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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