Maintain a Notarial Journal— the Notary’s Best Defense
The notary journal can contribute significantly to the safety, defense, and protection of the Notary, and may prove vital if the Notary is ever required to testify in court about a particular act.
The journal helps prevent fraud, as the signer will be unwilling to sign a journal if his intent, for instance, is to commit forgery. The properly completed journal entry can provide proof that the Notary acted according to law and proper procedures in performing the act in question.
The journal is a Notary’s strongest defense against claims of wrongdoing, and can also serve to remind the Notary of key points to the procedure that are required. The journal should include the following information:
- the printed name and signature of each signer present
- the signer’s home address and phone numbers (do not use post office numbers for an address)
- the method or documentation that was used to prove identity, including ID numbers (be certain to observe carefully the photo and signature of the signer before you and compare to the identification document)
- if identity is proved by a credible witness or witnesses, the home addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses
- if the signature required witnesses, the home addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses
- the date of the instrument notarized as well as the date of the Notary act; (Note: the notarial certificate must bear the date notarized. The document may be dated a past date or the current date, but never a future date)
- a brief description of the instrument
- the type of Notary act (oath or acknowledgment)
- any fees charged for Notary services, and
- a thumbprint if possible
- It is also recommended that the Notary detail that he or she verbally administered an oath or took the signer’s acknowledgment of the signature.
A thumbprint is advisable, and adds to the signer’s security as well as the Notary’s keeping this important ‘diary’ of actions, including the signature of the signer before you, can prove that the signer did appear before the Notary, did take an oath or make an acknowledgment, and may serve to document an illegal act by signer appearing before the Notary if it is later questioned or proven that fraud was committed.
Again, remember the dynamics of consistency. If the Notary follows proper procedures, the same way every time, it is likely that he or she will properly perform consistently. As discussed under ‘Personal Appearance,’ if the Notary is ever requested to appear in court about a particular procedure, the journal will provide invaluable evidence that the Notary acted appropriately. Because notarizations are challenged sometimes years after the act took place, it is recommended that Notaries maintain journals for years beyond the final entry in each book.