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What To Do With Full Notary Journals

What To Do With Completed Notary Journals

Notary journals contain valuable records of your past acts. But if you’ve been a Notary for several years, you may be wondering what to do with Notary journals you no longer use. Do you send them to someone? Do you retain them? If so, how long? Here are some important tips.

Can I Discard Notary Journals I Don’t Use Anymore?
 

Even if you’ve accumulated a large stack of full journals, don’t throw them out willy-nilly. In fact, doing so in some states, such as California or Hawaii, is a violation of Notary law. For example, in Hawaii, failing to retain journal records and turn them can result in a Notary being fined $50-$500.In California, willful failure to deliver journals to the county clerk of the county in which the Notary’s oath and bond are filed is a misdemeanor and subjects the Notary to personal liability to any person injured as a result.

The information in a completed journal could be vital to proving you acted properly if you’re ever accused of negligence or fraud in a court of law. Also, journals often contain sensitive personal information about your customers, such as addresses, driver’s license numbers or other data that could be used for fraud or identity theft. So, you never should throw away your journals.

How Long Do I Keep My Notary Journals?
 

Generally, states that require Notaries to keep a journal also provide guidelines for keeping and disposing of journal records.

Some states require you to keep all journal records until you stop being a Notary, then turn them over to a government agency. In Colorado, journals must be turned in to the Secretary of State’s office. California requires you to turn in your journals to the county clerk’s office where you filed your oath of office. Hawaii is unusual in requiring Notary journals to be turned in to the state Attorney General’s office each time a commission expires.

Other states allow you to destroy old journal records after a certain period of time. Arizona requires you to keep a journal record of every notarization for five years after the date it was performed. That means five years after the last entry recorded. Only then may they be destroyed. However, if you stop being a Notary in Arizona, you must turn in journals with entries dated less than five years ago to the Secretary of State.

Maryland requires Notaries to retain journal entries for five years. Massachusetts requires Notaries to keep all journal records for seven years after they stop being a Notary.

Texas requires journal records to be kept for three years or the term of the commission in which the notarization occurred, whichever is longer. So if you perform a notarization and there are two years left on your Notary commission, you keep the journal record for three years. However, Texas officials recommend keeping journal records permanently as a best practice.

What If My Employer Wants My Journals?
 

Only Arizona and Oregon allow Notaries to turn journals over to employers — and even then, you only may do so under special circumstances. In other states, the journal is usually considered the Notary’s personal property and must remain exclusively under your control. It may not be kept by an employer even if your employer paid for your commission or you changed jobs.

What If My Notary Journal Is Missing?
 

If any of your journal records are lost or stolen, be sure to report the loss to the proper authorities as set out by your state laws. California and Montana require you to send a written notice to the Secretary of State. California requires the notice to be sent by certified or registered mail (or, after January 1, 2017, by any physical means of delivery with a receipt) and include the dates covered in the missing journal, along with your commission number and expiration date.

Arizona, Hawaii and Texas require you to report a lost or stolen journal to the Secretary of State (or Attorney General in Hawaii) and also to local police. Arizona and Hawaii require Notaries to report any lost or stolen journal within 10 days.

If you are commissioned in a state that does not provide guidelines for reporting a missing journal and your records are stolen, the NNA recommends filing a report with local law enforcement.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

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2 Comments

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Teresa

05 Jan 2017

What if there is nothing in my state statues that addresses whether notary journals must be kept when full, or when a person is no longer a notary? I haven't been a notary in 4 years, but don't want to shred my notary journal unless I know it's okay.

National Notary Association

11 Jan 2017

Hello Teresa. If state law does not address disposal of completed journals, the Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility recommends keeping the journal stored in a secure place for 10 years from the date of last entry.

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