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Tennessee New Law Frequently Asked Questions

Summary

What does the new law specifically do?
What else does the new law do?
When does the new law take effect?
Will there be any changes to the commissioning process?

Fee FAQs

Why was the fee law changed?
What is a “reasonable” fee?
May I charge a fee per signer or per signature?
May I charge a fee for traveling to perform a notarial act?
May I charge a separate fee for administering an oath to a signer or credible witness in addition to completing the notarial certificate and affixing my seal?
May I charge a fee for recording a journal entry?
Am I required to post my fees or provide a list of fees to customers?
May my employer set the fee I charge or require me to remit the fees I collect for notarizations I perform at work?

Journal FAQs

What are the specific record-keeping requirements of the law?
Is the record-keeping provision a new requirement?
What are the specific “acts” Notaries are required to record?
What does it mean that Notaries must record their “attestations, protestations and other instruments of publication”?
What is a “well-bound book”?
Does an NNA journal comply with the law’s requirements?
What must a “record” of a Notary’s acts contain?
Why is keeping a record of a Notary’s acts in a journal important?
If a signer presents more than one document for notarization at one time, should I create a line for each document or can I lump them together?
If a signer refuses to allow me to record a journal entry, what recourse do I have?
What should I do with my journals when I’m no longer a Notary?

Summary

What does the new law specifically do?

It clarifies that the Governor “approves” but does not “commission” Notaries. This small change was made due to a ruling by the Secretary of State that Tennessee legislators could not become Notaries during the legislative session because the law prohibits the Governor from “granting” anything to a legislator while the General Assembly is in session.


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What else does the new law do?

It allows Notaries to charge a reasonable fee and repeals laws providing maximum fees Notaries may charge that were on the books for decades. It clarifies that Notaries must keep a record of all of the Notaries acts, attestations, protestations and instruments of publication in a well-bound book.

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When does the new law take effect?

The law is effective on October 1, 2014.

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Will there be any changes to the commissioning process?

No. The commissioning process will stay the same as it is today.

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Fee FAQs

Why was the fee law changed?

Tennessee’s Notary fees date back decades and were among the lowest in the nation. The General Assembly wanted market forces to determine the amount Notaries could charge for the valuable services they provide to the public.

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What is a “reasonable” fee?

The law does not say. Each Notary must determine reasonable fees for providing notarial services.

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May I charge a fee per signer or per signature?

Yes, you may request and receive a reasonable fee for each signer or signature because each signer or signature constitutes a separate notarial act.

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May I charge a fee for traveling to perform a notarial act?

Yes, you may charge a reasonable travel fee. The NNA recommends discussing this fee with a customer prior to traveling to perform the notarial act.

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May I charge a separate fee for administering an oath to a signer or credible witness in addition to completing the notarial certificate and affixing my seal?

The new law doesn’t prohibit you from doing so; the law says you may request and receive a reasonable fee for your services. However, the NNA suggests that you charge one reasonable fee for all duties related to a specific notarial act. If the act requires you to administer an oath and complete a certificate, the NNA suggests that you charge one reasonable fee. This way, there will be less of a chance that a customer might object to the fee you charge.

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May I charge a fee for recording a journal entry?

While previous law allowed a separate fee for recording each notarial act, the new law doesn’t retain this provision or prohibit you from charging a separate fee for recording a journal entry. The law says you may charge and receive a reasonable fee for your services.

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Am I required to post my fees or provide a list of fees to customers?

No. However, as a good business practice, the NNA recommends that you inform customers up front of the fees you will charge.

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May my employer set the fee I charge or require me to remit the fees I collect for notarizations I perform at work?

Tennessee’s Notary laws do not address these issues. It only states that Notaries may charge a reasonable fee for their services. It is customary for businesses to set and retain the fees charged to customers for notarizations. However, you may keep fees for any notarizations performed after hours.

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Journal FAQs

What are the specific record-keeping requirements of the law?

The law clarifies that a Notary must keep a record of all of the Notary’s acts, attestations, protestations and other instruments of publication in a well-bound book.

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Is the record-keeping provision a new requirement?

A law that is repealed effective October 1, 2014, provides that Notaries are entitled to a fee of $1.00 for recording in a well-bound book, each attestation, protestation, and other instruments of publication. Some have understood this law to require Notaries to keep records, while others that a record is required to be kept only if the Notary charges the $1.00 fee.

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What are the specific “acts” Notaries are required to record?

Notaries must create a record of each notarial act authorized by law. These acts include taking acknowledgments, administering oaths, taking depositions, qualifying parties to bills in chancery and taking affidavits. In addition, Notaries may protest negotiable instruments and perform a proof of execution by two subscribing witnesses.

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What does it mean that Notaries must record their “attestations, protestations and other instruments of publication”?

A Tennessee court of appeals in the case of UNION C. & OBION CO. BAR ASS'N v. WADDELL, 30 Tenn. App. 263 (1947) said that “attestations, protestations and other instruments of publication” refer specifically to the protest of commercial or negotiable instruments. The average Notary rarely performs protests today unless the Notary is employed by a bank or financial institution.

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What is a “well-bound book”?

Your journal must be in the form of a typical “book” that contains sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers. A “well-bound book” would appear to rule out the following for use as a journal: (a) an office file containing unattached sheets of paper that are records of notarial acts; (b) a loose-leaf notebook that contains rings; and (c) an electronic journal.

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Does an NNA journal comply with the law’s requirements?

Yes. As a “well-bound book, the NNA’s journal’s pages are sewn together and glued, providing unparalleled strength, security and durability.

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What must a “record” of a Notary’s acts contain?

The law doesn’t prescribe the entries required for a record of a notarial act, but the National Notary Association recommends that you record the following:

  1. The date and time of the notarial act
  2. The type of notarial act performed (acknowledgment, jurat, copy certification, etc.)
  3. The address where the notarial act was performed
  4. The name and address of the signer
  5. A description of the means used to identify the signer (personal knowledge, an ID card, a credible witness)
  6. The reasonable fee charged for the notarial act
  7. The signature of the signer>
  8. Any additional information you consider important to note in the record

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Why is keeping a record of a Notary’s acts in a journal important?

Besides being required by law, keeping a journal is a good practice for the following reasons:

  1. A journal record demonstrates you exercised reasonable care in performing your duties as a Notary.
  2. A journal with preprinted columns will remind you of all of the essential steps you must take to perform a notarization and record it properly.
  3. A journal record helps to ensure that you performed the notarial act according to Tennessee law.
  4. A journal record will help you remember a notarial act you performed in the event the act is ever questioned and you are asked about it.
  5. A journal record will provide independent evidence of a notarial act to benefit the signing parties or parties relying on the notarized document.
  6. Recording certain information in a journal, such as a signature, could deter a would-be impostor from committing forgery on a notarized document for fear of leaving key evidence behind in the Notary’s journal.

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If a signer presents more than one document for notarization at one time, should I create a line for each document or can I lump them together?

The law says a Notary must keep a record of the Notary’s “acts, attestations, protestations and other instruments of publication.” Each document you notarize is an individual act; therefore, you must create an individual record for each document you notarize.

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If a signer refuses to allow me to record a journal entry, what recourse do I have?

Since keeping a record of every notarial act is required by law, you may refuse to notarize the document.

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What should I do with my journals when I’m no longer a Notary?

The law doesn’t have a rule for what you should do with your journals. The NNA recommends that you keep your journals for ten years following the last recorded act in your journal. Since contests to notarized documents usually happen years after the fact, it is important to preserve the record for a reasonable amount of time should the public need a copy of an entry. Ten years should be sufficient in most cases.

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