronic journal. The Veritable Notary App grants you access to a state-of-the-art encrypted e-journal to create a digital trail for your protection. It takes you through the annotation process step-by-step and uses best practices to guard against frivolous lawsuits. Easily add thumbprints, incorporate signatures, store encrypted photos or PDFs of the notarized document, and print reports when necessary.
What Information to Include in a Notary Journal
When someone hires you to notarize a document, your journal should be the first thing you pull out. This is a reminder that, before you do anything else, you need to verify the signers’ identifications and record all relevant information. It’s best to finalize the annotation before providing your notary seal to ensure completeness.
Your state might specify what information should and should not be recorded in a notary journal. Always follow your state’s laws when annotating information. If your state doesn’t provide guidance, here’s what you should include:
- The date and time of the notarial act
- The type of notarization being performed (such as “acknowledgment,” “jurat,” or “verification by oath”)
- The location where the transaction is taking place
- The title of the document or transaction (such as “personal letter,” “deed,” or “affidavit”)
- The date on the document, if any (this might include a date at the top of the page or to the right of any signatures)
- The name and address of each signer (and, if required by the state and document type, the witnesses’ names as well)
- The method of identification used for each signer (for instance, a driver’s license, credible witness, or your personal knowledge)
- The fee charged, if any
- The signature of each signer (and witness, if applicable)
- The right thumbprint of each signer (for certain documents and in some states. If a thumbprint isn’t required, the signer may choose to decline to provide one.)
- Other pertinent information regarding the circumstances of the transaction (such as if the signer is bedridden but alert and aware of their actions)
If, at any point along the way, the elements of the transaction don’t meet state requirements, stop the process and annotate why the notarization couldn’t be completed. This is an important step in helping police locate and arrest dishonest signers.
What Not to Include in a Notary Journal Entry
Your duty as a notary is to protect vulnerable populations against fraud, so make sure your journal doesn’t contain any sensitive personal information above and beyond what is required. As a rule of thumb, never record bank account information or Social Security numbers.
Another way to protect yourself and your clients is to use the Veritable Notary App. With iOS and Android compatibility, every Notary Public can utilize this simple, intuitive tool to detect counterfeit IDs and prevent fraud in seconds. The app works alongside your paper notary journal, or you can utilize the encrypted Veritable e-journal. Never has there been a better tool for notary recordkeeping and eliminating forgery!