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Notary Bulletin

I’m A New Notary. What Do I Do Now?

New Notary light bulb resizedYou’ve finished your training, passed your state-mandated exam, and received your official Notary seal. You are an officially commissioned Notary Public. So…now what? While getting started can feel daunting, having proper knowledge, confidence, and a strong network of colleagues can help smooth your road to success.

Tips For Your First Signing

  • Require Physical Appearance: Signers must appear before you. If a colleague or manager asks you bend this rule, explain that you are protecting everyone involved in the transaction by following the law.
  • Require Acceptable Forms Of ID: Consult state laws for acceptable forms of ID. “I always ask up front before my appointment if the name on their identification matches the documents,” says Angela Varvi, owner of Angela V Mobile Notary. “If not, I refer them back to the source who prepared the document.”
  • Never Advise Signers: You can explain the differences between jurats and acknowledgments, but never advise a signer on which type of notarization should be performed.
  • Record All Notarizations: The NNA recommends keeping a journal, regardless of state laws. Complete entries at the time of the notarization, and make sure the signer signs the record.
  • Reach Out For Answers: If you have questions, request clarification from the document receiving agency, reach out to a Notary mentor, or call the NNA Hotline.
  • Secure Your Notary Tools: Always keep your journal and Notary seal in a safe, locked place.

Get The Notary Training And Resources You Need

Whether or not you had to go through any type of education to get your commission, continuing training is important. What do you do, for example, if your boss asks to look at your Notary journal? Or if the name on a signer’s ID is different than the one on the document?

“Notaries are not just rubber stampers,” says Notary educator and 2009 NNA Notary of the Year Elaine Wright, who teaches courses covering best practices, procedures and advanced Notary topics. Wright recommends going beyond what is covered in state-mandated courses, which focus primarily on Notary laws, and finding ways to supplement your knowledge core.

Your Secretary of State’s website is a good place to start. Most of these agencies have Notary handbooks or reference guides.

You can also find online or face-to-face Notary courses within your area. If you are not sure what is available in your state, Colorado Notary Carol Salter, the 2005 Notary of the Year, recommends contacting your Secretary of State. “Even if your state doesn’t offer courses, they may be able to recommend one near you.”

The NNA’s free online webinars take you step by step through common Notary tasks, such as administering oaths and affirmations, and detailed explanations of more advanced notarizations, such as powers of attorney, as well as tips on handling challenging signers or signing situations, such as ID discrepancies or unlawful requests.

Find A Mentor And Create A Notary Network

Even the most educated Notary can find him or herself in challenging situations. “Don’t be afraid to reach out for help,” advises Salter. Luckily, the digital age makes it easier than ever to find mentors and colleagues.

  • Find a Mentor: Notary mentors provide valuable tips and can join you at signing appointments. “Mentors know how to go into a signing and take control of the situation,” says Howard Blum, owner of Pro Mobile Notary, who is in the process of creating a mentor program for veterans of the U.S. armed forces. You can find a mentor through the NNA Mentors Network and the NNA LinkedIn groups.
  • Make A Digital Connection: Join an online discussion groups for Notary professionals such as the NNA LinkedIn groups, where you’ll find colleagues discussing how to deal with difficult signers, handling specific types of notarizations, tricks for maximizing efficiency, and dealing with challenging requests from your boss.

Kelle Clarke is a Contributing Editor with the National Notary Association.

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