Notary Bulletin

Guest Column: New Guidelines Enhance Service Of Notaries

For more information about Rhode Islands Executive Order, which calls for major changes to Notary duties, please visit the NNAs special Rhode Island Notary information site.

By A. Ralph Mollis
Rhode Island Secretary of State

Notaries Public play a vital role in preventing fraud and protecting the integrity of countless daily transactions involving government agencies, businesses and the general public. That is why Governor Donald L. Carcieri and I established a new set of official guidelines for Rhode Islands Notaries Public.

For some time, Notaries have been asking for assistance in enhancing the publics perception of the industrys professionalism. As elected officials, we have an obligation to the public to ensure that Notaries possess the honesty, integrity and knowledge necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of their crucial office. The new Standards of Conduct are intended to meet both of these pressing needs. They incorporate the scope and duties of a Notary Public, and should help every Notary understand exactly what their responsibilities are and how to fulfill them.

While Notaries seldom attract the publics notice, they should. As state-commissioned officials, their function is to ensure that our most important transactions  such as buying a home or signing a business merger agreement  are handled honestly and ethically, specifically by identifying signers and deterring fraud. Their seal means we can trust that the people we do business with are who they say they are. In a world plagued by identity theft and fraud, that simple assurance is more important than ever.

Notaries are quite literally the first line of defense in our ongoing battle against fraud. The Standards are designed to reflect the integrity that our 21,000 commissioned ministerial officials have demonstrated to the residents of our state for generations. Serving as a Notary Public comes with significant responsibility to uphold public trust. The guidelines equip Notaries with the best practices they need to protect themselves and the general public.

The Standards outline unprofessional actions  including refusal to perform a notarial act based on someones race, religion or gender  disciplinary consequences, advertising recommendations and Notary definitions among other issues. In addition, the guidelines recommend that Notaries Public:

  • Notarize only when the person whose signature is being notarized is present and presents satisfactory evidence of his or her identity.
  • Use a seal that includes the Notarys name exactly as it appears on his or her commission when notarizing documents.
  • Adopt standard operating procedures when notarizing documents and keep a written record of notarial acts, including a description of the document.
  • Refrain from influencing a person to enter into or avoid a transaction, except in cases when the act may be unlawful.

I commend Rhode Islands Notaries Public for the essential public service they provide. They play a crucial role in billions of dollars of economic activity every year. These guidelines will ensure their sterling reputation for professionalism remains untarnished.

The office of Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis maintains the records of Notaries Public, authenticates their signatures and keeps on record the official signature of every Notary Public in Rhode Island.

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Quiz: The Many Types Of Notarial Acts

Notaries perform many different duties for the public — and it’s easy to lose track of the different acts and what states they’re authorized in. Test your familiarity with common — and uncommon — notarial acts.

(A link to the correct answers is provided at the end of the quiz.)

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