How often do you evaluate the responsibility that a notary stamp carries?
How often do you re-examine your way of working with notary stamps? Can it withstand legal challenges if the court disputes your notarial act?
Being a notary public is a huge responsibility, and the thought of using notary supplies in a way that does not attract legal penalties requires strong knowledge of the industry.
At the same time, the notary test you took before buying your notary stamp was a lot of material, and it’s understandable to need to periodically refresh your knowledge.
To ensure you stay at the top of your game as a notary public (or ensure that you keep your memory fresh), you’ll want to review your state’s notary laws about working with a notary stamp.
Below are the most common do’s and don’ts to re-assess.
The Do’s of Working With Notary Stamps
#1. If You Live in Applicable States, Deface Your Notary Stamp When Your Commission Expires
When your commission expires, you’ll want to replace your expired notary seal stamp and discard the old one.
The rules for discarding old notary seals and stamps vary in all 50 states.
States like Texas and Florida require a notary to deface old seals to prevent misuse. Some, like Arizona and Hawaii, require notaries to surrender their notary stamps when they stop delivering services.
Others, like Maryland, do not direct you on how to dispose of a notary stamp or embosser.
It’ll save you lots of trouble to destroy and render old stamps and seals unusable when your commission expires or permanently ends — unless your state requires you to return an expired notary seal.
Don’t just toss old notary stamps in the trash and forget about it.
A fraudulent person can find your old embosser or stamp and use it with malicious intent.
While expired, old notary stamps can still be used to create false documents, fraudulently replicate an attorney’s power, or even fake housing deeds. And when the law challenges such notarization and finds ink of your notary stamp impressions, you’ll be sued for bogus notarization.
In other words, it’s your professional responsibility to render your expired notary stamp or seal unusable.
#2. Safeguard Your Stamp and Other Notary Supplies
Most states present guidelines on storing notary stamps, seals, journals, and other notary supplies. Some states don’t specify.
However, keeping your notary stamp under your exclusive control is your professional responsibility. You must protect your customers by protecting your notary supplies from being used for fraud and privacy breaches.
Similar to not defacing your stamp, If you leave your it exposed, a dishonest person might find and use it. You’ll then have the excruciating task of proving to the judge that you didn’t notarize the fraud in question.
You can save yourself the legal headache by protecting your notary stamp and other supplies from misuse by keeping them under your exclusive control — whether at home, work, or traveling, put them in a secure place with a lock.
Suppose you’re a mobile notary public. Avoid leaving your notary stamps and notary journals visible in your car, as someone might break in and steal them.
#3. Only Use Your Notary Stamp on Documents Within Authorized Notarial Duties
Notary stamps can only certify documents within authorized notarial duties like a jurat, acknowledgment, a signature witnessing, a copy of certification, or an oath and affirmation.
After all, your duty as a notary public is to verify a signer’s identity and authenticate it to prevent fraud and ID theft.
You cannot execute requests to legalize a document and make its content binding in a court of law.
In fact, it’s illegal in all 50 states for a notary to engage in legal activities unless you’re an attorney.
In other words, review the powers and limitations of a public notary.
The Don’ts of Working with Notary Stamps
#1. Don’t Let Anyone Else Use Your Stamp or Notary Embosser
Notary stamps aren't like the corporate self-inking stamps or seals that are a purely private character. It’s a commissioned public official tool, and you cannot lend it or allow it to be used by anyone else.
It’s like a police officer’s badge. In fact, most states consider letting any other person use your notary stamps as Class B Misdemeanor — subjective to prosecution and revocation of your commission.
No one can borrow your seal or notary certificate.
Even if you’re a notary working in a company and you’re sick, absent, or on vacation, your boss cannot have another employee or a co-worker use your seal to speed up business operations.
#2. Don’t Use Your Notary Stamp on a Document Without the Personal Presence of the Signers
Never notarize a document without the signer’s physical presence.
Lack of physical presence at the time and place of the notarial act is a major cause of legal problems. Its purpose is to detect and prevent fraud — it prepares notaries for the threat that an imposter with a fake identification document poses.
However, a friend, relative, associate, supervisor, or client could present a document already signed by an absent third-party. And if they assure the signature’s validity — and that the signer is sick or unavailable, but the urgency of notarization is critical — it’s easy for notaries to waive the standard procedures in this person’s favor.
When you ink such a document with your notary stamp, you risk fraud.
If the incident results in forgery, you’ll be sued to recover any losses. And what’s worse, you might face judgment or future license revocation.
#3. Do Not Use an Expired Notary Stamp on Ink Pads to Notarize
It isn’t illegal.
While the law requires notaries to include each act’s attestation of a notary commission’s expiration date, no state forbids you from striking out the old one and hand-writing the update-state number.
However, this is unprofessional. The receiving agency might question why the date is changed, who has made the changes, and whether the notary commission is still active.
Such concerns delay or even invalidate notarization. To avoid such scenarios, order a new stamp that shows the update-state of commission expiration dates.
Now with the basic do’s and don’ts of working with a notary stamp out of the way, do you have the best quality seal stamp? Or would you benefit from free digital proof files on your phone e-mail when you buy a stamp or seal?
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