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3 Misconceptions About Notary Journals

journal-entry-request.jpgUpdated 6-21-21. The entries in a Notary journal are an important protection against lawsuits and accusations of negligence — but only if they are properly entered and maintained. When keeping a journal, make sure you avoid these 3 common misconceptions:

Misconception 1. You Can Skip Making A Notary Journal Entry For A Repeat Signer

Some Notaries mistakenly assume that if they are notarizing for a signer who is a repeat customer, there’s no need to make a new journal entry. This is an easy way for the Notary to get into trouble. In most states requiring a journal, such as California and Texas, the law clearly requires Notaries to record a journal entry for each official act they perform. Failing to do so is a violation of the law.

There are a couple of state exceptions. In Arizona, if a Notary performs more than one notarization for an individual within a 6-month period, the individual must provide satisfactory evidence of identity and sign the journal only the first time. So while a Notary must complete a journal entry for these repeat notarizations, certain elements may be skipped.

In Nevada, a Notary who performs more than one notarial act for a signer at the same time may make one entry in the journal for multiple acts on one document or on similar documents. Nevada also permits Notaries to waive an individual's signature in the journal entry if the Notary has personal knowledge of the identity of the individual, the Notary has performed a previous notarization for the individual within the past 6 months, the individual is an employer or coworker of the Notary and the notarial act must relate to a transaction performed in the ordinary course of the individual’s business. In this case, the Notary would enter “known personally” in the journal to note how the individual was identified.

Even if you are commissioned in a state where keeping a journal is optional (such as Florida) skipping a journal entry for a notarization can still cause you serious legal problems if you are named in a Notary lawsuit at a later date. Without a journal entry providing evidence that you performed the notarization correctly, you could be held liable for any damages stemming from problems with the notarization.

Misconception 2. You Can Keep Photocopied Documents Or IDs

Some Notaries ask for or make photocopies of signers’ documents or identification to supplement their journal entries, mistakenly thinking that this provides better protection for them than journal entries alone. In most states, Notaries should not do this because the Notary is only required to ask for information required by state law for the journal entry. Requesting or making photocopies is a potential breach of privacy because documents and IDs could contain sensitive personal information.

There are a few states with exceptions. Notaries in Arkansas may keep a copy of a document the Notary has photocopied and copy certified for their records as evidence that the certified document has not been altered. Missouri and West Virginia Notaries are required to keep a copy of any document they certify as a true copy. 

Some states, such as Texas, prohibit Notaries from recording identification numbers such as driver's license numbers as part of the Notary's journal records. 

Misconception 3. Your Notary Journal Belongs to Your Employer

Your Notary journal is always your property, even if your employer paid for it. If you leave your job, your Notary journal goes with you — your employer may not require you to leave it with them.

There are exceptions to this rule. Arizona allows Notaries to keep a separate journal for nonpublic records — such as documents under attorney-client privilege — and the nonpublic journal may be kept by the employer if the Notary leaves. Oregon Notaries may sign an agreement that permits an employer to keep a journal if the employee leaves, but the Notary must keep a copy of the agreement. Tennessee Notaries working for certain financial institutions subject to the Financial Records Privacy Act must follow rules for access to their journals under the Financial Records Privacy Act or Right to Privacy Act. And, while California law clearly affirms that the journal is the Notary’s and may never be surrendered to an employer, the employer may request copies of any journal entries that relate to the business purposes of the employer, provided the copying is performed in the Notary's presence.

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

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15 Comments

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laurie brisbin

14 Oct 2019

i was wondering why you never mention New York State law in any of your examples.

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Hello, Laurie. Since New York does not require its Notaries to keep a journal of their acts, the state does not provide any statutory guidelines for recording or storing journals.

Debbie Morauske

14 Oct 2019

Thank you!

Bethany

14 Oct 2019

I have heard different things from different notaries. When performing a loan package... you only need the signer to sign your journal once/thumbprint and then indicate/list what items you notarized. Some say you need to have a separate signature/thumbprint for each doc you notarized in the loan package. After reading this article I’m still not clear.

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Hi Bethany. It would depend on your state's laws regarding journals. If your state requires a signature for each journal entry, then you would need to follow your state's requirements. If you can tell us what state you are commissioned in, we would be happy to provide you with more specific information.

Harold Ehrlich

14 Oct 2019

Re: misconception #2 I have not done a loan signing yet that the lender does not ask for a copy or photo of drivers license, etc. with the docs. Are you saying I should not provide this’d?

National Notary Association

14 Oct 2019

Hi Harold. What we are cautioning Notaries against is asking a signer to provide a photocopy of a notarized document or signer ID for the Notary's personal journal records.

Kristina

14 Oct 2019

agree with Bethany. I list all journal entries for loan signings but am told by borrowers prev NSA do not do that. only one entry/signature I live in CA. Also do we have to list all the info on every single line for loans? address, id info, etc. I undetrstand the rest as that changes but to repeat these every line for 20 lines take so much more time.

National Notary Association

15 Oct 2019

Hi Kristina. California requires each line item in a Notary's journal to be completed with all required information under state law. The following instructions are from the California Secretary of State's January 2018 newsletter for Notaries, pages 2-5 (https://notary.cdn.sos.ca.gov/forms/notary-newsletter-2018.pdf): "If you are notarizing multiple documents for a signer or signers, each notarial act must be indicated clearly in your journal. Hash marks, ditto marks, arrows, lines, or other shortcuts do not meet the requirements for entering a complete notarial act into your journal. "The signature of the person who requested the notarial act could be critical in an investigation that includes handwriting analysis. Secretary of State Investigators have found instances where a signature is captured incorrectly on one diagonal line drawn through several line items in an attempt to show one person signed multiple documents. California Government Code section 8206(c) requires a signature for each line item ... Capture a signature on every line item for every notarial act. No exceptions."

Tim

12 Nov 2019

I am wondering what the Tennessee law is regarding ditto marks for multiple notarial acts done in one signing i.e. a loan closing.

National Notary Association

12 Nov 2019

Hello. Tennessee Notary law does not specifically address the issue of using ditto marks in Notary journal entries. At a minimum, the NNA recommends always filling out the first entry on each page completely, and only using ditto or hash marks for duplicate information for subsequent entries on the same page.

notarycity2020@gmail.com

28 Jun 2021

Does Georgia require a notary journal? Also, in the state of Georgia, are we required to take a finger print in our notary journal?

National Notary Association

01 Jul 2021

Hello. Georgia does not require Notaries to keep a journal, though it is a recommended practice.

Sandra Wilson

28 Jun 2021

I just became aware of a "Certificate of Satisfaction" document that released 9k from the mortgage company on property I owned the money was supposed to go to me, it never did, but it had my signature on the document. I recently brought it to the Notaries attention. He admitted it was his stamp and signature, but got really biligernt and rude when I asked him to look at his log books. He had 5 log books & flipped through a few of them & said I don't see any notification for the time he witnessed me signing the document He said there nothing I can do for you. In fact my signature was forged and I can prove it! I reported him to The Secretary of State of Notaries & it is pending. He worked for BOA at the time. Is the bank liable for his actions at the time of him notarized document? Or his EOA insurance? Just another opinion.

National Notary Association

01 Jul 2021

Hello. You would need to speak to an attorney to answer any legal questions about the Notary's potential liability.

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