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Posted by: tdt -

     Question:  I would like to become a notary public and maybe earn a little extra cash.  What do I need to do and how much can I charge for notary services?

    Answer:  Notary publics in the State of Texas are commissioned by the Secretary of State.  Rules regarding their eligibility, permissible acts, impermissible acts and fees are governed by the Texas Government Code, Title 4 Executive Branch, Subtitle A Executive Officers, Chapter 406 Notary Public – Commissioner of Deeds, Subchapter A Notary Public.  

    A notary public provides a service as a “witness.”  By signing a document, after the person whose signature is required for whatever reason has signed, the notary affirms that the person signed in front of the notary.  By placing a seal or stamp next to the notary’s signature, the notary certifies that they personally witnessed the signing by the signor.  They are attesting to the fact that they visually saw the signing, or execution, of the document being signed.  

    A person seeking to become a notary does not need or require special skills.  They file an application and pay a fee to the Secretary of State, order a notary record book and stamp or seal and obtain a bond (insurance).  An applicant must be at least 18 years of age and a resident of the State of Texas and must not have been convicted of a felony or crime involving moral turpitude.

    According to the Texas Government Code, the different types of certifications include:  An acknowledgement, which is a formal declaration before an authorized official, such as a notary public, by someone who signs a document and confirms that the signature is authentic. Also, the certificate of the officer on such instrument indicating that the document has been so acknowledged.  

    An Affidavit, which is a voluntary declaration of facts, written down and sworn to or affirmed by the declarant (“affiant”) before a Notary Public or other officer having the authority to administer an oath.  Court reporters and court clerks may also administer oaths.  An Affirmation, which is the act of affirming the truth of a document, not an oath. “I solemnly affirm and declare the foregoing to be a true statement...”  Affidavits may be either sworn with an oath or affirmed with an affirmation, and each has the same legal effect.  A jurat is a certification added to an affidavit or document stating when, where and before whom such affidavit was made.  An oath is a solemn declaration, accompanied by a swearing to God or a revered person or thing, that one’s statement is true or that one will be bound to a promise. The person making the oath implicitly invites punishment if the statement is untrue or the promise is broken.

    A protest, which is a Notary Public’s written statement that, upon presentment for payment or acceptance, a negotiable instrument was neither paid nor accepted.

    A verification, which is a formal declaration by which one swears to or affirms the truth of the statements in a document. Also, the statement of a Notary Public that the person appearing before the notary has been properly identified as being the person purported to be appearing.

    The fees that a notary may collect are also governed by Texas law.  A notary may not charge more than that promulgated by law.  The amount that a notary may charge for the different types of certifications ranges from 50 cents to $6.00.  Not exactly enough to squeak out a living, but perhaps some spending money.  Often, businesses that have a notary don’t charge at all for their regular clients or customers.     

    Acts that a notary is forbidden from committing include practicing law (unless the notary is an attorney), prepare, draft, select or give advice concerning legal documents, overcharge for notary services, notarize a document without the signer being present, notarize the notary’s own signature, issue identification cards, notarize a certificate under another name other than the one recognized by the state or certify copies of documents that are recordable in the public records.  

    For more information on becoming a notary, and a full listing of the laws and rules a notary must adhere to visit www.sos.texas.us.   

    This article is meant for informational purposes only and not as a substitute for sound legal advice.  Direct questions to Ask the Lawyer to lawyer@thedalharttexan.com.