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Sweeping Changes To Ohio Notary Law Going Into Effect

Ohio-flags-resized.jpgOn September 20, 2019, a new law goes into effect in Ohio that implements significant changes for the state’s Notaries and those seeking to become a Notaries.

The key provisions of SB 263 (the Notary Public Modernization Act) include:

  • Changes to how Notary commissions are obtained and renewed, including transfer of the commission process from the county courts of common pleas to the Secretary of State, requirements for education, testing and a background check.
  • Increases in the fees Notaries may charge.
  • Rules for completing notarial certificates.
  • Rules for becoming an “online Notary Public” and performing online notarizations (often called remote online notarizations, webcam notarizations or remote notarizations).

Keep in mind that while the law goes to into effect on September 20, administrative rules implementing many of its provisions are still being finalized. That said, any law of this significance is bound to raise questions. Here’s what you need to know.

How is the Notary commissioning process different?

As of September 20, anyone applying for a new Notary commission or seeking to renew their commission will do so through the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.

Applicants for new Notary commissions who are not attorneys will be required to:

  • Obtain a criminal records check that is not more than 6 months old at the time of the application.
  • Complete a 3-hour education class and pass a test.

Attorneys applying for a new Notary commission will be required to complete a 3-hour training course. They will not, however, be required to obtain a criminal records check or take a test.

Notaries seeking to renew their commissions will be required to:

  • Provide an updated criminal records check that is not more than 6 months old at the time of the application.
  • Complete a 1-hour, continuing education class.

All applicants will be required to pay an application fee of $15.

When can I start my commission renewal process?

Under the proposed rules, you may complete your continuing education requirement up to 12 months prior to the expiration of your current commission.

Note: If you plan to renew your commission, make sure you do it before your existing commission expires. If you let it lapse, you will be treated as a new commission applicant and required to complete the 3-hour course and pass the test.

How do I get a criminal records check?

The Ohio Attorney General’s office has an arrangement with a private company to conduct records checks. The office has a list of locations and contact information on its website.

The cost may vary. Fees listed on the AG’s website typically range from $30 to $40, but you should ask the provider in advance.

If your records check reveals a disqualifying offense, the Secretary of State’s office will inform you that your application has been denied.

How do I complete the education and testing requirement?

The Secretary of State’s office will post a list of authorized education and test providers along with their contact information. 

The proposed rules stipulate a fee of $130 for the education course and test for new commission applicants who are not attorneys. The education fee for attorneys is $75.

For renewal applications, the proposed fee for the continuing education is $45.

What if I fail the test?

Under the proposed rules, you would have to wait 30 days to retake it. If you wait more than 6 months from the date your criminal records check was issued, you will have to start the entire application process all over. If you fail the test a second time, you will have to re-start the application process.

What if I apply for a commission before September 20?

The granting of your commission will be under existing laws and you must apply through your county. Note, however, that beginning September 20, you will be required to follow all of the new laws when performing notarial acts.

What are the new fees for notarizations?

As of September 20, you may charge up to $5 for any in-person, paper notarization. This is a significant increase over the previous fee schedule. The maximum fee for an electronic notarization that is not performed online is $10. The maximum fee for an  remote online notarization is $25.

Do I need to use different Notary certificates?

For acknowledgments, no. But the new law does include requirements for completing acknowledgment certificates.

Existing statute gives you two options for using acknowledgment certificates:

  • You can use the “statutory short forms of acknowledgment,” or
  • You can create your own certificate wording as long as it contains the words “acknowledged before me” or their substantial equivalent and clearly states that an oath or affirmation was not administered.

For jurats, yes. The law includes a new statutory jurat form. If you choose to draft your own wording, it must clearly state that an oath or affirmation was administered.

Where can I get Notary certificates that comply with the new law?

There are several options:

  • Samples of acceptable wording may be available on the Secretary of State’s website.
  • You can create your own.
  • You can purchase certificates from a vendor, such as the NNA.

How do I become an “online Notary Public”?

Anyone who is a commissioned Ohio Notary may apply to be an online Notary. Under the proposed rules, to become authorized you must:

  • Successfully complete a 2-hour education program and pass a test administered by an authorized provider.
  • Pay the authorized provider a fee of $250.
  • Submit your application to the Secretary of State and pay an application fee of $20.

If you fail the test, you may retake it but must wait at least 30 days after the date of your first test. However, you must retake the exam no later than 6 months after completing the education program.  If you fail the exam a second time, you must re-start the authorization process.

Your authorization will last for the remaining term of your Notary commission.

A Final Note

As more information comes available — and the rules are finalized — we will update this FAQ.

1 Comment

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David V Moore

19 Aug 2019

I am happy that the fee for notarizing a document will be increasing.

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