Washington Notary Duties
By Kelly Rickenbach, Esq.
Claims Counsel for Region C
Stewart Title Guaranty Company
* Thank you to Gretchen Valentine, VP & Underwriting Counsel
for LandAmerica Financial Group for her contributions.
What’s on the agenda?
Definition of a notary definition of a "notary“
Basic procedures and requirements for becoming
How and who can take acknowledgments
Personal liability for notaries and penalties for
What is a notary?
Notary Public is a public servant appointed by
state government to perform certain notarial
acts, which includes witnessing the signing of
important documents and administering oaths.
Key to Remember…
When notarizing documents,
always tell the truth!
- Must be at least eighteen years of age
- Must reside in Washington State
- Must be able to read and write English
- Must complete the application following
Application Access Site
The application materials require that you
have endorsements to your application from
three unrelated adults who are residents of
the State of Washington and are able and
eligible to vote.
Fees & Costs
Each application for appointment as a
notary shall be accompanied by a $30.00
fee (established by state rule).
* This fee is the same for renewal
Effective November 1, 2006, the
maximum fee that a notary may charge
has changed from $5.00 to $10.00.
you don’t have to charge for your notarial
services. And keep in mind that if you are
planning to charge, the rules require that
you have your charges displayed in your
place of business.
Each applicant must obtain a $10,000
surety bond. The purpose of the bond is
to insure the applicant’s proper
performance of notarial acts.
The bond is effective for a four year
period commencing on the date of
A four year bond can be obtained from
most insurance companies or a bonding
Term of Appointment
A person appointed as a notary public can
serve for 4 years, and may be reappointed
for an additional four year term by
submitting a new application.
Can a nonresident of WA be a
Yes…provided that you reside in an
adjoining state and are regularly employed
in Washington or conduct business in
What is a notarial act?
A notarial act just means taking an
Notarial acts shall be performed in
accordance with the Standards set forth in
the RCW 42.44.
What is an acknowledgment?
Acknowledgment is basically a verbal statement
by a person that the person has executed the
instrument under free and voluntary act for the
uses and purposes stated therein.
Standards for Notary Actions
In witnessing or attesting a signature, a
notary public must determine, either from
personal knowledge or from satisfactory
evidence, that the signature is that of the
person appearing before the notary public
and named in the document.
A notary public has satisfactory evidence that a person is
the person described in a document if that person:
(a) Is personally known to the notary public;
(b) Is identified upon the oath or affirmation of a
credible witness personally known to the notary
(c) Is identified on the basis of identification
Persons unable to sign name
If a person is physically unable to sign his
or her name or make a mark, the notary
shall determine and certify from personal
knowledge or satisfactory evidence that
the person appearing is actually unable to
sign his/her name but is otherwise
In certifying or attesting a copy of a
document or other item, a notary public
must determine that the proffered copy is
a full, true, and accurate transcription or
reproduction of that which was copied.
In certifying that an event has occurred or
an act has been performed, a notary
public must determine the occurrence or
performance either from personal
knowledge or from satisfactory evidence
based upon the oath or affirmation of a
credible witness personally known to the
The signature and seal or stamp of a
notary public are prima facie evidence
that the signature of the notary is
genuine and that the person is a notary
What is prima facie evidence?
Evidence that is considered good and
sufficient on its face, which may be
Can this be contradicted?
Notary Seal or Stamp
Every person appointed as a notary in Washington shall
procure a seal or stamp, which must include the
• words "Notary Public" and "State of Washington“
• the date the appointment expires
• the person's surname plus first and middle initials
Let’s take a closer look…
Where and when do I get my
Look in the yellow pages for the
companies that manufacture and provide
BEWARE – it is unlawful for any person to
manufacture, sell, give or otherwise
possess a seal or stamp until the director
has delivered a certificate evidencing the
Who owns the stamp/seal?
What if your employer paid for the notary
appointment fees, seal or bond? Do you
get to keep your stamp? What if you are
fired from your job and your employer
demands that you leave your materials,
including your notary stamp/seal?
Who can use my notary seal?
- How about your secretary or assistant?
- How about spouse/significant other?
- Your attorney or agent in fact?
The notary stamp and seal are the
exclusive property of the notary and shall
not be used by ANY other person.
Can I notarize a document in which I am
No. Notary cannot notarize if he or she
has a direct financial or beneficial interest
in a transaction. Being named in a
document means that the Notary has an
interest and cannot act as an impartial
Does notarization make a document
No. A notarization typically just means the
signer acknowledged to the Notary that he or
she signed the document or vouched under oath
or affirmation that the contents of the document
Can I notarize for a family
Generally speaking, a notary has no beneficial
interest in notarizing a document for a relative
and will not be prevented by law from doing
The likelihood of a direct beneficial interest is
usually greater with immediate family
members – such as a spouse, mother, father,
son, daughter, sister or brother.
Key to Remember…
Keep in mind that when you notarize for a
family member, you avail yourself to later
questioning of your impartiality, as well as
accusations of undue influence.
What about this situation?
Notary is asked to witness her
husband’s signature on a loan
document for the purchase of a home
they will share.
Conflict of Interest
A notary public is disqualified from
performing a notarial act when the notary
is a signer of the document which is to be
Can I notarize a fax or a photocopy?
A photocopy or fax may be notarized,
but only if it bears an original
signature. That is, the copy must have
been signed with pen and ink.
A photocopied or faxed signature may
NEVER be notarized.
In regard to faxes and photocopies, keep
in mind that some public recorders will not
accept notarized signatures on faxed or
photocopied sheets because they will not
adequately reproduce in the microfilming
or scanning process.
When carbon copies are made, the Notary
will sometimes be asked to conform rather
than to notarize the copies. To conform a
copy, the Notary must reaffix the official seal
on the copy (carbon will not readily transfer a
seal impression) and write "Conformed Copy"
prominently across the copy.
Notarizing documents for a foreign
The notary public program at the WA
Department of Licensing has authority to
verify thru apostilles and certificates of
authority, which are basically forms that
authenticate notaries public who notarize
documents to be used outside of the U.S.
True or False?
Washington statutes and regulations do
not require a notary to maintain a notary
But is it a good idea to have one?
WA does not require that you have a
journal, but it may come in handy if you
are doing multiple transactions on a daily
Key to Remember…
Notary journals are generally considered
public records. It is a good idea to require
that particular information about any
requested entry be provided before
showing or copying it.
A notary public commits official misconduct
when he or she signs a certificate evidencing
a notarial act, knowing that the contents of
the certificate are false.
Official misconduct also includes and
constitutes unprofessional conduct for
which disciplinary action may be taken.
A notary public who commits an act of
official misconduct shall be guilty of a gross
Any person not appointed as a notary public
who acts as or otherwise impersonates a
notary public shall be guilty of a gross
A notary public commits a felony or lesser
Resignation of a notary
Voluntary resignation by a notary public
shall be submitted in writing to the
department of licensing. No voluntary
resignation of a notary appointment shall
be effective until the notary seal or stamp
is mailed or delivered to the notary
Suspension or Restriction
If the notary appointment is revoked,
suspended or restricted, the notary public
must mail or deliver his or her notary
stamp or seal to the department of
You Could Lose Your License!
Relatively recent WA case involving an attorney
who was also a notary who was eventually
disbarred because he notarized the signature of
a dead man and recorded the false deed.
What do you do if…?
A mortgage broker handles an outside
signing for you during a busy time. The
broker delivers copies of the couple’s ID
and the signed documents, asks you to
notarize them, and tells you that he’d
witnessed the signatures. What do you
When notarizing documents, always tell
Good place for addition information
National Notary Association is found at
www.nna.org and it has links to various
state regulations and updated news, etc.