What Does A Notary Public Do and How to Become One

What Does A Notary Public Do and How to Become One

What Is A Notary Public?

A Notary Public (or Notary, or Public Notary) is an official appointed by your state’s Secretary of State. They serve the public as an impartial witness by performing various official fraud-deterrent acts most important among these is verifying the Identity of persons signing important documents. This verification and consent is often the final step in establishing power of attorney, opening a retirement account, or closing the sale of a home.

These documents are then considered to be notarized and legally binding.  Notaries are publicly commissioned officials of the state, which means that they are expected to impartially follow written rules without exception. 

Notary signing agent

Once someone has completed the process of becoming a Notary Public most will go on to become a Notary Signing Agent.  Once a notary has completed the signing agent certification the opportunities to earn additional income increase. This includes those in the mortgage industry. This article will cover the aspects of both a Commissioned Notary and a Signing Agent.

Why Should You Consider Becoming A Notary Public?

A Notary Public is required for some of life’s most important transactions. When the day comes, it’s the Notary’s sworn duty to prevent fraud by verifying the identity of the document signers. But just how do you become a Notary?

Here are the top five reasons you should consider becoming a Notary Public and earn your state’s stamp of approval.

1. Make Extra Income

Notaries are appointed by their state to serve as public officials but charge the client for their services directly.  Notary fees are usually set by the state and anywhere run from $1 in California to $10 in Florida for an individual notarization. However, many clients often need more than one signature notarized, so the charges increase accordingly. Notaries can charge additional fees for items such as supplies, travel, and other expenses. 

2. Work Independently or With A Company as an NSA 

If you are thinking about becoming a Notary Signing Agent to make some extra income, you can certainly become one. However, you will need to be trained and certified to handle loan documents and notarization in real estate closings. In the mortgage finance industry, NSAs act as a bridge between the borrowers and banks to complete the loan. This helps to protect both the bank and the borrower from fraud. 

You can work as an independent Mobile Notary/Signing Agent with several companies and make extra income. Mortgage and Title companies hire notaries as independent contractors to ensure that their real estate loan documents are properly signed by the borrower and returned for processing.

3. Add Value to Your Skill Set/Resume

Notaries are in high demand in almost every industry, including finance, banking, medical, government, legal, insurance, technology, etc. Moreover, many employers value employees with Notary Credentials to provide their customers with additional services and handle their document authentication needs. 

Due to the high demand, becoming a Notary will improve your resume, add value to your skillset, increase your value as an employee, and positively affect your salary. There are two general functions performed by Notaries in the workplace. They can notarize company documents for where signature authentication is required, or as an additional service for their customers. Some businesses where being a notary can enhance your career would be banking, law offices, local business centers or located with large convention centers and meeting Halls, to name a few.

4. Enjoy Flexible Working Hours

If you choose to become a mobile Notary/Notary Signing Agent, you will enjoy having flexible working hours. Since many people require notarizations after regular business hours, it is a perfect job for students, home-based entrepreneurs, and stay-at-home parents. They can make some additional income and can do mobile notarizations in the evening. This means that they can discuss and arrange a time that suits them and make use of their evening as an earning opportunity.

5. Give Back to the Community

One way Notaries frequently will set up a Signing Fair, either independently or in association with a local charity.  This is a great way to get back to your community and promote your services. Notarization services are required the world over by people of various age groups and classes. However, many people who require these services cannot afford them, such as the disabled, homeless, elderly, and college students. They usually need notarizations for advance medical directives, powers of attorney, college transcripts, residency affidavits, and enrollment verifications. Notaries will often hold events at retirement homes, college campuses, and community centers to provide low-cost or free notarizations. 

What Type Of Work Does a Notary Public Do?

Whether you meet with a Notary online or in-person, the primary duty of a Notary is to help deter fraud by being a witness when the documents are being signed and authenticating them. However, their responsibilities don’t end here. They also:

  • Verify that all of the Notary-specific elements of the document are correct, present, and complete any that are incorrect, and add any that are missing.
  • Confirm the identity of the signer(s).
  • Discuss with the signer(s) to make sure that they are signing willingly and freely.
  • Sign and stamp legal documents once their authenticity is verified.
  • Ensure that all personal information of the involved parties is correct.
  • Be a witness when a document is being signed.
  • Previously, to find a Notary, it was essential to meet in-person and get the document notarized. However, with the advent of online notarization, customers can get this done by connecting with commissioned Notary public through audio and video).
  • Sign the document in the required signature section. 
  • In many states, once the Notary public finishes a Notary Act, they record the details in a Notary journal and have the signer of the document sign it. Some states also require the Notaries to get a thumbprint of the signer in their journals. It would be best if you maintained a Notary Journal even if the state does not require one.
  • Place their official seal on the document (if required by their state to do so).
  • Keep a record of all activities performed.
  • Manage the affirmations and oaths.
  • Take statutory declarations and affidavits.
  • Acknowledge deeds and other conveyances.
  • Protest bills of exchange and notes.
  • Offer notice of foreign drafts.

Notarization adds to a level of conviction in the document. It shows that the Notaries executed the document in a way that the parties whose names are mentioned in it are obliged to follow it. A notarized document is considered to be a piece of evidence that those whose names are mentioned in it and who signed it, will abide by the document – to approve what it says is allowed or to validate under oath that the statements of facts in it are accurate.

The role of the official is pretty standard in every state of the USA. In some states, a Notary Public may also have the authority to officiate and at weddings. However, in Louisiana, a Notary Public can draft legal documents, which is not allowed in other states.

How Much Can A Full-Time Notary Make?

Notary  Signing Agents have the potential to exceed their base income by getting a few additional clients every week. However, on the high end their earnings can even reach the six-figure salary bracket! A full-time loan signing agent that makes $100 per appointment generates $6,000 a month.

Taking advantage of the many advantageous self-employment tax laws, as a Notary loan signing agent, you can work as a 1099 independent contractor. This means you can earn more every year than a W-2 employee who contributes about 40% of their paycheck employee-related costs, such as taxes.

How Much Can A Part-Time Side Notary Make?

A part-time Notary loan signing agent can earn as much as $100 for every appointment, making around $2,000 per month. Moreover, if they get business directly from mortgage officers, real estate agents, and escrow officers, you can earn 50% more. You can make from $6,000 to over $9,000 just by learning to get business from various sources.

How to Find the Requirements for Your State?

To learn your state’s Notary requirements, you can google Your State’s Secretary of State Notary Public or visit https://www.nass.org/business-services/notary-services

While the individual steps vary state-by-state, the general requirements to become a Notary are:

  • Who Can Be A Notary Public?
    Though the required qualifications of becoming a Notary Public vary according to the state, some states also allow residents of neighboring states to become Notaries. According to the general rule, Notary applicants should be at least 18 years of age, a registered inhabitant of the state, and have no criminal background. Moreover, some states also require Notary applicants to be able to write and read English.

  • What is the Cost of Becoming A Notary?
    The cost of becoming a Notary differs with the state’s requirements. It can be even lower than $100 in a few states and much more in others. It also differs based on the background screenings, application filing fee, notary public exams, Notary training costs, the price of your bond (if required), and the necessary Notary supplies.

  • Is a Background Check Required?
    Some states do not require a background check to become a Notary unless you mention on the notary public application that you have committed a criminal offense in your past. However, Notaries who want to become Notary Signing Agents will have a background check performed to meet the industry standards.

  • Which Notary Supplies Does My State Require? 
    Notaries typically require three Notary-specific supplies: a journal to keep a record of their notarizations, certificates, and a seal for stamping certificates. Even though it’s not a requirement in most states, every Notary should have a Notary journal. It will help protect both the public and the Notary.

The most crucial type of supply is a certificate, as each type of notarization requires a different certificate. Many state Notary-regulating sites issue basic certificates, but they are not ideal for giving a professional impression while signing. Therefore, some suppliers make online certificates available so that instead of using regular paper certificates, you can download the type of certificate you require.

How to Become a Notary Public?

After understanding what a Notary Public/Signing Agent does, you will need to learn how to become a Notary Public in your state. If you meet the eligibility requirements and follow all of the steps your state includes in their commissioning process you too can become a notary. Though the process differs from state to state, you would generally fill out a Notary Public application, pay the state’s application fee, take a training course, pass an exam, submit your bond, take your oath of office, and buy your Notary supplies.

Every state’s requirements vary from state to state. But many states follow similar steps to designate a new Notaries Public. Some states require a Notary Public to complete a background check, carry Errors and Omissions (E&O) Insurance, or receive training from an approved vendor. It is prudent to always check with your local Secretary of State to ensure you have taken the right steps to become a Notary Public.

Here are some general steps you may want to take if you’re going to become Notary Public in your state:

  • Meet the Qualifications for Your State 
    Your Secretary of State’s website usually has a list of requirements, so make sure to check there first.
    Although some states’ requirements differ, you can consider a few basic ones such as: 
    * You should be an authorized resident of the United States, legal
    * You should be at least eighteen years old,
    * You should be able to write and read the English language

  • Complete and Submit Your Application and Pay the Fee.
    Notary Public applications are available from your state’s secretary of state’s (SOS) office or website. The application requests information about prior Notary commissions, criminal history, and necessary identifying information.

  • Get Training from An Approved Education Vendor (If Applicable)
    In some states, Notary public applicants are required to complete training related to the legal requirements and duties of this office. These are intended to prepare the applicant for the Notary Public exam. Moreover, as a holder of an official state office, the Notary is expected to know the laws governing their official duties. Some states offer online classes, while other states require the applicant to attend the training in person. There are several online training programs available to help prepare to become a Notary Public/Signing Agent.  Online courses can vary by state in order to match the legal requirements for that state so be sure to find courses specific to your location.

  • Pass A State-Administered Exam (If Applicable)
    Some states require applicants to take the Notary Public exam in person, while other states offer computer-based, online testing. After the exam is submitted, the state will advise an applicant if he or she passed within a specific time frame. If you passed the exam, your state will provide you with a Notary commission certificate and instructions for filing an oath of office.

  • Complete Fingerprinting and Background Check (If Applicable)
    The only thing you have to do to begin the background check is a Live Scan of your fingerprints When complete, the fingerprints are submitted to your state and, and FBI and then their findings are sent to the Secretary of State.

  • Get Sworn in As A New Notary Public and Receive Your Commission Certificate
    A Notary Public is required to take an oath of office. The oath of office may be administered by the county clerk’s office, where the Notary must appear in person. Once the oath of office is filled using the state-required method, the Notary can begin performing the office’s official functions.

  • However, the Notaries have to meet the deadline. There is usually a limited time frame within which the Notary must complete this step, or the commission becomes invalid. It is essential to file the oath of office within the mandated time frame.

  • File Your Commission Paperwork and Get Your Surety Bond (If Applicable) With Your Notary Regulating Official
    The Notary must also present his or her surety bond if required when the oath is administered. This bond compensates people for the monetary damages they have suffered because of a notary’s misbehavior or carelessness. It mentions that the Notary public will perform his office’s duties as enforced by the state laws.

  • Buy Your Notary Supplies
    After fulfilling all the requirements and becoming commissioned,  notaries are required to purchase a journal or record book to record the official acts he or she will perform (if the state requires journal-keeping) and a Notary Public seal. Your state will have a list of authorized suppliers who provide your notary seal, along with your state’s approval for the Notary to purchase from them. Some states allow any office supply store to sell Notary seals, but store employees may require the Notary to show their Notary commission certificate.

Will I Have to Take a Test?

You don’t need to apply for a test in the majority of states. However, states which require Notary applicants to take a test are Colorado, Connecticut, California, Louisiana, Hawaii, Montana, Maine, Nebraska, North Carolina, New York, Oregon, Ohio, and Utah. Though it’s not a requirement, Wyoming allows applicants to take the at-home Notary exam.

Most Notary Public exams hardly last an hour. You might be required to submit fingerprints with your state Notary application after the exam.

Parting Words

Learning to become a Notary/Signing Agent can be a full-time job but a rewarding one, depending on how much time you want to spend and how much salary you want. Demand for public notaries is high as studies show that there is only one Notary for every 72 U.S. residents. Therefore, you may need a notarization at some point in time and meet with a Notary Public, whether in-person or online.

By Bryan Greene