When using a certificate form always make sure to

TopOVERVIEWEverybody knows what a notary public does, right? Actually, there is much misunderstanding and confusion about what the proper role and duty of a notary is. A notary pub

When using a certificate form always make sure to

Top

OVERVIEW

Everybody knows what a notary public does, right? Actually, there is much misunderstanding and confusion about what the proper role and duty of a notary is. A notary public does not "legalize" documents, or verify the accuracy or truthfulness of the content or statements made in a document, and yet the role that a notary plays in ascertaining the identity of the person who signs a document, placing that person under oath, if required, and determining the signer's intent and willingness to consent to the transaction is vital in modern society.

A notary public is a public official commissioned by the Secretary of State to administer oaths and affirmations, take acknowledgments, witness signatures, and perform other duties as permitted by state law. A notary has a legal obligation to know Montana notary laws and to follow the standards of reasonable care for performing a notarial act.

As a public official, a notary is not acting on behalf of him/herself or his/her employer when performing a notarial act, but rather, on behalf of the state of Montana.Top

RESOURCES

This handbook provides information to familiarize notaries with their responsibilities in performing notarial acts and is designed to be a primary resource for Montana notaries public. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with the contents and keep it readily available so that you can utilize it when questions arise. You can download it to your desktop or personal device or print out a copy for easy access any time. We've also included an index in this edition to help you find the information you're looking for quickly and easily.

The other primary source of information for Montana notaries are the web pages of the Certification & Notary Services section of the Secretary of State's website: www.sos.mt.gov/Notary. Save this link to your favorites so it's handy whenever the need arises. The website contains the most current information for notaries. You can download any of our current forms, link directly to the free online notary training course (which is available to anyone, anytime), or register for one of our webinars or live training classes, among other things. The website is always available and is very user friendly.

We urge you to take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the information and format of the handbook and the website so that you can find the answers to your questions quickly and easily.

You are also welcome to contact the staff of the Notary and Certifications Division by phone at (406) 444-5379 or

(406) 444-1877 or email: [emailprotected]. You should never attempt to complete a request for notarial services until you fully understand what you are doing. The job of a notary public is much more complex than most people realize. It is your responsibility to know what you can and cannot do, what you are supposed to do, and how to do your job correctly. These resources are designed to help you  take advantage of them!

RULE #1

The person whose signature, oath, or acknowledgment is being notarized MUST personally appear to the notary at the time the notarial act takes place.Top

RULE # 1

THE NOTARY'S FUNCTION

A notary acts as an official, unbiased witness to the identity, the comprehension, the intent, and the signature of the person who comes before the notary for a specific purpose. The person may be taking an oath, giving oral or written testimony, or signing or acknowledging a signature on a legal document. In each instance the notary attests that certain formalities have been observed. Montana law defines certain "Notarial Powers" that a notary may perform. Notaries must constantly be aware that every notarial act affects the legal rights of others. Carelessness or negligence by the notary may injure these rights. Upon conviction of a violation of these rights, the notary may be punished as provided by law.

Integrity and skill are required of notaries in the discharge of their duties, for the mere mechanical performance of their office does not ensure the added degree of authenticity that is the hallmark of the notarial act. Simply affixing your seal and signing your name does not constitute a proper notarization in the state of Montana  EVER!!! As you go through this handbook, pay very close attention to the exact requirements for various notarial acts. A notary may be held personally responsible for improper, negligent, or fraudulent actions.Top

THE NOTARY'S RESPONSIBILITY

If the notary's primary function is to be a witness to the identity, the comprehension, and the intent of a person who is signing a document, taking an oath, or acknowledging a signature, it automatically follows that one of the notary's greatest responsibilities is to be able to truthfully testify that the notary did in fact witness the act he or she claimed to have notarized. In other words, the person whose signature, oath, or acknowledgment is being notarized MUST personally appear to the notary at the time the act takes place.

There are no exceptions to this requirement. It is impossible to be a witness to an event if it does not take place in your presence. "Notarizing" without the personal appearance of the signer at the time of the notarial act is de facto negligence and can be just cause for revocation of your notarial commission.Top

INTEGRITY AND IMPARTIALITY

A notary public is expected to be a person of proven integrity appointed by the Secretary of State to act as the state's "official witness" in any matter requiring the notary's services. Because the primary purpose of the notary is to deter fraud, the notary's integrity must be unquestionable.

Every notarial act performed by a notary public is done under the notary's oath of office and the statement made on every notarial certificate completed by a notary public is done under that oath. If the notarial certificate states that the document was "signed before" the notary, that's exactly what the notary's official testimony is claiming: The document was signed in the notary's presence. If the notary certificate contains the words "Subscribed and sworn to before me", that, too, means the document was signed in the notary's presence and the notary administered an oath to the signer, who swore under penalty of perjury that the statements and information contained in the document were true and correct to the best of his or her knowledge.

The words contained in the notarial certificate are not mere formalities; they are the notary's "witness statement" telling what happened, where it happened, when it happened, and who was involved. The accuracy and completeness of every notarial certificate is a fundamental expectation of the office.Top

FEES

Montana notaries may charge for performing certain notarial acts. The maximum fee allowed for taking acknowledgements, witnessing signatures, performing jurats, certifying copies of documents or certifying a transcript is $10. Notaries may also charge a travel fee if (1) the notary explains to the person requesting the notarial act that the travel fee is in addition to the statutory maximum fee for the notarial act and is an amount not determined by law and the person requesting the notarial act agrees in advance to the amount of the travel fee; or (2) the fee charged is equal to or less than the standard mileage rate allowed by the Internal Revenue Service. Notaries who charge must publish their fee schedules in English. Fees charged by notaries who work in the private sector may be collected by the notary's employer if the notary agrees to that. The fees collected for notarial services by notaries who work in a public office belong to that office.Top

NOTARY LIABILITY

Montana case law holds the notary personally responsible for any damages resulting from the notary's official misconduct. Notaries are required to file a $10,000 surety bond when they apply for a new or subsequent commission. Many notaries think that the bond is insurance that protects them; that is not the case. The bond is posted to cover damages incurred by the victim of the notary's negligence or malfeasance. If a successful claim is made against the notary's bond, the notary will have to pay the bonding company back and cover any losses in excess of $ 10,000 as well. Montana does not require notaries to obtain liability insurance; however, it is wise to discuss the need for such coverage with an insurance professional.

A properly kept notary journal is the very best insurance that a notary can have. It provides prima facie evidence that the notarial information on a document is true and correct and that the signer had personally appeared to the notary when the notarization took place.Top

JURISDICTION

Montana notaries have jurisdiction to perform their official duties in every county in Montana, not just the county in which they live or work. In some cases, a Montana notary public may perform a notarial act in either of two adjoining states  North Dakota and Wyoming. Even when performing a notarization in either North Dakota or Wyoming, a Montana notary must always follow the laws and rules of Montana. The statutes that allow this practice are dependent on both Montana and the reciprocal state. Questions about any restrictions or special requirements must be discussed with the appropriate Secretary of State's office.

The jurisdiction for performing remote notarizations is limited strictly to within the borders of Montana. At this time neither North Dakota nor Wyoming permit remote notarizations; therefore the reciprocity laws do not allow Montana notaries to perform these notarizations outside of Montana.

There is often some confusion about whether a Montana notary can notarize a document that came from or is going to another state or country. The basic rule is if the signer is in the notary's presence, and the notary is physically located within their geographic jurisdiction, the notarization may be performed. So if a person has a document that was created in Florida, but is currently in Montana and requests that his signature be notarized, a Montana notary may provide the service (as long as all other conditions are met, of course). There is nothing that inherently prevents a Montana notary from notarizing documents from outside of Montana. Remember, however, that the notary must be careful to correctly identify the venue (the state and county where the notarization was performed) on the document. Many times this information will be entered on the pre-printed certificate (i.e., "State of Florida, County of Broward") and the Montana notary will have to cross out the incorrect venue and enter the correct information (i.e., "State of Montana, County of _________").Top

There are certain procedures that must be observed in order to obtain a notary commission from the state of Montana. Applying for a Montana notary commission is a multi-step process and in order to complete the process successfully you will have to follow the directions carefully. The first step, obviously, is to determine if you meet the qualifications for the office. When you have met all of the requirements for holding the office, you can begin the application process. After submitting the required documents to the Secretary of State's office, you will be notified by email when the Secretary of State has issued your Certificate of Commission. You will need to print out your Certificate as proof that your commission has been issued, so that you may purchase your official notary stamp and journal and be ready to assume your notarial duties. Below are more specific details about the process of becoming a notary public or renewing a commission.Top

QUALIFICATIONS

To become a notary public, one must:

  • Be a citizen or permanent legal resident of the United States
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a resident of, or have a place of employment or practice in, Montana
  • Can read and write English
  • Not be disqualified to receive a commission pursuant to Montana Code Annotated §1-5-618
  • Have passed the Secretary of State's on-line examination (this applies to first-time applicants or to renewing notaries whose previous commission expired more than thirty days earlier).Top

TERM OF OFFICE

The term of office for a notary public is four years. A notary may be appointed or reappointed by submitting the required documentation to the Secretary of State's office as required by law. Term limits don't apply to notaries  you may serve for as long as you wish. Upon completion of the application process, the Secretary of State's office will email the notary a Certificate of Commission, showing the notary's official name, city of residence, and the term of the commission. The Certificate of Commission is the official proof that the person is a notary public for the state of Montana. If the notary moves out of state, and/or ceases to maintain a place of business or practice in Montana his/her commission is automatically terminated. A change of employment during a notary's term of office does not terminate the commission, but must be reported to the Secretary of State's office. Even if your employer pays for your bond, stamp, and journal, the commission is issued to the notary personally, and the employer has no rights to cancel the bond or unilaterally terminate the commission.Top

OBTAINING A COMMISSION

It is the objective of the Notary and Certifications Division of the Secretary of State's office to make the process of applying for a new or renewal commission as easy as possible; however, there are specific statutory requirements that must be met. On this page and the following page, you will find detailed information on how to become a notary, how to renew your commission, how to change your name on your commission, and when and how to notify the office of other changes that the law requires. You will also find links to the online fillable forms that should accompany your requests and notifications. The information in this chapter is current as of the date of this edition of the handbook; however you should check the website www.sos.mt.gov/Notary for the most accurate and up-to-date information and requirements.

The basic process for obtaining a commission involves these five steps:

  1. Successfully pass the required examination (if required).
  2. Obtain a notary surety bond from a licensed bonding agent (usually an insurance agent)
  3. Complete the online application, print it out, and have it notarized
  4. Obtain a check, money order, or interunit journal (state employees only) for $25 for the filing fee.
  5. Send the application, the original bond, the exam certificate (if applicable) and the filing fee to the Secretary of State's office

WARNING: "The devil is in the details!" Carefully read and follow the full instructions to assure that the process will go smoothly. There are statutory time constraints and other mandates that apply depending on the circumstances. Failure to follow the directions correctly will result in delays, frustration, and additional expense.

Some important things to note about the notary application process:

  • You do not have to use your full legal name for the commission  we can accept an application that uses at least one initial and your surname, or your nickname and surname, as long as you can prove your identity to the notary who notarizes your application, statement and oath of office. We recommend that you use the name that you ordinarily use in the course of your normal course of business. The important thing is that you be consistent: The name on the bond, on the application, and the signatures on those documents must be exactly the same This becomes your "official notary name and signature" and must be used consistently on every notarial act you perform.

There are statutory time guidelines that must be followed:

  • All requests for commissions (new and renewal) must be filed within 30 days of the effective date of the bond if one is shown on the bond. (Some bonding companies leave the effective date blank, so there is usually no time limit on those bonds.)
  • Requests for reappointment cannot be made more than 30 days before the expiration date of the current commission. If you send your renewal paperwork in too early, it will be returned. If you attempt to send it in too late, it will be rejected and you will be required to complete the requirements for a new commission, including successfully passing the mandatory examination, before you can resubmit the documents for processing.

You must send the required documentation and the filing fee together. (State employees whose filing fee is paid for by their department must arrange for an interunit journal (IUJ) to be issued before submitting the documents to the Secretary of State's office.)

Incomplete submissions will be rejected.

  • The notary is solely responsible for submitting the required documents for requesting a commission or for updating contact information during the term of office. It is your responsibility to understand the process and coordinate the activities necessary to assure that your application is completed accurately, notarized correctly, and the necessary attachments  the bond, the filing fee, and the certificate of examination (for new appointments)  are included with the submission within the allowable timeframe.
  • The filing fee is non-refundable.

If you have any questions about any of these processes, feel free to contact the Notary and Certifications Division of the Secretary of State's office.Top

UPDATING YOUR INFORMATION

Notaries are required by law to provide certain information as part of the application process, including their name, physical residence address, mailing address, personal telephone number, employment information, and whether eNotarization services are offered. This information must be updated as necessary during the term of office. You must notify the Secretary of State's office within 30 days of any changes. An amended Certificate of Commission will be issued when your name or city of residence changes and you will have to obtain a new stamp showing the updated information. The Contact Information Update form is a fillable form on the website.Top

NOTARY SEAL/STAMP

Traditional Ink Seal/Stamps. It is the responsibility of the notary to obtain and keep an official seal upon receiving a new or subsequent commission. A new stamp must be purchased for each term of office and whenever the information shown in the stamp (such as the city of residence or the notary's name) changes. The State does not provide the seal/stamp. They may be purchased from most stationery, stamp, or office supply stores. It is the notary's responsibility to assure that the stamp is correct and complies with the requirements described below. Do not expect that the retailer or manufacturer knows the requirements. Provide this page to the vendor if there are any questions.

All Montana notaries are required to have an ink stamp that creates a rectangular impression approximately 1" by 2 ½" in size, that contains, within a plain, narrow border, a seal (as described below) and the additional statutorily mandated information: the notary's printed name; the title, "Notary Public for the State of Montana"; the words, "Residing at" with the name of the city or town and state where the notary lives; and the notary's commission expiration date, shown as Month/Day/Four Digit Year. The stamp may be either blue or black ink only.

The following is an illustration of the combination seal/stamp unit that is mandated for Montana notaries:

  • All information as shown above must be included. The commission expiration date must be complete. It is not acceptable to "fill in" the year.
  • If any of the information contained in the seal/stamp changes during the notary's term of office, the stamp must be replaced. Handwritten corrections to the impression are not allowed.
  • The outside rectangular border is a REQUIRED part of the stamp.
  • Notaries will have to purchase a new stamp for each term of office.
  • When you use this seal/stamp, you do not have to enter the information contained in the stamp again by hand on a notarial certificate.

See the list of Recommended Vendors for contact information about stamp suppliers who have agreed to produce only compliant stamps for Montana notaries at: http://sos.mt.gov/Notary/Seals.

Electronic Seal/Stamp. The design and content of an electronic seal/stamp must be the same as the ink stamp.

Do not order your stamp until you have received your
Notice of Appointment and Certificate of Commission.Top

NOTARY JOURNAL

All Montana notaries are required by law to maintain one or more journals in which all notarial acts are recorded. The journals may be either a permanent, bound paper journal designed to deter fraud or a permanent, tamper-evident electronic journal. Each journal entry must include the date and time of the notarization; the type of notarial act, a description of the document (usually the document date and type); the type of identification used; the signature, printed name, and address of the person for whom the notarial act was performed (except for certified deposition transcripts or certified copies); and the fee (if any) charged for the notarization.

Paper journals may be obtained from a local office supply store or other retailer, or they are available online from many sources. There are different formats available; you may choose whichever you prefer as long as the records are chronologically numbered and the book is designed in such a way as to deter any deletion, alteration, or modification of the pages. You may not use a loose-leaf notebook.

Electronic journals must be commercially produced and create chronological, sequential, and non-modifiable records that can be accessed upon demand and turned over in digital format to the Secretary of State's office in accordance with §1-5-615, MCA.

Some notaries may wish to keep one journal at work and another for personal use. Others may want to use both an electronic and a paper journal. A notary will be expected to produce any and all

journal records as appropriate upon request of an authorized party.

It is the notary's personal responsibility to maintain possession of all journals created during the entire time the notary holds an active commission. A notary does not have to turn his/her journal in when the commission is renewed; one journal may, in fact, contain the records for several years if the notary does only a few notarizations.

Upon termination or resignation of the notary's commission, the notary may choose to keep the journals or send them to the Secretary of State's office. The law requires that journals be retained for 10 years after the last entry, regardless of where they are stored.

It is the notary's responsibility to advise the Secretary of State's office where any records may be found.

More information on creating journal entries can be found here.

The information that Montana notaries are required to keep in a journal should not violate the privacy rights of the signers. Specific information unique to the identity of the signer, such as license numbers, social security numbers, or birthdates should never be entered into the notary journal.Top Top

THE NOTARIAL PROCESS

When we talk about "notarizing a document" most of the time we really mean notarizing, or authenticating, a signature in some way. So let's break down the steps that you'll take whenever you are asked to perform a notarization involving a signature:

  • Require personal appearance
  • Review the document
  • Identify the signer(s)
  • Determine competency and willingness
  • Create the journal record
  • Complete the notarial certificate

The processes for administering an oath as a separate notarial act and certifying a copy of a document are slightly different and we discuss them in the next chapter. These are the steps you always complete when taking an acknowledgement, witnessing a signature, or performing a jurat.Top

1. REQUIRE PERSONAL APPEARANCE

We've said it before and we'll say it again: "RULE # 1  When taking an acknowledgement, witnessing a signature or performing a verification on oath or affirmation (jurat), the signer must personally appear to the notary at the time the notarization takes place." Montana law defines personal appearance as either physical presence, or in some specific situations, by means of real-time, two-way video and audio communication (remote notarization). In order to lawfully complete a notarial certificate, you are always attesting that the notarial act occurred "before you" and that you witnessed some particular action.Top

2. REVIEW THE DOCUMENT

Notaries are not verifying or validating the contents of the document being notarized and there is no reason for the notary to read the document. However, before the notary can move on to the other steps, he/she should glance through the document in order to determine three important things:

  • To verify what kind of document it is. You'll need that for your journal entry and to determine if the signer understands what they are signing.
  • To determine the type of notarial act required.
  • To determine who is supposed to sign the document. Not only will this step tell you the name of the signer and how the person is to be identified and sign, but this is how you will learn if the document will be signed by the person acting in a representative capacity.Top

3. IDENTIFY THE SIGNER

In the state of Montana there are only two ways that you may identify a person who requests a notarization:

  • Personal Knowledge  A person whom you have known for a considerable period of time and would recognize anywhere, anytime can be identified on the basis of "personal knowledge." This is a subjective standard, but a notary should be guided by the understanding that, in the event of a legal challenge to the signer's identity, the notary would have to positively identify the person in court, often many years after the notarization took place. Personal knowledge is generally considered the best form of identification, and thus requires no further proof of identity. In Montana, it is generally acceptable for a notary public to notarize the signature of a spouse or other relative as long as the notary is not personally named in the document being signed or would be a direct beneficiary of the transaction contemplated by the document. The Secretary of State's office cautions that notaries should seriously consider the potential conflicts that may arise over documents which transfer property or rights (titles, deeds, wills, powers of attorney, etc.) among family members. "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should" are good words to apply in these situations.

Satisfactory Evidence  There are two types of "satisfactory evidence"  Documentary Proof and Credible Witnesses.

  • Documentary Proof - The most frequently utilized type of satisfactory evidence to positively identify a person who is otherwise unknown, or only slightly known, to you is by means of examining some kind of identification document. The notary should request signed and/or pictured, government-issued ID before performing a notarization for someone they do not know well. Acceptable forms of identification include a passport, driver's license or state ID that is current or expired less than three years, a military or student ID, or other government issued ID. Many times it will be necessary to use more than one piece of identification to conclusively identify a person. Notaries are cautioned that some forms of ID, such as bank cards, credit cards, and non-pictured government-issued cards (social security or Medicare cards) are not acceptable as primary identifiers, although they may in certain circumstances be used in conjunction with another ID to establish a person's identity. Notaries are not expected to be authorities on all types of identification, but they are urged to use common sense and reasonable care when presented with identification that appears to have been altered or tampered with in some way, or when the picture or description of the person on the card does not match the person standing in front of the notary. If there is any doubt as to the person's identity, the only safe practice is to refuse to take an acknowledgement, witness a signature, or perform a jurat.

Credible Witness  The other means of identifying a person for notarial purposes is the most misunderstood, the most complicated, and the least likely to be available at the time the situation arises without having made prior arrangements. The credible witness must be:

  • Personally known to the signer
  • Either personally known to the notary, or identified on the basis of documentary proof as defined above.
  • Physically in the notary's presence at the time of the notarization.
  • An unbiased third party who has no interest in, or benefit from, the transaction.

Steps to a proper notarization using a credible witness:

  1. Properly identify the credible witness.
  2. Place the credible witness under oath: "Do you swear under penalty of perjury that this is ________________?"
  3. Create journal record for the oath of the credible witness and have him/her sign the journal.
  4. The signer signs the document (if not already signed).
  5. Create journal record for the signature, acknowledgment, or jurat and have the signer sign the journal.
  6. Complete the notarial certificate on the document.

When a credible witness is used for identification of a document signer:

  • Three people are involved  the notary, the signer, and the credible witness.
  • All three people must personally appear to the notary when the notarization takes place.
  • A credible witness may not appear to the notary by means of real time two-way audio/visual communication.
  • Both the credible witness and the signer must sign the notary's journal.Top

4. DETERMINE THE SIGNER'S COMPENTENCY AND WILLINGNESS

A notary's duty is not limited to determining the identity of the signer. Determining that the signer is competent and willing to sign the document is also required. The standard that a notary is held to for these determinations is one of "reasonable care." If the signer appears to be lucid and understand what is happening while the notarization is being performed, the standard of reasonable care for competency has likely been met.

Generally speaking, willingness can be inferred simply from the fact that the signer has requested that the notarization be performed. There are, however, situations where additional care must be taken by the notary; for example, when the signer appears to be under pressure or duress or under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

Failure to establish the identity, comprehension, and intent of the person requesting a notarization to the degree of reasonable care places the notary at risk of being sued for negligence

In situations where there is a question of pressure being put on the signer, the notary should ask any others in the room to leave and then engage the signer in conversation about the transaction. There is a difference between a person being unwilling or pressured to sign a document and being unhappy about the circumstances that have made it necessary for him or her to sign that document. When in doubt, the notary can get an opinion from an attorney or medical professional familiar with the signer.

If there is a question about the signer's competency or willingness, the notary may refuse to perform the notarization or suggest that it should be done at a later time as circumstances warrant.Top

5. CREATE THE JOURNAL RECORD

Your notary journal is the official record of the notarial transaction. Combined with the notarial certificate on the document itself, the journal entry is evidence that you fulfilled your obligations as a notary public for that transaction. The information required to be entered into the journal is the same for both paper and electronic journals  only the method of recording is different. The following must be included in every journal entry:

  • Date and Time Notarized: This is the date and the time when you actually performed the notarization; it may or may not be the same as the date of document, which may be earlier but not later than the date of notarization.
  • Type of Notarization: There are seven types of notarial acts: an ACKNOWLEDGMENT, a SIGNATURE, a JURAT, an OATH, a CERTIFIED COPY, a CERIFIED TRANSCRIPT, and a PROTEST OF INSTRUMENT. See Chapter 4 for more information about the types of notarial acts and how you determine which act a particular document demands.
  • Description of the Document: Typically, this is the date of the document and the type of the document such as "contract," "deed," "power of attorney," "affidavit," etc. If more than one document is being notarized, each document should be described. The date may be the date the document was issued or the date it was signed and is usually printed on the document before it is signed. If no date appears on the document, you may consider the date of notarization as the date of the document. If you are unable to determine the type of document, the signer should be able to tell you what type of is being signed.
  • Type of ID: Again, your possible entries are limited. If you know the signer well, enter PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE. If you are relying on DOCUMENTARY PROOF, you should enter the issuing entity, the type of document (ex: "Montana DL"), and the date the ID was issued or expires. If you rely on a CREDIBLE WITNESS, your journal should reflect that you performed two separate notarial acts, including the oath of the credible witness and the acknowledgment, signature, or jurat of the signer.
  • The Printed Name, Signature, and Address of the Signer: This is absolutely the most important entry in the journal. This proves that the signer personally appeared to you at the time the notarization was performed. Whenever possible, the printed name and address should be entered by the signer; the signature, of course, must always be entered by the signer. The signer should be advised to enter his or her name the same way it appears on the document being notarized. It does not matter whether the signer uses a business or home address.
  • The Fee. You do not have to charge for notarial services, but if you do, you must enter the amount you charged in the journal record. Montana notaries may charge a maximum of $10 for performing an acknowledgment, witnessing a signature, verifying on oath or affirmation (jurat), certifying a transcript or certifying a copy.
  • Other Information: Use this space to include any information that may be pertinent to the situation. It is especially helpful to note anything unusual or additional that occurred or was a part of the transaction. Many journal entries will not require any additional information. Electronic journals often capture GPS data and allow you to take a picture of the signer, to provide additional proof of where the notarization took place and who signed the document.

Because notary journals could be subject to public review, notaries should be particularly careful not to enter in the journal any private information, such as birthdates, social security numbers, credit card numbers, or ID card numbers that could be used to steal someone's identity.

Below are pictures of a "Line-style" paper journal. The pages face each other and the information is written across the gutter. Since the information is contained on two separate pages, and entries are made on both sides of a page, this type of journal is very tamper-resistant. It is often chosen by notaries who routinely notarize a high volume of documents. The use of ditto marks is acceptable for everything but the signature. If multiple documents for the same signer are recorded at the same time and more than one line is used, a diagonal line may be drawn across the signature spaces and the signer may place his signature there rather than signing twice. If the notarizations were done at different times (even on the same day), however, a separate signature must be made each time as shown on this example.

Left Side of Journal Page

Right Side of Journal Page

Next is an example of a "Block-style" journal entry. These journals have a single block for every notarial act, although in some situations, more than one document signed by the same person may be grouped in one entry. In the illustration below, there were a group of related documents (for a loan closing) signed by the same person. These can be grouped into a single record in the notary's journal.

Many journals will have spaces for fingerprints or thumbprints. Montana law does not require thumbprints, but there is no prohibition against notaries including a finger or thumbprint as further proof of the signer's presence and identity.

As noted in Chapter 2, Montana law also allows notaries to use electronic journals that create chronological, sequential, non-modifiable records that can be stored securely and accessed if needed. Because this is a relatively new technology, there are many developers and vendors introducing new products. Before investing in a particular product, it is the notary's responsibility to determine that the electronic journal meets the minimum criteria established. There are, and will likely continue to be, many "apps" that claim to be electronic journals but do not offer the security and tamper-evident qualities that are mandated.Top

6. COMPLETE THE NOTARIAL CERTIFICATE

The final step in the notarization process is the one most people think is the whole thing  completing the notarial certificate/block. The certificate must be executed contemporaneously with the performance of the notarial act and include:

  1. The venue - This is the state and county where the notarization is performed. This is not always the state and county in which the notary resides or works. See "Jurisdiction".
  2. The statement of particulars - This is a declaration describing the type of the notarial act performed, the date on which it was performed and the person for whom it was performed. The notary may need to refer to 1-5-610, MCA or Chapter 4 of this handbook, to help with the wording and format.
  3. The notary's official signature - The notary's wet signature or official electronic signature must be affixed to every notarial certificate. The official name on the Notarial Seal and the notary's official signature must correspond with the notary's commissioned name on file with the Office of the Secretary of State.
  4. The notary's official seal/stamp - The requirements for the seal/stamp are explained here.

A diagram of a notarial certificate/block, showing the four required components is below.

Over the course of your career as a notary public, you may encounter many different notarial certificates. Some may be very short and concise, like the example above, and some may be long, wordy, and almost incomprehensible. All should contain the four basic elements. Recognizing the components of the certificates will help you in determining what type of notarial act is called for, as well as assuring that all the required elements are included.

Many times notaries are presented with documents that either do not have a notarial certificate, or the pre-printed notarial certificate was completed for another signer. When that situation presents itself, the notary must complete a proper notarial certificate by writing, typing, stamping or attaching one to the document as close to the signer's signature as possible.

We have created a series of notarial certificates that may be downloaded from our website and printed on 2" x 4" shipping labels and then affixed directly to the document. The appropriate certificate may then be filled-in with the correct information, then signed and stamped by the notary. This is preferable to a "loose certificate," which is simply a notarial certificate on a separate piece of paper. Because loose certificates are just stapled to the document, they can easily be detached, lost, or deliberately removed, and should not be used unless a certificate cannot be permanently affixed on the document.

If an error is made while completing the notarial certificate, any incorrect or omitted information may subsequently be corrected by the notary. Remember though, a change or correction may not be made to the impression of the notarial seal/stamp.

In the next chapter we will explain the types of notarial acts and how you complete typical certificates for each type of notarization.Top

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