Ask the Probate Judge—Notaries Public
Rudd, appeared May 22, 2003, Albuquerque Journal, Business Outlook
Reprinted with permission
Editor's note: This column may not be quoted or reproduced in whole or part without express written permission of the author.
Several columns have mentioned signing documents, such as wills, trusts, deeds, and powers of attorney, in the presence of a notary public. New, stricter laws governing notaries take effect July 1, 2003. A $10,000 surety bond will be required of all notaries. Currently, two sureties can personally guarantee the notary's actions, or the notary can obtain a $500 bond.
The most important job of a notary public is to verify that the person signing the document is who they claim to be and personally signed the document in the notary's presence. The person signs the document, the notary signs the notarial certificate, and then the notary either seals an impression on the document or stamps it with a rubber stamp approved by the Secretary of State. From a practical standpoint, an inked rubber stamp photocopies much more easily than a seal impression.
Do not be offended if a notary asks for identification. The notary is doing his or her job correctly. It is also the notary's responsibility to decide whether a person is signing willingly and seems competent to sign.
Notaries should never notarize a document that was not signed in their presence. Under the new law, those who violate this requirement can be convicted and fined up to $1,000, or imprisoned for up to six months, or both.
In New Mexico notaries may perform the following notarial acts:
Oaths and affirmations;
Copy certifications; and,
Other acts allowed by law.
New Mexico notaries may not perform marriages.
Notaries public shall:
Be New Mexico residents;
Be eighteen or older;
Read and write English;
Have no felony convictions; and,
Not have had a notary public commission revoked during the past five years.
The new law governing notaries contains detailed provisions about their duties and obligations. Although the law does not require it, keeping a journal of all notarial acts, along with the date, title of the document, and names of the people whose signatures were notarized is wise.
The law also sets fees that notaries can charge. Starting July 1, 2003, a notary can charge a maximum fee of $5.00 for each acknowledgment, oath, or jurat. If a notary charges more than $5.00 per seal or stamp, ask if the notary is aware of the new laws that regulate fees. Some notaries charge no fee, especially if they work at businesses that provide free notary services to customers.
The Secretary of State oversees notary appointments, which expire after four years. The application fee increases to $20 on July 1, 2003. Application forms are available on line at http://www.newmexico.gov.html. For more information or to obtain a pamphlet about new notary requirements, call the Secretary of State toll-free at 1-800-477-3632.
© 2003, Merri Rudd & Albuquerque Journal, All Rights Reserved