how long should you keep a notary journal x

Maintaining a notary journal is often a topic of discussion amongst notaries in online discussions and forums. This notary journal includes all the details of the notarized documents and the circumstances in which it happens, making it an important work aide. 

Many states in the U.S. either recommend or require that their notaries keep a record of all their notarial acts in a journal. The reasons are quite fair, to be honest. In addition to providing helpful records of the official activities of a notary, this journal also serves as proof of transaction in case authenticated documents go missing or this info is required for court proceedings.

A detailed notary journal helps notaries defend themselves and their service as a notary from potential lawsuits and accusations of negligence.

However, what exactly notaries record in journals depends on their state’s guidelines. Here are some critical points to remember about the importance of journaling notary acts and maintaining the details for future reference:

  1. Should every notary keep a journal?
  2. What to look for in a notary journal?
  3. What kind of journal should a notary keep?
  4. 15 points to include in a notary journal entry
  5. When should notaries create a journal entry?

1. Should every notary keep a journal?

Yes. Several states strongly recommend or require notaries to maintain a record of the actions they perform.

It is an essential tool that provides a transcribed record of the official acts of a notary. Moreover, it comprises details related to the transaction ifa notarized document is altered, lost, or stolen, or if facts regarding the notarization are defied in court.

For instance, one California notary told the Notary Bulletin the way signers approached her a year after she notarized loan papers for them. A creditor had misplaced the papers, and as a result, the signer’s home deed wasn’t correctly recorded. The notary’s journal record provided evidence that the loan documents had been notarized, and they helped signers save their homes.

Even if it isn’t required in a respective state, a well-maintained and well-kept journal can help notaries substantiate that they acted appropriately during a transaction if accused of a willful or negligent mistake.

For instance, Florida requires notaries who perform digital notarizations to keep a protected electronic record of their actions. State officials recommend that all notaries in Florida keep a notary journal voluntarily.                                                             

On the other hand, Colorado doesn’t require notaries to maintain a personal journal if their employer retains the notarized documents in the course of usual business. Yet, experts strongly encourage the notaries to keep journals in case they face a liability claim and can’t access previously authenticated documents maintained by the employer.

Notary journals have also helped agents locate and arrest corrupt signers who attempted to commit forgeries or fraud.

2. What to look for in a notary journal?

Here are some of the features of a good notary journal:

  • Column descriptions
  • Page numbers
  • Secure binding
  • Privacy guard
  • Row numbers

3. What kind of journal should a notary keep?

Some states demand a journal’s format to contain specific features. 

Arizona identifies that conventional notaries must keep a paper journal. However, notaries authorized for remote online notarizations must record information in a tamper-evident and permanent electronic format. Also, they need to ensure that it meets the terms adopted by the state secretary. 

Tennessee needs the notary journal to be an appropriate electronic method or a well-bound book. If not detailed by state law, according to NNA, notaries should keep a journal with bound pages and record entries in chronological order to avoid tampering.

While paper journals are a tried-and-trusted method, they have their downsides compared to electronic journals for record-keeping.

For starters, electronic journals are secure. All the information recorded in the journal is locked, cannot be updated or changed once saved, and will specify whether entries have been tampered with.

Additionally, electronic journals comply with the state’s requirements, and all notarial records are downloadable, printable, and searchable. Notaries can also email them to customers.

All in all, a notary e-journal is an excellent alternative to traditional journals. Notarial records can be stored and backed up indefinitely. In addition, notaries can access their electronic journal anytime, anywhere, and it’s simple to use. In short, electronic journals are ideal for notaries, especially in an internet-based world.

4. The 15 points to include in a notary journal entry

Some states have proper guidelines about what every journal entry should comprise. For instance, notaries need to write down how they can recognize the signer to ensure abidance to the state laws when maintaining a notary journal.

If a state doesn’t offer the precise information to enter in the notary journal, here are the following recommendations by NNA.

Some recognized points link the notarial act explained in the journal to the notary and the signer that recorded the information.

1. The date of notarization 

All notaries need to capture this data in their journals. The date is one of the most critical facts when signing a particular document. This information is there in the notary certificate. Notaries may also document the time of notarization in the journal. Some states might require both the time and date to be recorded in the notary journal.

2. Document date

Notaries should also record the document date in their journals. A document might bear a date on which it became effective or merely have a date mentioned at the bottom or top of the paper. That is the document date which doesn’t have to be similar to the notarization date.

It can be a date in the future or the past. Documents might become effective at a later date than the notarization date. Documents can be dated at the time they were drafted for signature. Some notaries may also be required to record the notarization time by their state laws.

3. The Heading/Title or the document type

All notaries are required to keep this information in their journals. For instance, the entry will state “Deed,” “Affidavit,” “Automobile Title,” “Power of Attorney,” “Last Will or Testament,” “Contract,” or other document type or title.

4. Parties involved

This is a time-consuming job. However, this information is helpful in conclusively recognizing a document. For example, parties mentioned in a deed will be the individual giving the assets to another grantee, and the individual on the receiving end is the grantor. Parties identified on a mortgage instrument would be the party receiving a loan and the entity providing the loan. These are called the mortgagee and mortgagor. Similarly, parties on a power of attorney will be the grantee and the grantor who gives a power of attorney. For example, notaries in Texas are required to get the information about makers, grantors, original grantees and, signers relating to documents

5. Notarization venue

This is another excellent tool to substantiate that actions are valid. Presiding notaries need to list the country, city, and state where the documents are notarized. In case of a false accusation, the information helps the signer and the notary. It proves their stance.

6. Type of notarization performed

All notaries are required to capture this detail in their journals. For instance, the notary will record Acknowledgment, “Jurat,” “Certified Copy / Document Name,” “Oath Administered or “Oath.”

7. Verbal ceremony performed

To affirm and note that a verbal ceremony was conducted is a brilliant tool if someone tries to back out of transactions and implies that a presiding notary didn’t perform the verbal ceremony. In such a case, a notary can keep confirmation in the journal that affirmations or oaths were administered or that someone took an acknowledgment. And in a certified copy case, the notary confirms that the document bearer makes a statement about the authenticity of the document

8. Fee

All notaries should list this information in their journals. If the notary charges a price for notarization, the amount should be listed. Also, note if the service was performed free of cost.

9. Notarization venue

This is another excellent tool to substantiate that actions are valid. The presiding notary needs to list the country, city, and state where the notarization is performed.

10. Property involved

If the property is a transaction’s material part, a notary will cite information that recognizes the property. Specifically, this will be in the case of a mortgage, deed, lease agreement, or documents bearing a property address or description.

11. The number of pages in a document

For instance, the entry will state that a specific document contains 45 pages. Notaries must be careful and accurate if they choose to use this info.

12. Signer’s identity

This might consist of the document with the signer’s address, name, and contact number. Notaries must mention the signer’s name on all ID-related documents used in the notarization and keep a note if the signer signs with a different name.

13. Method of identification

This is a vital piece of information to record for all notaries. It’s the method through which the signer of the document was identified. The notary will list that they know the signer and that the particular signer was recognized by the personal knowledge of credible witnesses (one or more) or by presenting the documents of proof of identity.

14. Signer’s signature

All notaries should ask a signer to sign their journals to substantiate their appearance before the notary at the time of notarization.

15. ID documentation

In case a signer’s identity is established by identification documents or credible witnesses, it is essential to record the types of paper and their expiration dates, addresses, names, and contact numbers of those witnesses. Also, don’t list ID documents’ numbers unless state laws mandate them.

Typical paper-based notary journals will have notaries recording this information manually. However, electronic journals can help to automatically fill in all the details, saving notaries ample time and effort.

5. When should notaries create a journal entry?

Ideally, notaries should write every journal entry when the signer is present and before finalizing the notarization. That way, they can get the signatures and thumbprints while also ensuring that the information entered is correct and up-to-date.

Also, piecemeal entries in a journal might have severe legal consequences. So, notaries should be thorough with the work.

Notaries should make a new journal entry for every notarial action performed and complete the entry prior to notarizing the particular document. If notarizing more than one deed for an individual, notaries should create separate journal entries for each.

Even though it isn’t required by law, notary journals can protect the document signer and notary from any accusations of wrongdoing. Moreover, it also aids in the avoidance of misdeeds by the notary. Each journal entry is legally recognized to be truthful and constitutes the personal knowledge of the notary of the performed notarization.

Suppose a notarized document gets altered or lost, or particular facts regarding the transaction are challenged later. In that case, the journal serves as valuable proof that can safeguard the rights of property owners and help notaries protect themselves from false accusations.

Notarizations are valid, binding, and effective till the document is valid. Therefore, a journal is a lasting detailed record of the notarizations performed.

However, the convenience of remote online notarizations or electronic journals is evident for people who need to locate and stop a notary public from signing a document. Also, these electronic notary journals record the entries automatically. In addition, there are other advantages that e-journals offer over paper-based, in-person notarization. These include increased accessibility to notarial services, enforceability and security, and minimized identity risk fraud.

Additionally, the reliance on electronic journaling, i.e., digital audit trail and storage, has increased as the world goes digital.

Leveraging electronic notary journals, the industries and the notaries that deploy them minimize the delivery time of their services to the clients and perform authorized transactions. In addition to making the company more efficient, agile, and improving customer experience, e-journals for notaries also help mitigate fraud and risk during the notarization process.

Wrapping up

For traditional notarizations, notaries are generally required to keep records of their activities in a paper-based journal, even though some states might allow them to use electronic journals for increased accuracy and convenience. Moreover, RON laws demand notaries to maintain electronic journals for every notarization and the right reasons.

An electronic notary journal allows notaries to quickly and securely create journal entries leveraging the most cutting-edge encryption standards. Still, notaries cannot change every entry after it’s recorded for enhanced security. 

PandaDoc Notary is an all-inclusive document automation solution that helps companies legally gather documents, get the e-signature by the appropriate person, notarize the signature and manage all notarized documents electronically while ensuring agility. This can be an excellent option when it comes to keeping electronic notary journals with recurring notarizations.All in all, the electronic notary journal is quite a powerful tool that enables the signers or participants to sign their journal entries automatically. Moreover, the e-journal system is feature-rich and offers plenty of convenience for users. So, make sure you take advantage of it.

Guy Pearson has been a commissioned notary for more than seven years. He also runs one of the most established Facebook groups for Remote Online Notarization (RON), with more than 7000 members nationwide. Guy is the co-founder and product leader of PandaDoc Notary. His team drives product initiatives in key verticals, such as Legal, Financial, and Real Estate.

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