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How to Become a Notary Public in Tennessee

If you are interested in becoming a Notary Public in Tennessee , this practical guide will answer many common questions. Learn about notarial duties, and find out how you can become a commissioned Notary. Once you are ready to begin the process of becoming a Tennessee notary or renewing your Tennessee commission, we'll walk you through step by step.

Requirements to be a Notary in Tennessee
Tennessee Notary Process
What Can I Do With My Tennessee Commission?
General Notary Public Information

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BECOME a Notary

Requirements to be a Notary in Tennessee 

What is a Notary Public?

A Notary is appointed by the state of Tennessee to be an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. A Notary in Tennessee is authorized to:

  • Take acknowledgments;
  • Administer oaths;
  • Record and/or transcribe depositions;
  • Qualify parties to bills in chancery;
  • Confirm the authenticity of signatures on affidavits

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Tennessee Notary Process

What is the process to become or renew a Notary Public?

Make sure you meet all of Tennessee’s qualifications.

  • Obtain an application from the county clerk’s office of the county in which you reside or maintain your principal place of business.
  • Application and procedures vary from county to county, so it is important to obtain your county’s procedures at the time you obtain an application.
  • Find your local county clerk’s office.

Following are the general steps to obtain a commission in most counties:

  1. Submit the completed application to your county clerk with the application fee of $12 ($7 for the county clerk and $5 for the Secretary of State).
  2. Be elected by the county legislative body (county commission) in the county in which the applicant resides or maintains his/her principal place of business at the time of his/her election.
  3. The county clerk certifies your election as a Notary and forwards the certification to the Secretary of State. The Secretary prepares the commission, which is signed by the Governor and the Secretary, and forwards it to the county clerk. The clerk records the commission and notifies you that the commission has been received.
  4. Secure a surety bond. Bonds are available through Tennessee insurance and surety companies.
  5. Provide proof of the bond to the county clerk. The clerk will record your bond, administer the oath of office to you and hand you your commission.
  6. Purchase your Notary seal and journal.
  7. Consider purchasing E&O insurance to limit your financial exposure.
  8. Begin performing notarizations for the public.
  9. Continuing education and Notary experts are always available if you believe you need additional training or guidance.
Which state government office handles Notaries?

The commissions of Tennessee Notaries are approved by the Governor. The Tennessee Secretary of State, Division of Business Services, Notary Section (615)741-2650, coordinates the issuance of these commissions with the county clerks.

How much does it cost to become a Notary?

The total cost depends on your choice of vendor(s) for your journal, stamp and bond. Well-bound journals with pages sewn together will cost a little bit more than glued pages, but they offer a higher level of security. They range anywhere from $20 - $40. Stamps that meet Tennessee requirements range from $20 - $30. Four-year surety bonds of $10,000 can range from $27 - $45. The application fee to become a Notary is $12.

The cost of commissioning can differ depending on whether you are a new or renewing Notary. Supply package prices vary among vendors. New Notaries may need more “how-to” assistance than experienced Notaries. Books, training and live expert assistance are often must-haves for most new Notaries.

Some vendors may package items with additional fees – processing fees for example. Training can be included in package prices for new Notaries, although the quality of education can vary. Some providers offer their own Notary courses while others do not have the on-staff expertise to develop and support educational content. Several vendors offer Notaries live question and answer support, and others are not able to offer such assistance.

How long does it take to become a Notary?

The process varies county by county and more information can be found by contacting the county clerk’s office of your county.

Who can become a Notary?

If you want to become a Tennessee Notary Public, you must be at least 18 years old and you must reside in the state or maintain a principal place of business in Tennessee. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and be able to read and write in English.

Who cannot become a Notary?

You cannot become a Notary if you are a member of the military or Congress, or hold any office of profit or trust under a foreign power, other state or the United States. You also can’t be a Notary if you’ve been convicted of bribery, larceny or certain other offenses unless your rights of citizenship have been restored. You cannot have unpaid judgments to the U.S., state or county or owe money to the state or federal treasury.

What kind of training will I need?

Training is not required in order to obtain your Notary commission in Tennessee. The Secretary of State’s website links to relevant statutes governing Notaries, opinions issued by the Attorney General and a set of frequently asked questions that you might find helpful.

Do I need to take an exam?

No, you will not need to take an exam to be commissioned in Tennessee.

What kind of equipment will I need?

Tennessee requires both a “well-bound book” or Notary journal to record every notarization you perform, and a Notary seal that you must use on every document you notarize.

The most effective journals meet the statutory requirement of being “well-bound” if they have numbered pages that are sewn together so they can’t be easily removed or rearranged. These two things help ensure the journal is a chronological record of every act you perform – and it’s easier to see whether it’s been tampered with.

The Notary seal must be a circular, inked rubber stamp with your name at the top, the name of the county in which you were elected as a Notary at the bottom and the phrase “State of Tennessee Notary Public” or “Tennessee Notary Public” in the middle. The stamp cannot use black or yellow ink and cannot include your commission expiration date.

Supplies are sold by most vendors in packages, which can sometimes provide savings. However, not all vendor packages are created equal – they can vary greatly in terms of quality and content. If you are a new Notary or renewing your commission, the types and quantity of notarizations can require different tools of the trade. For example, if you are a mobile or retail Notary, an I.D. checking guide is recommended because you are constantly dealing with different people, as opposed to someone who notarizes in the same setting for the same group of people day after day.

It is strongly recommended that you use a journal of notarial acts to keep record of your notarizations, even if your state doesn’t require it. When purchasing a journal, there are a few important features to which you must pay close attention. A journal with tamper-proof sewn construction allows Notaries to identify missing pages in their journals, which becomes extremely helpful if you’re ever named in a lawsuit. Simple notebooks or glue-bound journals simply do not offer the same level of security.

When shopping for seal stamps, quality and durability can vary greatly among vendors. Ask if stamps carry a guarantee. And stamps should not bleed during or after use, as this can cause county officials to reject documents due to smudging. A second seal can help you avoid downtime if your seal is ever misplaced, and an embosser can help add an additional layer of fraud-prevention security.

What is a surety bond and why do I need one?

Tennessee Notaries are required by law to obtain a $10,000 surety bond. A surety bond is a financial guarantee made by a surety company for protecting signers who incur financial damages because a Notary intentionally or unintentionally broke a Notary law. Because the bond protects the signer, Notaries often purchase an optional errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy to protect themselves from liability. E&O insurance is not a requirement for Notaries in Tennessee.

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What Can I Do With My Tennessee Commission?

Where will I be able to notarize?

A Notary’s powers and duties can be exercised in all counties in the State of Tennessee.

Who can I notarize for?

You can notarize for any member of the public, except yourself or your spouse. The Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion on the matter, stating that the nature of a spousal relationship prevents the Notary from being impartial and therefore they should not notarize their spouse’s signature.

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General Notary Public Information

Why become a Notary?

People who want to serve their community as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents, and those who wish to act as a line of defense against fraud, should consider becoming Notaries. What a Notary actually does is often misunderstood, but it is critically important. Notaries verify the identity of document signers to ensure they are who they claim to be, adding trust to signatures on a variety of important documents like wills, powers of attorney and property deeds, to name a few.

Many employers, especially in banking and financial services, often ask employees to become Notaries to notarize documents for the company or organization. You may also become a Notary as a part-time or full-time business, traveling to a signer’s home or place of business to notarize documents for a fee.

Where can I get training if my state doesn’t require it?

If you’re interested in learning how to better perform your duties as a Notary Public, finding a reputable trainer is important. Doing a quick Google search will bring up a variety of providers, so it’s worthwhile to check in with the Better Business Bureau and online communities of Notaries, and to read reviews on Yelp before making your decision.

Can anyone help me become a Notary?

Many companies offer Notary supplies, bonds and assistance with the application process which varies by county.

What do I need to know about remote notarization in Tennessee?

As of July 1, 2019, remote notarization is allowed in Tennessee. The Secretary of State issued emergency rules to implement it and will create an online application. The rules are effective from July 1 - October 1, 2019. The NNA will update this information as needed. In the meantime, we’ve published an article describing what remote notarization is and what you need to know.

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