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November 17, 2015

Filling 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”

You might also like:

Notary Journals from A to Z

Everything you need to know about Notary Journals

What defines what a signature is?

Can a notary sign on a different day?



  1. In Nevada we have to record every notarization by the name of the document being notarized. In other words if you are doing a refi, each document must be listed in the journal. That can be 5-7 documents you must list in your journal. If I have confirmed the signing and have received docs, I will do the document list in my book before I leave for the signing. Of course I would not enter their id info but certainly the list of docs.

    Comment by Faye Drover — December 20, 2015 @ 7:51 pm

  2. Once again, much opinion is thrown in here by “non-practicing” notaries. I adopted a procedure for loan signings (where I am provided loan documents in advance) long ago, where I “set up my journal” for signing by filling in date, location of signing, name of document and the type of act along with the fee. This procedure allows me to enter only the pertinent ID information on-site. I know for certain that there are notaries out there who do not properly make one line entry for each notarized signature in their journal [please note that I am a California Notary and realize that other states may allow shortcuts that California does not]. With large document sets that often exceed twenty or more notarized signatures for the package, it only makes sense to prepare ahead. Otherwise, you could spend 20-30 minutes on-site just entering information in the journal. This preparation ensures that the signing is prepared properly and that the on-site signing flows smoothly. Note also that times, signatures and signer ID information as well as fingerprints are all entered on-site. By the way, I don’t offer advice. But, I don’t take procedural short-cuts either.

    Comment by Shannon Ziccardi — January 8, 2016 @ 5:20 am

  3. It is interesting that you recommend filling in the notary journal during the appointment to avoid crossing things out. My wife is considering going to law school and it sounds like notary is an important aspect in the profession. If I were to see a lawyer, I’d probably appreciate knowing if the insurance has a specific way of reading the details.

    Comment by James Borst — January 3, 2020 @ 1:57 am

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