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November 7th is Notary Public Day!

Notary BlogI was sworn in and received my commission as a notary public on August 27, 2012 in Richmond, Virginia. Since then, I’ve learned so much about being a notary and quickly realized it’s much more than stamping a document. I would like to say thank you to all of the great people I’ve met along the way who have given me the privilege of notarizing their most important documents.

The first Notary Public Day was celebrated on November 7, 1975, and was created to “recognize notaries for their public service and their contributions to national and international commerce.”

What is a Notary Public?

The Commonwealth of Virginia Notary Public Handbook defines a notary as a public officer “who acts as an official, unbiased witness to the identity and signature of the person who comes before the notary for a specific purpose. The person may be taking an oath, giving oral or written testimony, or signing or acknowledging his or her signature on a legal document. In each case, the notary attests that certain formalities [as required by law] are observed.”

What are the Official Acts of a Virginia Notary Public?

The code of Virginia specifies five basic notarial acts:
1) Taking Acknowledgments
2) Administering Oaths
3) Certifying affidavits
4) Certifying depositions
5) Certifying “true copies” of documents*

Why are documents notarized?

There are many reasons you may need to have a document notarized. Documents are notarized to deter fraud and to ensure they are properly executed. An impartial witness (the Notary) identifies signers to verify identity and to make sure they have entered into agreements knowingly and willingly.
Most official documents need to be notarized.

What kind of identification is needed to have a document notarized?

As per Virginia law, all signers must personally appear before the notary and present government issued photo identification. The name on the identification must match the name printed on the document. Acceptable identification documents are as follows:

State issued driver’s license
State issued identification card
United States military card
United States passport
Certificate of United States citizenship
Certificate of naturalization
Alien registration card with photograph
Unexpired foreign passport

Does notarization make a document “true” or “legal”?

No. A notarization typically means the signer acknowledged to the Notary that he or she signed the document or “swear or affirm” under oath or affirmation that the contents of the document were true.

Can a Notary refuse to serve people?

A notary may refuse to notarize a signature if he or she is uncertain of an individual’s identity, or if the notary is uncomfortable with the validity of the identification documents.

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How To Get Started As A Notary Signing Agent

Takisha L. SmithI always get asked how I got started as a Notary Signing Agent (NSA)?

So first off, what exactly is a Notary Signing Agent? A notary signing agent is a notary public that notarizes mortgage docs for borrowers who purchase or refinance their current mortgage. Notary signing agents are impartial witnesses who identify the signer, verify that all documents are signed and dated, notarize the documents, and return the executed loan package to the lender.

In the state Virginia, you will need Errors & Omissions insurance (E&O). You can purchase a $25,000/1 year policy for about $26. Signing companies and title companies require that you have the insurance to protect against notary errors. Virginia does not require a bond like other states. So be sure to check your state’s requirements.

It also helps if you belong to a notary organization. If you do a Google search for “notary signing agents”, you will see that most people call themselves “certified notary signing agents”. All that means is that they have taken a course and test of their skills with loan documents. Many of the notary organizations offer their own version of becoming certified. It helps to become certified but it’s not a requirement. Also most companies require you to have a background check. (UPDATE: As of this current moment, November 2013, The Signing Professionals Workgroup (SPW) was formed to assist in the creation of professional standards for certified signing professionals. SPW created the Certified Signing Specialist (CSS) designation. The SPW also created standards to facilitate mortgage signings and to address regulatory requirements, state-law compliance, consumer satisfaction and consistency in delivery of notary services. http://signingprofessionalsworkgroup.org/)

Here are some links below that will help you get started:

National Notary Association (NNA) – most popular notary organization to join. You can also purchase E&O insurance through their website and also become certified and background screened. http://www.nationalnotary.org/virginia/notary_classes/index.html

American Society of Notaries – I belong to this organization as well as the NNA. They also offer NSA training and discounted notary supplies.
http://www.asnnotary.org/ 

Notary Cafe – It’s a must you sign up for Notary Cafe account! A lot of signing/title companies look for notaries on this website. http://www.notarycafe.com/Default.aspx

123Notary – This company is very good resource also. When you start signing up with different companies, you can go to this website to check the rating of the signing/title company. They also have a certification training program. http://www.123notary.com/

Notary Rotary lets you create a free profile and you can also purchase a notary background check. http://www.notaryrotary.com/

Notary2Pro – Other notaries rave about this training program. I haven’t personally taken it. It’s owned by a husband and wife team who have been in the business for over 30 years. http://www.notary2pro.com/

If you prefer to brush up on your notary skills or want to train in person to become a Notary Signing Agent, most states offer live training.
I have taken classes with Bryce Hall at Virginia Notary Public Classes http://www.vanotaryedu.com/. She is a great instructor with over 20+ years of notary experience.

I also suggest looking over your own home loan documents to get acclimated with the different types of docs and what they mean. If you do choose one organization to join, I suggest the NNA. Don’t feel like you have to join all of them. They all have the same mission.

Not sure if you are on LinkedIn or not, but they also have some great notary/signing agent forums that are really helpful. This is just one of the many groups I belong to:
http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=112982 

Hopefully this info was helpful in getting you on your way to becoming a Notary Signing Agent. Let me know if you have any questions and I will try my best to answer.