If you are
interested in using your notary commission to an extra income, advertising
your services may be a way to build or increase your business. Before
you leap into 60-second radio commercials or full-page ads in your local
newspaper, let's discuss some important aspects of advertising.
As a business owner, would I have a financial interest in the transactions being notarized for my company's business?
Section 117.107(12), Florida Statutes, provides that you may not be the notary for a transaction in which you have a financial interest or to which you are a party. Although this provision was added to the notary law in 1992, it is not a new prohibition. This provision was merely a codification of the same prohibition established by case law dating as far back as the 1800s and as recently as the 1990s.
Is a marriage ceremony performed by a notary
public of the State of Florida "legal and binding"? Is a Florida
notary public authorized to perform a marriage ceremony outside the state,
or may a notary from another state perform a marriage ceremony in Florida?
May I notarize a signature without the person being present if another person swears that the person signed the document?
No! The Notary
Section receives frequent inquiries about "notarizing a person's
signature by subscribing witness." Evidently, some notaries believe
that it is permissible to notarize a signature when the person is not
present if someone who witnessed the signing of the document appears before
the notary and swears that the person actually signed the document. Some
states, like California, do, in fact, allow such notarizations, but Florida
does not. Misunderstanding may also stem from a section in Florida law
that provides a method by which instruments concerning real property may
be entitled to recording in Florida when the document signer cannot appear
before a notary to acknowledge his or her signature. You may hear this
procedure referred to as "proof of execution by subscribing witness."
certain conditions. Eventually, most notaries are faced with the issue
of whether they may refuse to provide notary services when requested.
Florida law actually requires notaries to refuse in some situations. In
other situations, notaries either should or may refuse to notarize.
rubber stamp notary seal has created problems for surveyors and others
involved in subdivision platting. The developers or mortgagees sign the
plat and their signatures are notarized using an acknowledgment certificate.
The problem arises because the ink used in most notary seals does not
dry and will smear on the plastic film, known as mylar, used for recording
plats. We looked into the matter and found several possible solutions.
In a 1993
case, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of "unnotarized
oaths." State v. Shearer, 617 So.2d (Fla. App. 5 Dist. 1993).
This case may significantly affect the role of notaries in Florida because
it recognized an acceptable alternative oath that may be used for verified
or sworn written documents. A person using the alternative oath would
not need the services of a notary public or other official authorized
to administer oaths.
Yes, you may notarize a will, whether prepared by an attorney or not, provided the required conditions for a notarization are met.
Yes, if you
add the appropriate notarial certificate determined by the principal (the
person making the living will).
Section 765.303, Florida Statutes, provides a suggested form of a living will. The document requires two witnesses but does not require notarization. However, if your customer insists on acknowledging his or her signature, you may do so.
Remember, if you are not an attorney, do not advise your customer about the contents of the document, nor the correct procedure for executing the document. If your customer has any questions, you should suggest that he or she consult an attorney for assistance.
What should I do if a person produces identification with a name different from the name being signed?
This problem may occur in different situations. In some situations, individuals may have simply neglected to update their identification cards after a name change. You should direct them to the local Division of Motor Vehicles office to make the necessary changes.
In some instances, individuals may need to sign a document with their former name after making the necessary updates to their identification cards. A classic situation arises when a woman changes her name after marriage and has to sign a document, such as a warranty deed, in her former name. You may notarize her signature if she signs both names, but you may want to indicate that fact in your notarial certificate.
For an acknowledgment, you could state, "The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this _____ day of ________, 19__, by Mary Smith, who represented to me that she was formerly known as Mary Jones, and who provided a Florida driver license, No. 123 45 678 890 in the name of Mary Smith as identification." You may also want to include information such as the date of birth, expiration date, or physical description.
You may always provide additional information in your certificate, especially if it helps to clarify the circumstances. You may also want to include information about supporting documentation concerning the name change or additional identification cards, if available, in your journal.
May a notary public accept the sworn testimony of a person who witnessed a signature in lieu of the signer being present for the notarization?
No. Although some states may allow a notarization based upon such sworn testimony, Florida does not. Some notaries mistakenly believe that they may call the signer on the telephone to verify the signature and then proceed with the notarization. Florida law prohibits a notary from notarizing any signature if the signer is not present at the time of the notarization.
When I personally know the signer, am I required to indicate that fact in my notarial certificate?
Yes. When notarizing a signature, a notary public must always certify the type of identification relied upon, either personal knowledge or other form of identification produced. This can be done as part of the main wording in the notarial certificate or at the bottom of the certificate.
We have seen
notarized documents where the notary simply noted "PK" or "DL",
meaning "personally known" or "driver's license."
These abbreviations are not clear, and we recommend that you make more
specific notations about identification. Although not required, it is
a good practice to indicate the identification card number and the state
or country that issued the card. This will help to protect you in case
a signer later claims that he or she did not sign the document and did
not appear before you for the notarization.
I attest to a photocopy of a resident alien card issued by the U.S. Department
of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service?
Is there a shortcut for renewing my notary commission?
No. The application process for reappointment is exactly the same as for a first-time appointment. Incomplete applications will not be processed until the applicant submits all the required information. When applying for a renewal commission, treat it as a new application and do not refer our office or the Notary Commissions and Certifications Section to your previous application for information.
Must a notary public actually sign the notarial certificate when notarizing a signature?
notarizing a signature, you are required by law to date, sign, and affix
your seal to a notarial certificate. See §§ 117.05(3)(a) and
(4), Fla. Stat. This is in addition to the requirements that your notary
seal contain your exact commissioned name and that you must print, type,
or stamp your name below your signature. These provisions of the law ensure
the ability to identify the notary, if necessary, and confirm that the
notary is the person who completed the notarial certificate and affixed
the notary seal.
May I sign my signature as a notary public and affix my notary seal in blue ink, or some other color, so that I can easily identify an original document?
With the improved quality of photocopies and the mandatory use of the rubber stamp notary seal, notaries often express concern over difficulty in differentiating between the original and a photocopy of the same notarization. Section 117.05(3)(a), Florida Statutes, provides that the official notary seal the rubber stamp type seal must be affixed with "photographically reproducible black ink." However, the notary law does not specify a color of ink to be used when signing a notarial certificate. Therefore, if you prefer, you may use a color of ink, other than black, in signing your name to distinguish between an original and a photocopy of your notarial certificate. Bear in mind, though, that copying machines now reproduce in color.
May I notarize a signature on a document that has been prepared in another state, or on a document that will be sent to another state or country?
Yes, but you should indicate the correct venue (State of Florida, County of ____) where the notarization occurred and complete a proper notarial certificate with all the requirements of the Florida notary law. This may mean that you have to revise the form, particularly it if was prepared under the laws of another state. Additions or corrections should be made by striking through any incorrect information and adding the correct information before completing the notarization. It would also be a good idea to initial any correction that you make. Always include the name of the person whose signature is being notarized and the type of identification relied upon, even if the form provided does not request that information.
When notarizing a signature, what elements must be included in my notarial certificate?
Sample notarial certificates are found in section 117.05(13), Florida Statutes. The essential elements are:
If the prepared
notarial certificate does not have each of these elements, you should
add the appropriate language to the certificate to make it fully comply
with the statutory requirements.
As a bilingual notary public, may I certify the accuracy of a translation of a document from English to Spanish, or vice versa?
Certifying a translation is not an authorized duty of a Florida notary public. However, you may notarize the signature of the translator on an affidavit where the translator certifies and swears to the accuracy of his or her translation. If you are the translator for a particular document, you would be translating the document, not in your capacity as a notary public, but as a person who is fluent in both languages required for the translation. You should make an affidavit and have your signature notarized by another notary. The following sample affidavit should be sufficient to certify the accuracy of a translation.
Recently, I quit my job. My employer kept my notary seal and commission certificate and refuses to return them to me. I am worried that someone may use my seal and I would be liable. What should I do?
Even if your commission, bond, and seal were paid for by your employer, your employer has no right to keep these items. In fact, it may be a criminal offense to do so. Remember, you were appointed as a notary public for a four-year commission - not your employer. And, your employer cannot make you resign your appointment - only the Governor may request your resignation or suspend you from the office of notary public. You should take several precautions, however, to protect yourself. First, notify the Secretary of State or the Governor's Office in writing that your seal is in the possession of someone else. Be sure to give us your commission number and date of birth for identification, and tell us the last date that your seal was in your possession. Second, you may want to send a written request by certified mail to your employer requesting the return of your notary commission and seal. If your employer does not comply, you should file a report with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction. This may protect you in the event that your seal is used and a complaint is filed against you. It may also be your defense if you are sued or charged criminally for an improper notarization that you did not perform. Third, you may obtain a duplicate notary commission certificate from the Department of State, Notary Commissions and Certifications Section, and another seal from your bonding agency or an office supply store. Your notary bond cannot be revoked, and you may continue serving as a notary public until the expiration of your term.
May I sign a document as one of the witnesses if I am also acting as the notary public for that transaction?
a notary public may sign as one of the witnesses and as the notary public
on a document. In fact, it is a common practice among Florida notaries,
particularly on real estate transactions. Typically, you will see the
title clerk sign as one of the two required witnesses and then notarize
the document signer's signature. In addition, a Florida court has held
that "there is nothing to prevent a notary from also being a witness."
See Walker v. City of Jacksonville, 360 So.2d 52 (1978). However,
before signing as a witness, the notary should ensure that the document
does not require the notarization of the witnesses' signatures. For example,
a self-proof affidavit on a will or codicil requires the notarization
of the signatures of the testator and both witnesses. If the notary signed
as a witness in this instance, he or she would be notarizing his or her
own signature, which is a criminal violation of the notary law.
What should I do when I affix my notary seal to a document and do not get a legible imprint?
The information on the rubber stamp notary seal is vital in identifying the notary public. If you get an imperfect imprint of your rubber stamp seal, you should affix the seal again as closely to the first imprint as possible. This may present a problem if the document has limited space. You should never affix your seal over writing, and, if necessary, you may have to resort to the margin area of the document. You may also need to stamp your seal at an angle in order to make it fit the available space. If your seal imprints improperly because it is defective, return it to the supplier for replacement.
I am often asked to certify a photocopy of a tax return for customers who are enrolling their children in college or applying for a mortgage on a new home. May I do so?
No. Section 117.05(12), Florida Statutes, which authorizes notaries to attest to photocopies, requires the following:
In this case, the original tax forms have been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, and no original is available from which you can photocopy the document. However, certified copies are available from IRS. You may want to provide the following information to your customer.
a photocopy or a certified copy of a tax form from a previous year, the
person must file Form 4506 "Request for Copy of Tax Form" with
the IRS. The cost of the copies is $14 and usually takes 6-8 weeks to
receive. A form and more information can be obtained from any IRS office.
For additional information, your customer should visit an office of the Internal Revenue Service or call (800) 829-1040.
May I require the fingerprints of a person for whom I notarize?
No. Florida law does not require, nor authorize, notaries to take fingerprints from persons whose signatures they notarize. Many notary journals or records books allow space for a thumbprint, but this feature is optional. If there is no objection from the signer, you may record a thumbprint in your journal. However, you should not refuse to provide notary services based solely on the person's refusal to provide a fingerprint in your record book.
I will be moving to another state in a few months. May I transfer my Florida notary commission to that state?
No. A Florida notary commission is not transferable to another state. Additionally, because you are a public officer appointed for the State of Florida, you must resign your commission if you change your legal residency and move out of state. You should submit a written letter of resignation to the Governor's Office, specifying an effective date, and return your notary commission certificate (the original, not a copy). You should also destroy your seal or return it to our office. Be sure to give us your new address, as the Governor will send you an acceptance letter acknowledging your resignation.
Occasionally, I see the letters "S.S." on a notarial certificate, usually near the venue. What do these letters mean?
mistakenly believe that they are to fill in the signer's social security
number after the letters "SS" Actually, the letters are the
abbreviation of the Latin word scilicet, meaning "in particular"
or "namely." They appear in the venue, so that the location
of the notarization literally reads, "In the State of Florida, in
particular the County of ____." You may simply ignore these letters
and complete the venue as usual.
What do the letters "L.S." mean on a signature line on a document?
The Latin phrase logus sigilli means "place of the seal." You may see the letters at the end of a signature line for the document signer or for the notary. Although rarely done, a person may use a private seal to authenticate his or her signature. More commonly, a corporate seal may be affixed next to the officer's signature when he or she signs on behalf of the corporation. When affixing your notary seal, take care not affix the seal over these letters, or any other writing.