Notary Bulletin

What Your Employer Needs To Know

Notaries have a crucial responsibility to protect the public, their employers and themselves through performing trusted and sound notarizations. But in light of recent court rulings, legislation and regulatory initiatives, a Notarys employer can also be held liable if their staff Notaries dont follow professional standards of care when performing notarizations. State officials and the general public increasingly expect employers to make sure that their Notary-employees are well trained, properly supervised and follow best practices. As a result, Notaries now have an obligation to help their employers understand to the importance of maintaining the highest notarial standards in the office.

Few employers are aware of recent appellate court decisions that hold employers and their Notaries to industry standards of professional and ethical conduct above and beyond what is spelled out in state law  standards that are outlined in the National Notary Association-authored Model Notary Act. But following the new standard of care is relatively simple for Notaries and bosses. Here are a few things your employer should know to avoid costly legal problems.

Establish Company Policy
The first step is to urge your employer to establish an office policy requiring Notaries to follow the law and best practices, even if they find it inconvenient. More importantly, the document should spell out the employers expectation of its staff Notary and clarify several items including: Whether the Notary can perform notarizations for the public during business hours; if fees should be charged and who keeps the fee; who holds errors and omissions coverage; who pays for supplies and education; and who the Notary goes to for questions regarding notarial issues. The policy needs to recognize that Notaries are legally bound to serve the public good when performing a notarization. If a boss resists this idea, a Notary should calmly explain that a sound policy will reduce risk for liability. The policy should outline the basic principles and expectations of a good, unimpeachable notarization:

  • Requiring personal appearance by the document signer;
  • Properly identifying the signer;
  • Keeping a record of every notarial act;
  • Keeping the Notarys seal and journal securely locked away when not in use so others cannot misuse them.

Notary Education
It is one thing to draft a company policy. But to understand all that needs to be done to ensure a sound notarization, training is crucial. Thus, every Notary in your company should be properly trained  including your supervisor.

A legal opinion written by the nationally renowned law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP noted that employers trained in Notary standards can perform spot audits of their employees journals, check the security of journals and seals, and observe notarizations to make sure that theyre being performed correctly. This goes a long way in limiting liability risks. The education should be provided by an accredited organization or a Notary with excellent credentials, and should include a firm grounding in state laws as well as general best practices. Continuing education and refresher courses also are a good idea.

Recordkeeping
Keeping a record of every notarization is one of the best protections for an employer if a transaction ever comes into question after months, or even years. Many states do not require Notary recordkeeping and some industries oppose it. However, a complete, properly-kept record will demonstrate that the Notary followed best practices and the new standard of care and did everything correctly. Even if a Notary did everything by the book, without a record, there is no way to prove it. Additionally, a Notarys journal serves as an important fraud fighting tool by creating important evidence of who personally appeared before the Notary.

For most businesses, offering Notary services is a way to better serve customers and by gaining speed and convenience, and that ultimately will help your employers bottom line  as long as the Notary does things the right way.

More Information And Resources:

* Recent Notary Case Shines Spotlight on Employer Liability
* The Trusted Notary Training program
* The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility
* The Model Notary Act
* Legal analysis of Vancura v. Katris case
* More information on NNA educational offerings
* How Notaries can protect themselves from liability

Professional Sections

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Financial and Corporate Services
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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.)

Confronted with a tricky notarization? Unsure how to proceed? NNA members have unlimited access to our expertly trained Hotline counselors to help you with all of your notarial questions.

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