By Mary Kate Kelley—Many signing service applications/agreements include instructions to submit documentation of your authority to act as a notary public in your state. Be cautious in responding to this request. In a recent survey of applications, we found that this request usually was made in one of three ways.
- “Affix your signature and notary stamp and/or seal on a separate sheet of paper.”
Most states’ notary laws clearly state that your seal is to be used only for official notarial acts. You may not notarize your own signature, and you may not affix your stamp to a blank document, a document with blanks, or a document devoid of notary language. In Colorado, for example, notarizing a blank document is cited specifically as a cause for commission revocation [C.R.S. S12-55-107(g)]. To cite another example, Michigan law allows the attorney general to prosecute a notary who notarizes any document containing a blank space [MCLS S55.299].
- “Attach a certified copy of your notary commission certificate.”
This option is a notarial no-no that should be obvious to you. Your commission certificate is a public record. As with all other public records, such as birth certificates, certified copies of your commission can only come from its issuer. To get a certified copy of your commission certificate, contact your state’s Notary Public Administrator.
- “Include your notary identification number with your signature and commission expiration date.”
If you are commissioned in Louisiana, California, New York or Pennsylvania, you were assigned a unique identifying number, usually appearing on your commission certificate. Your notary identification number is unique to you, and its purpose is to identify you as a notary. With that number, your notary commission can be verified by calling the Department of State. If your state does not issue notary identification numbers, call the signing service and ask how to proceed.
In addition to proof of your authority to act as a notary, most companies who hire you or contract with you to facilitate loan signings will ask for proof of your notary bond and Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance.
To obtain a certified copy of your bond, go to the Recorder of Deeds office or wherever you took your oath of office. Your original bond is filed there. If you are commissioned in one of the 18 states that do not require notary bonds, again, you should call the signing service for instruction.
When you purchased your E&O insurance policy, you should have been given the original certificate. If, for any reason you do not have your E&O certificate, you can call the insurance company for a duplicate original. You must go to another notary and ask for a certified copy of this certificate. You cannot certify copies for yourself because you would have an obvious direct interest in the transaction.