A common-law Notary Public serves as a public officer dealing with non-controversial legal matters involving international and foreign business, powers of attorney, deeds, estates, wills, and affidavits.
The state government appoints notaries and provides statutory powers to notarize documents, witness signatures, administer oaths, and serve many administrative functions like identifying the person signing a document such as interrogatories in personal injury and medical malpractice cases.
Documents are notarized to deter fraud, assuring that the document is authentic and all parties involved in the transaction have been certified. A notary public typically record-keeps, vets, and certifies through a process known as a notarial act.
According to the National Notary Association, a notary is an impartial screener who identifies a person signing a document and assures their willingness and awareness about what is contained in the paperwork. Screening document signers can detect and deter fraud while protecting others from identity thieves, forgers, and exploiters.
A notary typically verifies the signer’s identity using their driver’s license, passport, or other legal document/license with the signer’s photograph and signature.
A document signed and stamped by the notary verifies that they have witnessed the participants signing the paperwork, completing the notarization process.
How to Become a Notary
Becoming a notary can be a full-time or part-time career providing numerous benefits earning thousands of dollars yearly. These public officials provide invaluable notary services to the community, including witnessing and attesting signatures, taking acknowledgments, administering affirmations and oaths, and taking verifications upon affirmation or oath.
Notary laws are different in every state. Generally, states require notary applicants to meet basic requirements when completing the notary application process that includes:
- Be 18 years and older and a legal resident of the state where they intend to serve
- Be a US citizen or a lawful alien legal resident with a permanent US residence
- Never have had a notary public commission suspended or revoked during the last decade
- Able to read and write English
- Have not been criminally convicted of a felony
- Provide a notary bond to the state
- Complete a study course that meets the state’s requirements (not required in Illinois)
- Submit your application with a notary application fee
- Satisfactorily pass the state-prescribed written examination (not required in Illinois)
- Clear a background check and submit fingerprints when required
- Purchase a surety bond from approved bonding agencies when required and file all notary public commission documents (typically $5000 bond)
- Purchase notary supplies, including a record journal and notary stamp
- Take the oath of office
Notary Commission: Appointment and Revocation
In most states, the Secretary of State will appoint a notary public, usually through the County Clerk. The state’s office receives notary applications for new commission appointments and renewals and administers the commissioning process.
Typically, the state regulates notaries and the length of their terms. A notary commission lasts four years starting from the appointed date.
The notary public can forfeit their commission or lose their notary commission through:
- Convicted of a felony
- Loss of permanent United States residency
- Loss of state residency
In some states, individuals that meet all of the requirements to become a notary public and have had their civil rights restored after a convicted felony might still be allowed to become a notary public.
However, the Secretary of State might still deny the applicant a notary commission if their crime has a reasonable relationship to the duties of the office.
Aspiring notaries can submit a written statement and information about their sentencing order and contact the Secretary of State’s office about the information needed to determine whether the individual can become a notary.
Numerous online resources provide educational training to become a notary in every state. These training courses are popular in California, Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Pennsylvania, where state-approved notary education is required for all notary applicants.
The association also provides other online courses for states not requiring education for a notary commission. These states include Alabama, Georgia, and Texas. Attending a state-approved live class or taking an online course is available for states that require mandatory notary education, including California and Pennsylvania.
Notary Bond and Notary Seal
Many states require notaries to buy and maintain surety bonds from a bonding agency throughout their 4-year notary term. In most states, the surety bond is $5000.
Notary bonds do not protect the notary but safeguard the public against any financial loss caused by the notary public’s improper conduct. Once the notary public applicant has their bond, they can finish their paperwork to complete the application process and pay the required fee.
In addition to purchasing notary bonds through a bonding agency, the applicant must buy a notary seal, like a crimping embosser or rubber stamp that leaves an impression of the notary public name, location, and expiration date.
A rubber stamp or embosser notary seal authenticates the notary public’s signature, making the notarial act official.
Once the application has been received and the applicant has fulfilled all the application process requirements, they will receive a commission certificate and the seal through the bonding agency.
Any notary with an expiring commission must obtain a new seal before the first day of their new notary term. Once the new notary seal and commission certificate arrives from the bonding agency in the mail, the old seal must be destroyed to prevent any misuse.
Error and Omissions Insurance
It is illegal for a notary public to provide legal advice to any individual or prepare a legal document, even under the supervision of an attorney.
It is highly recommended that any individual seeking a certificate or license to become a notary public should buy error and omissions insurance to protect their professional and personal assets should they make a mistake in any notarial act.
Affordable insurance coverage provides peace of mind while protecting the notary’s liability. An error or omission policy protecting the notary is different from a notary bond protecting the public against mistakes.
Error and omission policies are not required by state law but can reduce the potential risk of financial loss to the policy limit if the notary public is named in a lawsuit. It is not the notary employer’s responsibility to pay any insurance payment or fee but is similar to the notary’s responsibility for their journal, seal, and any notarization act.
How to Become a Notary FAQs
Is there a demand for notaries public?
Currently, there are 4.4 million notaries in the United States protecting consumers against identity theft and fraud. The demand for notaries has increased substantially over the years by private citizens, industries, and businesses.
Most notaries witness and authenticate documents signing involving legal transactions that could include powers of attorney, mortgage documents, adoption papers, contracts, advanced medical directives, and others.
Many individuals become a notary public to earn additional income by working as independent contractors to banks, title companies, financial institutions, and mortgage companies needing a notary.
How much does a notary public make per signing?
A notary public signing agent earns approximately $75-$200 on average as a flat fee for real estate transactions in many states. The amount of compensation a notary receives is usually dependent on the type of document notarized.
Typically, notaries who work for an hourly wage earn $13 per hour on average based on their location and the type of document being notarized. Many notaries public work on a part-time basis. Those that work full-time could earn six figures annually when working exclusively on real estate transactions.
How do notaries find work?
Many individuals become a notary public to work as independent contractors. Many car dealerships, law firms, and local banks need notaries public to authenticate their documents under the state’s requirements.
Many notaries find jobs working on loan signing assignments for mortgage and title companies by posting their business profiles on numerous online sites where potential customers can find them around the clock.
A successful Notary Public typically tells others that they provide notary services while making the rounds of local businesses, assisted-living facilities, and hospitals.
Many businesses, including government agencies, banks, and lawyers, need a mobile Notary Public in their community who can notarize documents and is willing to travel.
Is a notary public exam difficult?
Most states do not require individuals to complete and pass an examination to become a notary. However, in states that do require exams, like California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, and Montana, a notary public applicant can gain personal knowledge of what they need by taking an online course or live classes before they apply.
Understanding Why You Should Become a Notary Public
Obtaining a notary commission opens doors to additional earning potential in the legal field, where integrity and trust are paramount to success. Many notaries work as freelancers and independent contractors. Others work as mobile notaries that visit companies, offices, and residential homes, providing notarization service to businesses and residents.
Maintaining an occupation as a notary provides job stability in law offices and companies that work on a fee structure, where you are paid by the hour. Providing notary services as an independent contractor provides self-employment opportunities to work part-time or full-time.
In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for notaries public in law offices that need notary services on staff and mortgage offices, title companies, and banks that might offer legal and verifiable signing services to clients.
The initial startup of becoming a notary public can range between $100 and $500, although there may be additional expenses, including optional error and omission insurance coverage. The application process is very straightforward in most states, with simple qualifications and requirements.
You may decide to take a notary class to complete an exam. You will be required to obtain a surety bond based on the state’s requirements and submit all required paperwork to the Secretary of State, usually through the County Clerk.
Finally, you will need to purchase a notary seal and receive your certification to begin making money as a notary.