NH House Bill 672 | NNA
Law

NH House Bill 672

Notary Law Update: NH House Bill 672

State: New Hampshire

Summary:

New Hampshire becomes the latest state to enact the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts published by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.

Signed:  June 15, 2005

Effective:  January 01, 2006

Chapter: 118

Affects:

Amends New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated Title I, Chapter 5; Title XLII, Chapters 455 and 456; and Title LXIII, Chapter 660

Changes:
  1. Increases the maximum fee for a notarial act from $5 to $10.
  2. Renames the office of “commissioner” to “commissioner of deeds.” (Such commissioners of deeds are appointed by the New Hampshire Governor to notarize documents for filing in New Hampshire in specified jurisdictions inside and outside the state.)
  3. Specifies that the following offenses committed negligently or recklessly are subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000: (a) Making a material false representation on an application form; (b) Performing a notarial act that is false; (c) Performing a notarial act without establishing the identity of a person requesting a notarial act if the person is unknown to the Notary; and (d) Performing a notarial act purporting to have witnessed the principal’s signature or administered an oath or affirmation when the Notary did not.
  4. Classifies the above-mentioned offenses and performance of a notarial act without being duly commissioned as a notarial officer as Class A Misdemeanors if the acts are purposefully or knowingly committed.
  5. With respect to the new misconduct provisions, authorizes the Attorney General to notify suspected violators, to negotiate, and to settle with suspected violators without court action.
  6. Tasks the Secretary of State, with the advice and approval of the Attorney General, with preparing an educational manual in non-technical language for Notaries, justices of the peace, and commissioners of deeds, and requires the manual to be revised within 6 months following the end of a legislative session that amends the laws pertaining to Notaries, justices of the peace, and commissioners of deeds. The manual is to be distributed free of charge to all commissioned Notaries, justices of the peace, and commissioners of deeds.
  7. Raises the commissioning fees for Notaries from $50 to $75. (Note: New Hampshire Notaries are commissioned to 5-year terms.)
  8. Repeals the Uniform Acknowledgment Act (enacted 1945) and Uniform Recognition of Acknowledgments Act (enacted 1969).
  9. Enacts the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts of 1982 (ULONA) promulgated by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws virtually intact. Among the noteworthy provisions of the ULONA that are new to New Hampshire law: (a) Identification of the signer required for all notarial acts (previously, identification was required for acknowledgments only); (b) Satisfactory evidence of identity is defined as a Notary’s personal knowledge of a signer, the oath or affirmation of a credible witness known to the Notary, or presentation of an identification document; (c) Signature witnessings and copy certifications are now authorized notarial acts; and (d) Statutory short form acknowledgment, jurat, signature witnessing, and copy certification certificates are provided. (In the ULONA, a jurat is called a “verification upon oath or affirmation.”)
  10. Gives any member of the New Hampshire Bar oath administering powers for the purpose of taking testimony.
  11. Repeals RSA 455:5-455:10, which required a Notary or the Notary’s administrator to deliver all notarial records and papers to the Secretary of State upon removal from the state, commission resignation, or death; and also required the Secretary of State to maintain custody and certify copies of these records upon request.
  12. Makes other conforming changes.
Analysis:

House Bill 672 represents the most significant change to New Hampshire’s Notary laws in many years. (The last change to Chapter 455 of the RSA was in 1997, but many sections repealed by this bill date back to 1943). New Hampshire’s Notary fees are now the highest in the nation. In addition, under the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, Notaries gain new powers to perform signature witnessings and copy certifications, and identification of the signer is now required for all notarial acts. The new misconduct provision specifying a civil penalty for failing to positively identify a document signer underscores the critical importance of this most important Notary role. The repeal of the sections governing disposition of the records and papers belonging to a Notary leaves a void – New Hampshire Notaries now have no statutory guidance for retaining and archiving these records and the public has no clear way to request or gain access to them. In absence of any directive, New Hampshire Notaries should follow the guidance of the Model Notary Act Section 7-4 and The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, Guiding Principle VIII.

Read the bill text.

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