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?
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
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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