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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, June 21, 2018 1:53 pm

Verbatim: New law changes the rules for state’s largest group of public officials

Indiana’s 95,000 notaries will have new options and protections

The following was released on Thursday, June 21, 2018 by the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State: 

INDIANAPOLIS (June 21, 2018) — The largest group of public officials in the state of Indiana will soon see big changes in how they are commissioned for public office. Indiana’s updated notary laws, passed by the General Assembly in 2017, will take effect on July 1, 2018 and will provide better protections for notaries and their clients.

A notary public is a public officer of the state, authorized by law to certify documents, take affidavits, and administer oaths. Currently, notaries must live in Indiana, acquire a $5,000 bond and are limited to charge a $2 fee for services. Notary regulations were updated to modernize Indiana’s notary laws and bring them in line with the rest of the nation.

“The work of notaries public touch many aspects of everyday life, and you never know how important the service is until you need one,” said Secretary of State Connie Lawson. “Many transactions such as purchasing a home or car require notarized documents, and it is imperative that these transactions are handled with utmost care. This law will open up opportunities for additional notaries while ensuring integrity and oversight.”

The law will increase security for notaries and their clients by raising the bond requirement to $25,000 (the average settlement against a notary is $18,000). By raising the bond, notaries will be able to cover expenses that may occur as a result of an improper notarization and clients will be able to recover for damages due to fraudulent acts. The Secretary of State’s office, which issues notary commissions, will keep electronic copies of bonds. Currently, no proof of bonding is required.

Many notaries are required to travel to notarize documents, and the new law allows notaries to charge travel expenses at the federal mileage rate and up to $10 for each notarized signature.

It is common practice for many businesses to have someone in the office commissioned as a notary. This has been a problem in communities along the Indiana border. Many businesses employ individuals who live out of the state, and these employees were automatically disqualified from being an Indiana notary due to their residence. To eliminate this inconvenience, Indiana will allow individuals primarily employed in the state of Indiana to become Indiana notaries.

To ensure all notaries understand their role and the upcoming changes, educational requirements will be introduced for all notaries. Previously, applicants went through a short training session prior to receiving their commission, although unlimited guesses were allowed and there was no pass/fail threshold. Under the new law, notaries will be required to pass an exam as part of the application process. Notaries will be required to take an educational course at the time of commission and re-commission. Additionally, every two years, notaries public will be required to take a continuing education course beginning in 2020. This course will refresh a notary’s knowledge of their responsibilities and help reduce the number of errors.

All notaries public commissioned before July 1, 2018 will be grandfathered in for the duration of their current commission. For instance, if a notary has posted a freehold bond worth $5,000 and their commission does not expire until 2022, they will be allowed to keep their current bond until they renew their commission, at which point they will renew under the new bond requirements. No existing commissions will be revoked and notaries will not need to make adjustments until their existing commission expires.