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November 17, 2015

Filing out your journal before the appointment?

One notary on Linked In wrote about filling in their journal before the appointment. Honestly, there is nothing illegal about this. However, if one of the parties doesn’t show up for the signing, you might have to do a lot of crossing out in your journal which might not look good if you ever get audited. I have not heard of notaries getting audited, but your state could raise its standards any time, so behave as it if could happen.

If you have limited time at a signing, you might be tempted to pre-fill the Acknowledgment forms and journal entries. It is illegal to stamp the certificates before the signer has signed your Notary journal and the document. However, putting the wording in is okay. The problem is that last minute changes do happen regularly. Signings can be postponed until the next day, and if you put the date in, or there is a last minute name variation change, you will not be able to use that form.

Personally, I feel that you should not fill in forms before or after the appointment. It is easier to make career-ruining mistakes if you divide these tasks into two sessions. You are more present at the signing (at least I am) and you should fill in the forms with the signer in front of you. As a Notary, saving a few minutes at the signing is not an important goal. Filling out these Notary certificate forms is generally very quick if you have experience. The main goal for signing agents should be to develop good practices which keep your error rate near zero.

So, my advice is — avoid the possibility of messy situations. Don’t preword your forms or journals. Do it at the time of the notarization. Be safe! You could call this a “Best Practice” or the avoidance of a “Non-Best Practice”

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November 4, 2013

Notary Journals from A to Z

Not all states require a notary public to keep a notary journal. However, we recommend keeping one for all notary acts simply because it is your only evidence if subpoenaed to court or investigated. The purpose of a notary public is to identify signers and deter fraud. If you don’t keep proper records of notary transactions, several years after the fact, you will have no way to investigate whether the transaction was fraudulent or not. A prudent notary keeps a bound and sequential notary journal and keeps all transactions logged in chronological order.

Information recorded in a journal entry:
Date & Time — i.e. 12:04pm
Type of Notarization — i.e. Acknowledgment, Jurat, Oath, etc.
Document Date
Name & Address of the Signer
Identification of the Signer — i.e. type of identification or credible witnesses
Additional Notes
Signature of the Signer
Notary Fees
Thumbprint of the Signer

Q&A
Q. If I am doing a notarization near midnight, what date do I put on the transaction?
A. Date the transaction based on when the signer signed the journal which happens at a point in time rather than a range of twenty minutes which is how long a notary transaction could take in its entirety.

Q. What do I put in the additional notes section?
A. If you are pulled into court several years after the fact, good notes in your journal might help to remind you about the notarization. You could describe the building, or unusual features of the signers or their behavior.

Q. If I’m doing a loan signing for a fixed fee, how do I document the notary fees?
A. Most notary jobs involve one or two notarized documents and there is a fee per document. If doing a package deal, try to divide the fee for each notary done, or just indicate the total fee for the signing. The important thing is to keep accurate documentation.

Q. Is it important to take journal thumbprints?
A. Yes. Identification documents can be falsified, but you cannot falsify a thumbprint before a notary. You should ideally take a flat impression from the signer’s right thumb for your journal thumbprint. Additionally, I have never heard of a falsified thumbprint ever being used. A thumbprint can keep you out of court as it proves the identity of the signer. I was once investigated and the investigation ended two seconds after I mentioned that I had a journal thumbprint of the signer.

Q. How do I store my journal?
A. You current journal should be kept under lock and key when not in use. Some states require this by law, but it is recommended for all states. Keep fully used journals in a safe storage spot somewhere.

Q. How long do I keep my journal?
Keep your journal until the end of your notary commission. Some states want you to submit your journals to the secretary of state’s office or county recorder when your term is done if you don’t renew. Each state has their own rules, so please ask your state’s notary division.

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September 16, 2012

The dog ate my journal

At this point, I’m wondering just how many notary journals have been destroyed or damaged by dogs.

An Indiana notary signing agent had an experience where, just before a substantial loan signing for a wealthy entrepreneur, the man’s dog peed on her–because she was trying to protect the notary journal the dog was aiming at! It was a wild poodle that hadn’t been groomed in ages, and looked like a shaggy mutt…but had very good aim! When she took out her journal, the dog looked right at it, lifted its bony leg– and our notary dodged it but got it all over her clothes. This brave Indiana notary kept on smiling and just cleaned herself as best she could in the powder room. It was a closing she had to get done before the end of the month… Her notary journal never left her sight for a moment. The show must go on!

One more Indiana notary had the experience of being pinned to the floor by an enormous Saint Bernard. This just startled her, but she wasn’t hurt…well, except for a few scratches. This notary used the restroom, was ill for a minute…then finished the signing and left for home. She says, “Even though the state does not require an Indiana notary to keep a journal, I do. There is a section in the notary journal to record any unusual circumstances. I made a brief note (“Saint Bernard”) of this situation in the journal to help me recall the situation, since it was my first really big signing; it was one of my first jobs as an Indiana notary, and I admit I was nervous. What I generally record in that section are items like ‘power of attorney’ or ‘credible witnesses.’ If you are a notary signing agent, keeping a journal is definitely a great help in understanding exactly what happened when…in case there is any question later.” Arf!

Dogs can get really out of hand, but so can people: one time an Indiana notary went to a signing where the man kept insisting that the notary talk to his dog. The notary did not want to talk to the dog; she just wanted to move on with the signing. The dog continued to act up, barking and whining, and the man–who obviously wasn’t well–kept asking this notary to pet or talk to the dog. At one point, the man became angry, and suddenly grabbed the notary by the hair, and pulled hard. The dog jumped up and bit her hand. She excused herself and tried to leave, but the man blocked her car by standing behind it in the driveway. At this point, the notary called the police…but eventually ended up just leaving. In her notary journal, she recorded the reason she could not do the signing. She (foolishly?) chose not to press charges…but to this day this Indiana notary can’t stand dogs. I wonder why?

Another Indiana notary says, “As a notary signing agent, I see a lot of strange situations. Therewas one house in rural Indiana that was so filthy that I had to leave, and I then reported the placeto the board of health. The woman whoowned the home was actually a supervisor at the board of health! The carpetswere soaked from the dog. The stench wasso bad that I could not do the closing there. The dirt was so heavy that the table cloth was stuck to the table and theman could not pull off the cloth when he tried. There was just no place we could sit to notarize the documents. In the notes section of my notary journal, I recorded my reason for not being able to do the notarization that day. It was a horrible experience.”

If there are dogs at a home you will be working at, ask the people ahead of time if the dogs can be in another room–away from any paperwork. If the people refuse to put their dogs away, at least you will be prepared.

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September 10, 2012

Another Notary saved by a journal

An Illinois notary tells us this story about how her journal saved a man’s home. One day, an attorney called this Illinois notary regarding a notarization she had made years before. It seems that the attorney had a client whose property address appeared on someone else’s deed, and the bank wanted to take his house! The attorney told her, “I need to know how many pages were in the deed of trust you notarized. The bank wants to take this other man’s property.”

This notary was meticulous about her Illinois notary journal, and immediately saw she had recorded that the deed of trust was 12 pages long. “Are you sure?” asked the attorney. “Positive,” replied the notary. “On this particular loan, for every single page that needed a notarization, I had to supply my own Illinois acknowledgment. There was no Illinois acknowledgment form that came with the package. I recorded all this in my journal.” The attorney then said, “Well, there are 13 pages in this deed of trust…but the address on the 13th page is different than on the rest of the documents.” They were able to establish that the 13th page was not part of that deed of trust, but was an “exhibit,” and that the exhibit that was supposedly part of the legal property description was clearly from another property: the 13th page was NOT a notarized document!

This saved the man’s house; the bank was able to take only the property noted in the 12 notarized pages! After the attorney had requested the evidence in writing and the notary had provided the evidence from her Illinois notary journal, the attorney said, “I owe you a box of chocolates!” And sure enough, a week later, this notary received in the mail a 5 lb. assortment of chocolates. From then on, she has always used a chocolate-colored Illinois notary journal.

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September 9, 2012

Saved by the Notary Journal

Filed under: Journals — Tags: , — admin @ 10:29 am

For obvious reasons, I won’t name the state…but one notary came upon this situation: a woman who was having an affair with a married man had a friend who worked at the Department of Motor Vehicles, and this person actually created a false ID for this woman so she could pose as the man’s wife (!!!) The man and his mistress arranged to refinance his home, and used the ID to present to the unsuspecting notary. Loan fraud! They took all the money out of the house and went to South America. When an attorney contacted the notary almost 12 months later, our notary was horrified…but, because she was in one of the sixteen states that require we keep a notary journal, she had taken a thumbprint from the woman…even though, in her state, the thumbprint is regularly required only on a Power of Attorney. When the case came to trial, it was the thumbprint in the notary journal that allowed the wife to recoup her losses…well, the money. She didn’t want the husband back; just the money. EXTRA: Which two states do require a thumbprint in the journal ? A good idea!

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July 23, 2012

I would need a new journal every week!

I would need a new notary journal every week?
 
We had a discussion question on Facebook where we told them that you need a journal entry for each signature per document.  If you have two signers and seven documents, that is fourteen journal entries.  A few notaries stated that IF that was the case, they would need a new journal every week.  This is not true.  A notary journal has more than 500 entries.  I think mine had 512, but I am not sure since I have not had a journal for years.  If the average signing uses 12 entries, then you will have room for 40 full loan signings.  A busy notary might do that many in two or three weeks.  If you are that busy, you need to buy your journals by the dozen to get a better rate, and always have a spare one in your car or your notary carry all bag.
 
What scares me is not so much how many journals a busy notary needs, but the lack of professionalism out there.  The state governments allow people to become notaries who don’t even have a clue as how to fill out their journals, and nobody coaches them or audits them — ever!!! Gulp!!!  No wonder there were phantom signers during the loan crisis, and nobody audited the fraudulent notaries who notarized them — if they were notarized at all.  I feel that if someone can’t handle the basic responsibilities of being a notary, that they shouldn’t be a notary.  And if the various state notary divisions can’t handle keeping an eye on their notaries, that they should reduce the amount of notaries to the point where they can keep an eye on them. 
 
Foreign counties typically reserve the job of notary public for people who are attorneys, or almost as high a position as attorneys.  I think that is a bit too restrictive, but most states need to moniter their notaries a whole lot more — they are not monitering them at all now — or so it seems.
 
On the other hand, perhaps the rules are different state by state.  It also occurs to me that the state notary codes / rules / laws do not specify how many documents you can enter on a single journal entry, so maybe it is the state’s fault.
 
But, here is a logical reason why it should be ONE document per entry.  If you allow multiple documents per entry, if you start with one document, you could ADD a second document name to the journal entry fraudulently — or someone else could add it fraudulently behind your back if they temporarily steal your journal.  Since there is no additional signature in the journal corresponding to that new document, you will have no way of knowing if it is supposed to be there or not.  It would create a situation similar to having blanks in documents that are notarized. After the seal is affixed, nobody knows what types of changes could be made to the documents.

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May 23, 2012

Where do credible witnesses sign the notary journal book

Filed under: Credible Witnesses,Journals — Tags: , , , — admin @ 12:26 pm

Where do credible witnesses sign the notary journal (register)(book)? 

Some states require notaries to carry an official journal of notarial acts while others recommend it, but don’t require it. Some states call the journal of notarial acts a journal, while others call it a registry or a book.  The main thing to remember, is that a good notary journal must be bound and sequential. Each entry must be in chronological order.  Different journal manufacturers make journals differently.  I recommend getting one with a thumbprint section and space to write notes. Most states don’t require notaries to take thumbprints, but for your security as a notary, you need thumbprints to keep you out of court if anyone questions whether the signer was a fraud or imposter.  Thumbprints are a better proof of identity than any other means.
 
The credible witness signs the notary journal in the additional notes section!
They do NOT sign in the signature area!!!  Signature areas are for the document signer, and only one document signer can sign in a particular journal entry’s signature area. If there are two signers, then make two journal entries!  The credible witness must sign in the notes section because there is blank space there.  You should document the credible witness’s identification, phone, and address to be thorough.
 
The notary needs to administer an Oath to the credible witness where the credible witness must swear to the identity of the signer. Make sure the credible witness really knows the signer well, otherwise they are not really qualified to identify someone that they know only as “Ralph”, and don’t even know his middle or last name!

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April 13, 2012

Do notary journals need to be kept under lock and key?

Do notary journals need to be kept under lock and key?
 
Notary rules differ from state to state. Many states don’t even require a notary to have a journal, or notary seal.  However, California requires the use of both a notary journal and seal, and both must be kept under lock and key.  However, there is a catch.  The currently used journal must be locked up and access must exclusive to the notary public that it belongs to.  Co-workers and bosses can not look at the journal without the notary being present.  USED journals that have been filled out to their completion can be stored at the notary’s home, office, etc., but don’t need to be locked up. 
 
When a notary’s commission is over, they must return all journals (California notary journals) (current and completed) to the county clerk’s office or whatever agency the notary division in their state appoints for them.
 
California notary journal rules might not apply to other states, but you should be careful with your journal and seal in any case as it contains really important information. Additionally your California notary seal, or seal from another state could be used for fraud, so you need to prevent that from happening if possible.

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November 19, 2011

How do I fill out a Notary Journal Entry?

How do I fill out a journal entry?
 
Please keep in mind that rules and standards for notary procedures can vary from state to state across the United States.  As a general rule, there are certain areas of confusion that we want to make it a point to clarify.
 
Q. Do I need to have a separate journal entry for each signature that I notarize
A. Yes!  Imagine that you are notarizing signatures on a set of loan documents.  Let’s say that there are four documents to be notarized and both husband and wife need to sign each one — you have eight notarized signatures and eight journal entries. 
One journal entry per notarized signature.
 
Q. Does each journal entry need to be signed?
A. Yes!  The individual whose signature you are notarizing needs to sign the corresponding journal entry.
 
Q.  What about thumbprints? Do I need to take a thumbprint?
A.  Sometimes!  For Deeds and Power of Attorney documents in California, you must take a thumbprint.  For other states, there are different standards, but it is always better to have a journal thumbprint just so you can be 100% sure of the signers identity.  ID’s can be forged, but thumbprints of a live person in front of you can not be forged!
 
Q.  What goes in a notary journal entry?
Date &Time,
Type of notarization (i.e. acknowledgment, jurat, oath, affirmation, protest, etc.)
Name of the document being notarized (i.e. affidavit, deed of trust, occupancy affidavit, etc.)
Document date (documents don’t always have a document date, but if you have 20 documents called “affidavit”, you need to distinguish them somehow and a date might help)
Name and address of signer
Identification of signer
Additional notes
Signature of the signer
Thumbprint of the signer (optional in many states)
 
Q.  What if I’m doing a signing that starts at 11:55pm and ends at 12:05am the next day, what date do I use?
A.  You can use either day, but I would date the notary act at the exact time that the signer signs your journal since that is a definitive POINT in time, rather than a range of time.  Some notary acts allow the signer to sign the document BEFORE they see the notary making the document signing a poor choice for a definitive point in time to date the transaction.
 
Q.  Can I make recommendations for what type of notarizations the signers should get since I know more than them?
A.  No! That is considered giving legal advice  (unauthorized practice of law) in many states. Let them choose on their own, although you can tell them what is “normal” as well as explaining the characteristics of each type of notary act in your state.
 
Q. What if many documents I am notarizing all have the same name?
A. It is good to distinguish documents by other characteristics. If you have 20 Grant Deeds to be notarized by the same signer on the same day, you can note the property addresses indicated on the Grant Deed to distinguish which document you were really notarizing. Otherwise, if you ever go to court, you will not be able to tell the judge if you notarized a particular Grant Deed for that particular signer. Imagine what would happen if he did a 21st Grant Deed after you left and forged your seal on the certificate section and claimed that you notarized it.  If your journal doesn’t describe EXACTLY which documents were notarized, you can get duped by a sophisticated fraud!
 
Q.  Name and address of signer, do I have to write this for each entry?
A.  You can write the name and address of a particular signer, and then draw an arrow down for all documents with that person’s signature being notarized. Each document gets it’s own journal entry per signer.  If you have Joe signing four documents and Sally signing four documents, make sure the journal entries for Joe are all sequential so that they will be consecutive and all in the same place.  Then below those entries you can write Sally’s name and address and a separate entry for all of her documents that she is signing.  Example: Lets say your journal page has eight entries.  Entry 1, 2, 3, and 4 would be for Joe. Joes name and address would be on the first entry along with a particular document name and other information.  For entry 2, 3, and 4, you would see different document names, and an arrow indicating that the signer was still Joe and that his information was the same.  Journal entries 5, 6, 7, 8 would be for Sally and her information would go on entry 5 along with a particular document’s name, and then 6, 7, 8 would have document names and an arrow in the name/address field to indicate that it is still Sally who is the signer.  Make sure Joe signs all four of his entries, and that Sally signs for all four of her entries, otherwise you get in trouble if audited.
 
Q.  How do I identify a signer?
A. Rules are different from state to state.  Some states allow a notary to personally know a signer to constitute being positively identified.  Others allow credible witnesses.  All states allow a signer to be identified through the use of current identity documents such as drivers licenses, passports, state identification cards, etc.  The documents (cards) must have a photo, signature, physical description, name, address, expiration date, and serial number to be acceptable.  Some states allow a card to be used for a grace period after it expires.  If your state allows the card to be used five years after it’s issue date, then you need to be able to read the code on the card to figure out when it was issued.
 
Q. Additional notes — what is that for?
A.  If you use credible witnesses, you document their signatures and other information in the additional notes section.  If you want to document unusual situations, or unusual characteristics of the signers, that is the place to put it.  If you are ever called to court, the information in your journal is the ONLY way you will remember the signing in many cases, especially if you do four signings per day over a course of 12 years.  Example: “The male signer Joe looked like a walrus.Sally had a squeeky voice and seemed nervous.”
 
Q.  Signature area – who signs in the signature area?
A.  The signer of a particular document signs in the signature area (not the notary).  Only one signature per journal entry.  If two people are signing the same document, just create a new journal entry for the second signer with the same document name.  This is not rocket science!
 
Q.  Thumbprint area – do I need to have a thumbprint?
A.  Please educate you on your state law. Some states require thumbprints for particular documents and others don’t.  It is better to have a thumbprint just in case you are called into court.  Your court case might be faster (or not happen at all) if you have proof of the identity of the signer such as a thumbprint.

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September 7, 2010

Everything you need to know about journals

Everything you need to know about notary journals.
Not all states require a journal of official notary acts. However, it is wise for notaries to keep a journal, as it is a record of all notary acts that they have ever done. A notary journal is a bound and sequential book containing records of all notary acts done by a particular notary. If a notary completes all the entry of a particular journal, they can start a second journal.

What goes in a journal entry?
(1) The date and time of the notarization
(2) Type of notarization
(3) Name of the document and document date (if there is one ),
(4) Name and address of the signer
(5) Type of identification ( personally known to the notary, credible witnesses, or ID document )
(6) State/Country, Serial #, and expiration date of the ID.
(7) Additional notes
(8) Signature of the signer
(9) Thumbprint of the signer
(10) Notary fee charged (if any)

The additional notes section is a part of the journal not understood by many notaries.
If credible witnesses are used, their signatures and ID’s should be recorded in the additional notes section.
If any unusual situations arise during the notarization, or there is anything unusual about the signer or the venue, that should be documented in the additional notes section. If travel fees are charged, that too can be documented in the additional notes section.

Journal thumbprints
Not all states require journal thumbprints. However, documents effecting real estate or large amounts of money should have a journal thumbprint accompany their notarization. A thumbprint is the only absolute way to identify a signer if fraud is suspected. ID cards and signatures can be forged, but a person’s thumbprint is unique to that individual. If a notarization is ever investigated due to suspicion as to the identity of the signer, a thumbprint can end the investigation cold in its tracks and possibly save the notary from having to appear in court.

Lock and key
The notary must keep their journal under lock and key. Bosses, co-workers, family members, and strangers alike are not allowed to inspect the notary journal without the presence of the notary. They are not allowed to do notarizations with the notary’s seal and journal under any circumstances.

Lost, stolen, or damaged journals
If your journal gets lost, stolen or damaged, contact your state’s notary division immediately and let them know what happened in writing.

What do you do with your journal when your commission is over?
If you don’t renew your commission, ask your state notary division what to do with your journal. It is most likely that they will need to be submitted to your county recorder’s office.

Where do I purchase a journal?
Notary journals can be purchased from the NNA, or from many other vendors on the internet. Some local office supply stores might have journals too, although that is not a predictable place to buy journals unless you are sure they have them.

How many journal entries do I create?
If one signer signs one document, create one journal entry. If one signer signs two notarized documents, that would necessitate two journal entries. If three signers each sign two notarized documents, thats six journal entries, all of which need to be signed by the corresponding signer.

Where do I keep my journal when I’m not using it?
Keep it under lock and key. You can have a notary carry all bag with a mini-lock, or keep it locked in a desk drawer to which only you have the key. Nobody else should ever be able to access your journal

What if someone has an inquiry about a particular journal entry?
Just ask them what the date of the notarization was and the name of the signer, and look it up in your journal. If you have several journals in your archives, you may have to go through your archives. You can make a copy of the journal entry and send it to the person making the inquiry, but hide information pertaining to notarizations of other individuals on that same page.

Tweets:
(1) A journal entry must include: time & date, type of notarization, doc name, name & address of signer…
(2) Journals must be kept under lock & key and returned to the county clerk at the end of your commission.
(3) Learn the finer points of journal entries: where credible witnesses sign, thumbprints & notes.
(4) Everything you need to know about journals, but were afraid to ask.

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The dog ate my journal
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3368

Saved by the notary journal
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=3353

I need a new journal every week
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=2605

How do I fill out a NotaryJournal entry?
http://blog.123notary.com/?p=1725

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