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.
Name & Address of the Signer
Identification of the Signer — i.e. type of identification or credible witnesses
Signature of the Signer
Thumbprint of the Signer
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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