As a California Notary Public since 1996, I am obliged to share some insights into this profession…
Often referred to as a “Notary Republic,” there is no such thing. The professional title is “Notary Public.” No big deal. An easy customer correction. To enlighten and clarify misgivings, the definition of a Notary Public is as follows:
“A notary public (or notary or public notary) in the common law world is a public officer[representative of a United State] constituted by law to serve the public in non-contentious matters usually concerned with estates, deeds, powers-of-attorney, and foreign and international business. A notary’s main functions are to administer oaths and affirmations, take affidavits and statutory declarations, witness and authenticate the execution of certain classes of documents, take acknowledgments of deeds and other conveyances, protest notes and bills of exchange, provide notice of foreign drafts, prepare marine or ship’s protests in cases of damage, provide exemplifications and notarial copies, and perform certain other official acts depending on the jurisdiction. Any such act is known as a notarization. The term notary public only refers to common-law notaries and should not be confused with civil-law notaries…” Wikipedia.com.
Okay. Well put. Therefore, as I am a representative of the State of California in the capacity of a Notary Public, I do not take the responsibilities of this profession for granted. In my attempts to maintain this profession of choice, I wonder if the general public, in need of notarial services, are aware of the processes (plural) that a notary must be familiar with, maintain, and respect. Respect is a key word.
For instance, first and foremost, for a person to even consider becoming a Notary Public, particular requirements must be met: be a legal resident of any state; be 18 years old or better; and have no felony convictions. Next, a commission application and Notary exam are adamantly necessitated. These are conveniently accomplished through a candidate’s schedule. As I have been a member of the National Notary Association for these many years, I am in contact with them for notarial guidance (800) 876-6827 or www.sos.ca,gov).
Furthermore, a state-approved, six-hour education course with examination is mandated. A score no less than 70% is acceptable. If not scoring well, another time may be scheduled – but at a price!
Another cost involves electronic fingerprinting of a candidate along with the purchasing of several tools to lawfully and efficiently carry out notarial duties (e.g., notary seal, journal, jurat stamp, venue stamp, fingerprinting device, notarial certificates, and Errors and omissions Insurance). There’s more, but you get the gist.
My business operations through personal advertising as an Independent Notary Public – meaning I work for myself – people frequently contact me via telephone to notarize their certain documents. I immediately ask when is a good time for them to have this done, are they 18 years of age or older, do they have an updated picture identification, what is the title of the document, do they understand the document (coherence), would they prefer to come to my office or shall I meet them somewhere at their convenience? Phew! I need to know!
Before answering, a typical “quid-pro-quo” conversation ensues with “Do I have to make and appointment? Can I just come by now? How much does it cost? Can I have a discount?” and “This’ll only take about ten minutes, right?”
Hmm, people are always in a hurry! I respect that and do my best to comply. Anxiety about a notarizing process is always expressed as well. I reply with: “Yes, you have to make an appointment. No, you cannot come by now.” As a sole-proprietor, my staff consists of one person – me. In oder to gain your full attention to a notarial matter, my attention is undivided and I will set aside time for a customer. This is a ‘special, undivided time’ with one customer at a time. The subject of ‘cost‘ is addressed with my explaining that “I offer a senior citizen discount, along with active military, active police officers, active fire personnel, active emergency medical technicians (EMTs), and active sherriffs’ discounts as in being free. “Active” is the key word. Not their wives. Not their children. Not their other family and/or extended family members. Just them. Directly. Oftentimes a grunt may follow.
Ten minutes?! That’ll never happen. At least twenty minutes – at least – are required to review documents without advising. Many processes are as follows: filling-in-the-blanks when necessary; meticulously examining photo identifications and signatures for validation and to avoid identity theft; notarizing the document(s) (placing my seal in the proper place); filling out and having the customer sign and thumbprint my journal (record of transaction); giving an oath or affirmation and knowing the difference; attach, sign, and notarize an “acknowledgment’ or ‘jurat’ if needed; and the accepting of agreed upon payment.
My being attentive to details is very important!
Along with the aforementioned responsibilities, so so so many people are unfamiliar with a notary’s’ further detailed responsibilities to fulfill the objectives of this profession. For instance, are you aware that there are laws, many laws, pertaining to Notaries Public? How about familiarity with your Secretary of State, a notary’s’ ‘boss?’ Or the involvement of a County Clerk? Bureau of Vital Statistics? Hague Convention?
How about having to be familiar with Government Codes? Business and Professions Codes? Civil Codes? Code of Civil Procedure? Elections Codes? Family Codes? Penal Codes? Probate Codes? Health and Safety Codes? Uniform Commercial Code? United States Codes? How about knowing where to look up all this stuff?!
Sound pretty overwhelming, doesn’t it? Well, it’s worth it, really. Having been a California Notary Public for the last sixteen years, I am honored to be of service to the State of California. I am honored to assist the general public in this capacity and I enjoy the knowledge obtained, the responsibilities sworn to, and the acknowledgment of knowing I am doing the right thing.
Sincerely, Andrea K. Roth, CA Notary Public at your service!