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What steps must be taken when a Notary dies?

What to do when a Notary dies article

Updated 1-18-23. The death of a friend or loved one always leaves challenges for those left behind.  When a Notary dies, there are additional legal obligations to fulfill, such as properly disposing of the deceased’s Notary seal and journal. All Notaries should instruct family or friends about what to do in the event of their death.

Notify The Commissioning Official When A Notary Dies

The first thing you should arrange is for the commissioning official in your state to be notified of your death. California, Mississippi and New Mexico are among the states that require the Secretary of State to be notified. Mississippi has a specific form that must be completed for this purpose.

Properly Dispose Of A Deceased Notary’s Tools

In the wrong hands, a Notary’s seal can be used by criminals to forge a phony notarization on important documents, and a journal of notarial acts may contain personal information about signers that can be used to commit identity theft. That’s why you should leave instructions to ensure that your tools are not carelessly thrown away or left where someone might take them. Many states have provisions regarding this situation. Here are some examples:

Arizona requires a Notary seal and journals that contain only public records to be delivered by certified mail to the Secretary of State’s office within three months of a Notary’s death. Arizona has different rules for journals that include public and non-public records. A Notary’s journal that includes records that violate the attorney-client privilege or that are confidential under federal or Arizona law (such as records related to an abortion) becomes the property of the Notary’s employer and must be retained by the employer until five years after the date of the last record in the journal, after which the journal may be destroyed. Failure of a personal representative to properly dispose of the seal and journal is punishable by a $50-$500 fine.

California requires the personal representative of the Notary to promptly deliver all notarial records to the office of the county clerk in which the Notary’s oath of office is filed. The representative must destroy or deface the deceased Notary’s seal so that it cannot be taken and used by another person.

Colorado requires the personal representative or other person in possession of a deceased Notary's seal to render the seal unusable by destroying, damaging or otherwise making sure it cannot be used by anyone else. 

Florida only requires a Notary to have a seal, but not a journal. Its law therefore only addresses the seal, which must be destroyed when a Notary’s commission permanently ends, unless the Governor specifically requests the seal be turned in.

Hawaii requires a deceased Notary’s representative to deliver the Notary’s seal to the state attorney general’s office within 90 days of the Notary’s death. Failure to do so can result in a fine of up to $200. A deceased Notary's representative must deliver the Notary's journal records to the attorney general's office or a repository approved by the attorney general. 

Maryland requires a deceased Notary's personal representative or guardian (or other person knowingly in possession of the deceased Notary's seal) to destroy or disable the late Notary's seal in a manner that renders it unusable. 

Texas requires a deceased Notary’s record books and public papers to be turned in to the county clerk’s office of the county where the Notary resided. The Notary’s seal should be destroyed to prevent misuse by another individual.

The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility

If your state doesn’t provide rules for disposing of your Notary seal and journal, you can follow The Notary Public Code Of Professional Responsibility. It directs destroying or defacing the seal to ensure it cannot be misused. The Code directs keeping the journal in a secure place for at least 10 years from the date of the last entry, after which it can be destroyed.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources: 

NNA State Law Summaries

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Dawn Henderson

11 Dec 2017

I never thought about this but this is good to know.


14 Dec 2017

My husband laughed when I told him he had to do this if I died. Sadly, I'm not confident he will do it. My plan is to outlive him.


27 Feb 2018

What happens to bond purchased by notary if notory dies? My mom died in 2013 and have not been contacted by anyone from Notary Public.

National Notary Association

05 Mar 2018

Hello Rhonda. To help us answer your question, what state was your mother commissioned in?

Eileen Roe

25 Nov 2019

As I was renewing my Notary commission last week, I noticed on their list that there was a processing fee of $10 for surrendering a journal. What does the county clerk do if someone drops off a the journal of a deceased Notary, and does not pay $10? Do they still accept it? They wouldn't just trash it, would they?

National Notary Association

25 Nov 2019

Hi Eileen. You would need to contact the clerk's office in question to ask what their policies are regarding this matter.


27 Nov 2019

What happens when the personal representative forgot to comply with the delivery/defacing of Notary's seal? will she/he be fined? and please note that in California, the name of personal representative isn't even required in the form...

Terry L Tabor

03 Dec 2019

I didn't think of that but will inform my daughter and will have in writing with my journal just in case.

Audrey Rose

30 Jan 2020

What, if any, is the penalty for the notary's personal representative failing to notify the Secretary of State and/or deliver all notarial records to the county clerk's office?

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2020

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state the Notary was commissioned in?

Scott Moran

07 Dec 2020

I will be dead so I do not care

Julie Dickie

07 Dec 2020

The Attorney General office for our state (Hawaii) is on a different island. I am on the Island of Hawaii, and they are on the Island of Oahu. Does this mean my husband would have to fly to Oahu to turn in my notary book within 90 days? Seems excessive and expensive for a grieving widow.

12 Dec 2020

What is new Jersey laws apound my death

National Notary Association

15 Dec 2020

Hello. The only death requirement listed in New Jersey Notary law relates to records of protests performed by the Notary: “Every notary public, upon protesting any bill of exchange or promissory note, shall record in a book to be kept for that purpose the time when, place where and upon whom, demand of payment was made, with a copy of the notice or nonpayment, how and when served; or if sent, in what manner and the time when; and if sent by post, to whom the same was directed, at what place, and when the same was put into such post office, to which record he shall sign his name” (NJSA 7:5-3). Upon the Notary’s death or departure from the state, this record must be surrendered to the clerk of the county in which the Notary last resided (NJSA 7:5-5).

Therese Ahmad

10 Jul 2021

This is good to know, never really thought about that, now I can prepare ahead. Thanks for this post.


27 Dec 2021

What are the requirements for handling the materials of a Notary, who has died (and was licensed) in the State of Nevada?

National Notary Association

28 Dec 2021

Hello. Upon the resignation or death of a current Notary, the Notary — or the executor of the Notary’s estate — must notify the Secretary of State and destroy the official stamp (NRS 240.051[1]).

Julia FamiliaRodriguez

30 Dec 2021

Great subject- come to mind that it’s should requested written- because it’s the only be have for sure-died.


14 Nov 2022

How can we find out if notary actual witnessed signature if they and person who's signature they witnessed are both deceased. In massachusetts

National Notary Association

17 Nov 2022

Hello. The Secretary of the Commonwealth's office maintains records of appointed Notaries. We would suggest calling them at 1-617-727-2836 to see if they can assist you with your inquiry.


16 Nov 2022

My mom lived in Harris County and was a Notary through 1999. She passed away in August 2022 and I found her Notarial Record. No one has ever contacted her in the 23 years since she quit being a Notary. I researched on the internet and found that in Texas, I am to turn the book into the county clerk's office of the county she resided in. I called the Harris County Clerk's office and cannot find anyone that knows what to do with it. I also found on the internet that "Texas requires the journal record to be kept for 3 years or for the term of the commission in which the notarization occurred, whichever is longer." So after 23 years, I believe I can shred the pages. Now, I'm being asked by the Notary Public Unit to "just hang on to the book." I don't want to hang onto the book and if someone needs the information after 23 years, they will not find me. I think if I try to take it downtown to the Harris County Clerk's office, I will get the run around and will leave with the book still in my possession. Bottom line, I think I'm going to mail it to the Harris County Clerk's office so it's out of my hands and my tax dollars can pay someone there to figure out what to do with it. Does someone have a better recommendation?


09 Jan 2023

I am executor of a will The notary has deceased Is the will still a valid will or does the person need to do a new one. The witness are still living

National Notary Association

10 Jan 2023

Hello. We are sorry, but that is a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Fyodor Soloview

06 Mar 2023

I think that the Notary record journal is a treasure, - an archival record which will be worth alot 50-100 years in the future. If the state does not push to return it, the family can keep it with the other family papers in the memory of the deceased relative. It also tells what your parent or grandparent did for living, and at what address.

Ruben Zak

09 Mar 2023

I contacted your office today and someone was very gracious in explaining to me that I needed to contact the Washington State Dept. of Licensing and gave me their phone number. Well I sat on hold for 30 minutes waiting to speak to someone because our notary passed away and I have her journal. Is there any other suggestions? I won't sit another 30 minutes on hold to return the journal to someone.

National Notary Association

10 Mar 2023

Hello. We're sorry you are having difficulty contacting the WA state office. You can contact the Department's Notary section via email at to ask for instructions regarding the deceased Notary's journal.

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