Today I want to start at the beginning, something that doesn't get explained in great detail when we go through our training to become a notary.
Typically, we recommend when you get your commission packet, just go on down to the County Clerk and get everything taken care of. But there are some things that you need to take care of a little differently considering how things are today.
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What's recommended now is that you mail in your Oath of Office and your bond for filing and the filing fees. Now that isn't gone into much detail because typically we like to just go on down there and take care of everything. But the County Clerk's offices are closed to the public. They may be inside processing mail and recording deeds electronically, but they're not allowing us to come in to take care of our business.
So let's talk about how we get that done and when to start with your Secretary of State package. That package is going to come to you and there'll be a cover letter that says congratulations, you are a Notary Public! It will also have detailed instructions - and let me repeat - detailed instructions. You need to follow all of them if you want your paperwork to be processed the first time. So the packet will have its congratulation letter with details on top. Underneath that is going to be your commission certificate. And on your commission certificate you will find your term of office. And the first date is called the commencing date, which is the first date it will be effective and you will have 30 days from that commencement date to get the process completed. Underneath that, you will find two Oath of Office Certificate forms - and both of them will need to be filled out.
You will need somebody to administer the oath to you. So that means you're going to need to get in front of a notary who can administer that Oath of Office to you. And that notary needs to be located in your principal place of business. So if you're self employed like I am, you'll probably choose the same County that you live in. But if you're working for an employer who paid for you to be a notary, then think about this. If you're going to do at least 50% of the notarizations for the employer, then that's the County you'll want to choose as your primary place of business. So now you've got yourself in front of a notary and you're going to take the Oath of Office. The oath is right on the form. You'll raise your right hand and you'll take that Oath of Office. Now what's interesting is it doesn't say the office of the notary specifically, we're going to uphold the constitution for the state of California and it's the same oath that even higher level public officials will take.
Now, once I'm done saying this to the notary, the notary needs to fill out the certificate form for the Oath of Office. Now this is where it gets a little tricky for us, particularly in California. It looks like a jurat, but it's not. It's really a certificate form designed for the Oath of Office. So if you're the notary, make sure you don't add anything to it. Don't strike it, don't add a jurat certificate. It is actually an oath, and an oath is a notarial act in its own right.
In your journal, you'll write 'oath' as the notarial act, and on the name of the document, it will be 'Oath of Office for notary public'. Now, once you get this taken care of, you have to go to step two. Step two is going to be mailing the Oath of Office forms that have now been notarized along with your bond.
Do you have the bond? Because you need that to go with it. The bond you get, not from the secretary of state's office, you get it from an admitted surety insurer. Now, many of you probably purchased it from the National Notary Association (NNA) - either separately or as part of a kit of supplies. Either way, they are notified when your commission comes, and when that happens, they can produce your bond. Until that time, they cannot. Now, if you don't receive it from the NNA within a few days following when you get your commission packet, check in with customer support to make sure they got that notification. If not, it's easily remedied by scanning a copy of your commission certificate over to them and then they can release your bond. ([email protected])
Now once you get the bond in the mail, you want to make a photocopy of it. You're going to send not only the bond but a copy of the bond. Now make sure before you put that in the envelope that you've signed it where it says principal. Then you'll make your copy and now you have two copies. Why do you need a copy? When you're sending the original? You're going to put a cover letter to go with that copy and ask for a conformed copy, meaning one that's been stamped that demonstrates it's been filed. That will be your proof that your oath and bond have been filed with the County Clerk's office. So it's really important that you do that. If you don't (and by the way - Include a stamped, self addressed envelope), you will never get the proof - and you need the proof in order to start notarizing. That's your cue that you're good to go. Without it, you don't know if you have a valid commission. So it's really important that you take care of that step.
So what are you mailing in? You're mailing in:
All of that together needs to go to the County Clerk's office. It might be a few weeks before you get back your 'approved'. In the meantime, you can send your authorization to produce your stamp called a 'certificate of authorization' to whoever the vendor is. If it happens to be the NNA, we'll go ahead and mail that off to them because they need the original. You can make a copy and keep it for yourself, but they need the original and then they can produce the stamp. But if you get the stamp first, don't start notarizing. You have to wait for your filed copy of your bond to come back to you.
There was one other thing I didn't mention yet and that is in that envelope, you need a check! And that check is going to be made out to that county's office. And how much is it? I don't know. Every county's a little different. So go on their website to find out what the cost to file the bond is. And it could be any where from $20 to $30. And then make the check out to them and include that in the envelope. Again, no check, no filed bond coming back to you. Once that comes back to you as your proof, now you're a valid notary with a valid commission and you can start notarizing! You are good to go!
Alright, so remember these things right now. One, If you can't go to your County Clerk, make sure you have your Oath of Office administered by a notary in the county where you're going to file, two, make sure that you have your bond. Sign it, make a copy of it, and create a letter asking for conformed copy. And three, include a check payable to the County Clerk's office. All of that needs to be in there.
All right, so I hope this has been helpful for you. I know it's a difficult time for us right now as notaries, but there are steps we can continue to take to move us forward and becoming a valid notary.
Until the next time. Make it a good one.