Best Practices in Record-Keeping and Reporting for notaries

March 17, 2024



For notaries public, meticulous record-keeping and accurate reporting are not merely administrative tasks—they are essential duties that safeguard the integrity of the notarial process, protect the notary from legal liabilities, and ensure public trust. This blog post explores the best practices in record-keeping and reporting that every notary should follow.

Understanding the Importance of Record-Keeping in the Notarial Profession

At the heart of a notary’s responsibilities is the duty to act as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. This role, critical in legal, financial, and personal transactions, necessitates a high standard of professionalism and trustworthiness. Central to meeting these standards is the practice of diligent record-keeping.

A Shield Against Legal Liability

One of the most compelling reasons for rigorous record-keeping is the protection it offers notaries against accusations of misconduct or negligence. Detailed records serve as a factual account of what transpired during the notarization process. Should any legal disputes arise concerning the notarization, a well-maintained journal acts as a notary’s first line of defense, providing clear evidence of their adherence to statutory requirements and professional standards.

Ensuring Compliance with State Laws

The requirements for notarial record-keeping vary significantly across jurisdictions, but the underlying principle remains constant: to create a transparent and traceable account of notarial acts. By meticulously recording details such as the date of notarization, the type of document notarized, and the identity verification method used, notaries not only comply with legal obligations but also reinforce the legality and legitimacy of the documents they notarize.

Facilitating the Resolution of Disputes

Notary records play a pivotal role in resolving disputes that may arise long after a document has been notarized. In instances where the authenticity of a signature is questioned or the circumstances under which a document was signed come under scrutiny, a notary’s journal can provide critical information that helps adjudicate the dispute. This contributes to the overall integrity of the transactional process and ensures that justice can be served.

Promoting Public Trust

Beyond the practicalities of legal compliance and dispute resolution, the practice of thorough record-keeping is intrinsic to maintaining public trust in the notarial profession. When notaries demonstrate a commitment to transparency and accuracy in their records, they affirm their role as trustworthy and reliable officials. This trust is essential, as notaries often facilitate transactions of significant importance to individuals and institutions alike.

The Notary Journal: Your Essential Tool for Accountability and Compliance

For notaries public, the journal is much more than a formality—it’s a fundamental component of their practice. Serving as an official record of notarial acts, the notary journal is crucial for protecting the notary in case of disputes and ensuring adherence to the law. Let’s explore the best practices for selecting, maintaining, and securing your notary journal.

Selecting the Right Journal

Choosing the appropriate journal is the first step in effective record-keeping. Notaries have the option between traditional paper journals and digital formats, depending on their state’s regulations and personal preference.

  • Paper Journals: Opt for a bound book with numbered pages to prevent removal or insertion of pages. Some states specifically require paper journals.
  • Digital Journals: These offer security features such as encryption and backup options. If your state allows digital records, ensure the software you choose complies with state laws regarding digital notarization.

Essential Entries for Every Notarization

A comprehensive notary journal entry includes several key pieces of information to document the notarial act thoroughly:

  • Date and Time: Record the date and time of the notarization, providing a chronological account of your notarial acts.
  • Document Type: Note the type of document notarized, such as a deed, contract, or power of attorney.
  • Notarization Type: Specify the notarial act performed (e.g., acknowledgment, jurat).
  • Signer Information: Document the name and address of each signer, and if applicable, witnesses. This aids in identifying the parties involved.
  • Identification Method: Record how the signer’s identity was verified, whether through personal knowledge, ID documents, or credible witnesses.
  • Signer’s Signature: Have the signer sign the journal entry if required by state law or as a best practice for additional verification.
  • Notary Fees Charged: If a fee was charged for the notarial act, include the amount in the journal entry.

Keeping Your Journal Secure

Security of the notary journal is paramount to protect the sensitive information it contains and to ensure it’s accessible for legal verification or audit.

  • Physical Security: For paper journals, keep them in a locked and secure location when not in use. Only the notary should have access.
  • Digital Security: If using a digital journal, ensure it’s protected with strong passwords and stored on secure, encrypted platforms. Regular backups are essential to prevent data loss.

The Role of the Journal in Dispute Resolution

The notary journal is invaluable in instances where a notarization is called into question. It can provide a clear, detailed account of the transaction, helping to resolve disputes and protect the notary from potential liability.

Reporting Requirements and Best Practices for Notaries

Adhering to reporting requirements is a crucial aspect of a notary’s responsibilities, ensuring transparency, accountability, and legal compliance. This section delves into the nuances of reporting obligations for notaries, highlighting best practices to manage these duties effectively.

Understanding State-Specific Reporting Requirements

The foundation of effective reporting begins with a thorough understanding of the requirements set forth by your state. Reporting obligations can vary significantly across jurisdictions, encompassing a range of activities from the initial registration and periodic renewals to notifying authorities of changes in personal information or the loss/theft of notarial stamps and journals.

  • Initial Registration: Detail the process of registering as a new notary, which typically involves submitting an application, passing a background check, and completing any required education or testing.
  • Renewals: Discuss the frequency and process for renewing notary commissions, including any continuing education requirements or updates to personal information that must be reported.
  • Updates and Changes: Explain the importance of promptly reporting any changes in personal information, such as address changes, to the relevant state notary regulatory body.
  • Lost or Stolen Notary Materials: Highlight the procedure for reporting lost or stolen notary seals or journals, emphasizing the urgency and importance of such reports to prevent misuse.

Best Practices for Timely and Accurate Reporting

Timeliness and accuracy in reporting are paramount for not only staying compliant but also for upholding the integrity of the notarial profession. Here are some best practices to ensure that reporting duties are managed efficiently:

  • Maintain a Reporting Calendar: Keep a dedicated calendar for all reporting deadlines, including commission renewals, required filings, and any other state-specific reporting timelines. Setting reminders well in advance of these deadlines can prevent lapses in compliance.
  • Keep Detailed Records: Accurate record-keeping facilitates easier reporting, especially when it comes to renewing your commission or responding to audits. Ensure that all relevant documentation, such as copies of applications and correspondence with regulatory bodies, is organized and readily accessible.
  • Stay Informed: Regulatory requirements can evolve, and staying informed about any changes is crucial. Regularly consult your state’s notary regulatory agency’s website, subscribe to newsletters, and participate in professional notary associations to stay updated on any changes to reporting obligations.
  • Use Official Channels for Reporting: Always use the official channels and forms provided by your state’s notary regulatory agency for any reporting. This ensures that your reports are received and processed correctly. Be wary of third-party services that offer to handle reporting for a fee, as these are not necessary and may not guarantee compliance.

Addressing Common Reporting Challenges

Even with the best intentions, notaries may encounter challenges in meeting their reporting obligations. Whether it’s confusion over how to report a change in information or understanding what constitutes a reportable event, it’s important to seek clarity and assistance when needed. State regulatory agencies typically offer resources, and many have helplines or support desks to assist notaries with their questions.

Record Retention Policies for Notaries

Record retention is a critical aspect of a notary’s responsibilities, requiring careful attention to legal requirements and best practices to ensure documents are kept securely and for the appropriate duration. This section delves into the policies surrounding the retention of notarial records, providing guidance to notaries on how to manage their records effectively.

Understanding State-Specific Retention Requirements

The first step in establishing a robust record retention policy is to understand the legal requirements in your jurisdiction. Most states have specific guidelines outlining how long notarial records must be kept, which can range from a few years to indefinitely. These laws are designed to ensure that records of notarial acts are available for verification, dispute resolution, or legal proceedings if needed.

  • Check State Laws: Regularly review your state’s notary public guidelines or consult with a notary public association for updates on retention requirements.
  • Retention Periods: Note the minimum retention period required by law, but consider extending this period if advised for certain types of documents or to further mitigate liability.

Implementing Effective Record Retention Practices

Once you are clear on the legal requirements, implement practices that ensure compliance and facilitate easy access to records when needed.

  • Organize Records: Maintain your notary journal and any other required records in an organized manner, categorizing them by date or type of notarial act, to ease retrieval.
  • Secure Storage: For paper records, use a secure, locked filing system. For digital records, ensure they are stored on secure, encrypted drives or platforms with access controls to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Regular Reviews: Periodically review your records to ensure they are being kept correctly and to identify any that are eligible for secure disposal.

Secure Disposal of Records

Disposing of notarial records involves more than just clearing space; it requires ensuring that sensitive information is permanently and securely destroyed to protect the privacy of your clients.

  • Follow Best Practices: For paper records, use cross-cut shredders that render documents unreadable. For digital records, employ methods that securely erase data, such as software designed to overwrite data on storage devices.
  • Document Disposal Actions: Keep a log of when and how records were disposed of, providing a clear audit trail should questions arise about the handling of specific documents.

Digital Record-Keeping Considerations

As more notaries move towards digital record-keeping, understanding the nuances of digital retention and disposal becomes increasingly important.

  • Backup Regularly: Ensure digital records are backed up in multiple locations to prevent loss due to hardware failure, theft, or natural disaster.
  • Data Encryption: Use encryption for digital records to protect against unauthorized access, both in storage and during any transfer of data.
  • Cloud Storage: If using cloud storage services, select providers that offer high levels of security and encryption, and that understand the legal obligations for data protection and privacy.


For notary professionals, diligent record-keeping and reporting are not just about following the law—they are about reinforcing the trust and reliability inherent in the notarial profession. By adhering to the best practices outlined in this post, notaries can protect themselves, their clients, and the integrity of the documents they notarize.