Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is a bond?
A. A bond is an insurance policy that can be purchased at most major insurance companies.
Q. How do I renew my notary appointment?
A. There is no automatic reappointment in Indiana . A notary public must apply for appointment and follow the same procedures required for a new appointment. Application should be made sufficiently prior to expiration to ensure uninterrupted authority. The Secretary of State’s online portal will accept filings up to sixty (60) days prior to expiration.
Q. How long does it take to renew my notary?
A. Time spent on the application varies, but most applicants should expect to spend about 20 minutes on the application. Once all information is submitted, the application will be reviewed and approved within 3-5 business days, provided the application is complete and no further information is needed. If there is a problem with your application, Business Services staff will contact you using the contact information submitted in the application.
Q. What is a Freehold and do I have to complete this section?
A. A Freehold is when a person other than the applicant puts forth the $5000 Bond in the form of real, unencumbered property they own. IC 33-42-2-1.
Q. What is an Indiana notary public?
A. A Indiana notary public is a person appointed by the Indiana Secretary of State to acknowledge and witness the signing of documents, and administer oaths and affirmations.
Q. How do I keep the same commission expiration date?
A. Your notary commission will be active beginning the day you submit your online application and will be valid for one day less than 8 years. Time your renewal accordingly if you would like to keep the same commission expiration date and be sure your bond covers you for the duration of your commission.
Q. How do I obtain my notary supplies?
A. The Secretary of State's office does not provide notary supplies. They can be purchased by bringing your commission certificate to a local office supply store.
Q. When may I begin notarizing signatures?
A. An appointed notary public may begin notarizing documents after receipt of a certificate of appointment from the Secretary of State.
Q. What types of notary seals are acceptable in Indiana ?
A. The notary public's seal may either be a seal press or a rubber stamp. At a minimum, the seal must contain the words "Notary Public." For convenience and security, notaries are advised to obtain a custom seal which includes the following information: the words "State of Indiana;" the notary's name exactly as it appears on their commission; the county of the notary's residence; the notary's commission number; and the expiration date of the notary's commission.
Q. Can information about my notary application or appointment be given to other people?
A. Yes. All notary public applications and appointments are required to be open to public inspection pursuant to Indiana law and is available in the Notary Public database:
Q. May I notarize my own signature and the signatures of my spouse, children, parents or other relatives?
A. A notary public may not notarize his or her own signature, but may notarize the signatures of his or her spouse, children, parents or other relatives. IC 33-42-2-2
Q. May I notarize documents when I am physically outside the state of Indiana ?
A. No. A notary public only has jurisdiction to perform notarial acts while the notary public is in the state of Indiana . IC 33-42-1-
Q. Why does the notary block have blanks for state and county, and how do I fill them out?
A. The beginning of each notarial certificate should include jurisdictional information that indicates where the document was notarized, similar to the following: State of ___________ ), County of ___________ ). This information indicates where the notarial act took place. The notary public completes the venue block by inserting " Indiana " and adding the county where the notarial act occurred. An Indiana notary can notarize documents in all counties of Indiana .
Q. Should I keep a log book of notarizations which I perform?
A. There is no statutory requirement in Indiana that a notary public keep a log book or journal. However, it is recommended that a notary public keep one for his or her own records and protection from liability.
Q. How do I report a change in my name or address while I am serving as a notary public?
A. A notary public must report the change to the Secretary of State through the online service.
Q. What are the most common errors or omissions made by notaries public in notarizing documents?
A. The most common errors by notaries public in notarizing documents are:
(1) Failing to attach the notary seal
(2) neglecting to attach the notary public's date of expiration of appointment
(3) failing to sign the notarized document
(4) omitting names and dates from the acknowledgments, oaths and affirmations, etc.
Q. Can I notarize documents that I will be signing as an officer on behalf of a corporation?
A. No. A notary public can never notarize his or her own signature, whether signing for themselves or for a corporation.
Q. What is the most serious error made by notaries in notarizing documents?
A. The most serious error made by notaries is failure to require the person to appear before the notary before notarizing the document. The person who signed the document must always appear in person. Failure to observe this requirement can result in criminal and civil liability and the loss of the notary's commission. IC 33-42-2-2
Q. What are the liabilities and penalties for notary public misconduct?
A. A notary public who fails to carry out notary duties correctly may be subject to civil liability for any damages caused by the failure or error. If the notary's error enables a forgery, false writing, or other crime to occur, the notary also may be held criminally liable as an accessory to the crime. The Secretary of State also may revoke the notary's commission. Failure to attach the date of expiration to a notarization is a class C misdemeanor. IC 33-42-3-2
Q. What if my boss insists that I notarize a document when the person has not signed or acknowledged his or her signature in my presence?
A. Explain to the boss that Indiana law requires that the person appear before a notary public personally before the notary can notarize the document. Failure to follow this procedure could result in civil and criminal liability for both the notary public and the boss. Also, the document may be invalidated by a court if it is improperly notarized. IC 33-42-2-2
Q. If my notary appointment expires but I have applied for a new appointment, may I continue to exercise my notarial powers?
A. No. There is no carryover or grace period for a notary public once his or her appointment has expired. A person whose notary public appointment has expired may not perform any notarial acts until he or she has received a new certificate of appointment.
Q. As a Indiana notary, can I take a person's acknowledgment in another state, then return to Indiana and complete the notarial certificate here?
A. No. A notary's authority extends no further than the geographic boundaries of Indiana . A notary cannot perform one part of a notarial act outside the state and the other part inside the state. Both parts must be executed at the same time and the same place inside Indiana . If the resident of another state cannot come to Indiana , he should find a notary public in his state. IC 33-42-1-
Q. A person whose identification indicates a first name of "Robert" has asked me to take his acknowledgment on a document he has signed as "Bob." Should I insist that he sign as "Robert?"
A. Yes. The notary should insist that a person's signature agree exactly with the name printed on the person's identification -- such as a driver's license -- and the name used on the document.
Q. May a notary give legal advice or draft legal documents?
A. No. Unless the notary also is an attorney, the notary cannot act as a legal advisor and cannot prepare legal documents. For example, if a document does not contain a notarial certificate, the notary public cannot advise as to the proper type of notarization. An attorney should be consulted as to the proper notarization that is required for the document (acknowledgment, witnessing or verification).
Q. Is the notarial act required by law?
A. A notarial act is required for many documents. The Indiana law governing the document will state whether the document must be notarized. The determination whether a document is required to be notarized cannot be made by the notary public.
Q. How does a notary identify a signer?
A. A notary identifies a signer by carefully examining the identification presented by that person and comparing the signatures the person has made on the document with the signature on the identification. Proper "ID" should include a photograph and signature on a reliable identification card such as a driver's license. It also is considered sufficient identification if, under oath, a credible witness personally known by the notary identifies the person.
Q. Must a notary determine the competence of the person signing the document?
A. Although there are differing opinions on whether a notary public has a duty to determine the person's competency, many experts recommend that the notary make a limited inquiry into the person's ability to understand the contents of the document that the person is signing. The notary can make a quick assessment by asking the person if he or she understands the document. Clearly, a notary should refuse to notarize the signature of a person who unquestionably has no ability to understand the document (unconscious, mentally disabled).
Q. Can I only notarize documents in my own county?
A. A Indiana notary public has authority throughout Indiana . The county in which the notarial act took place should be inserted in the appropriate blank above the notary's signature. The jurisdiction of a notary public qualified in Indiana is co-extensive with the limits of the state. However, a notary may not be compelled to act out of the limits of the county in which the notary public resides. IC 33-42-1-1
Q. Must the person sign the document in my presence?
A. If the document is an affidavit, verification or other document requiring an oath, the person must be properly sworn-in and sign the document in the notary's presence. If the document requires acknowledgment, it is sufficient for the person to appear before the notary and acknowledge execution of the document. If the document requires witnessing, the notary must personally see the person sign the document. Never notarize an unsigned document, and never notarize a document outside the presence of the person. Do not notarize a document in which the notarial certificate contains untrue statements. The notary cannot take a notarization over the telephone (because the person has not appeared in person before the notary). The notary cannot notarize a document just because someone else assures the notary that the signature is genuine. The notary cannot take an acknowledgment just because the notary recognizes the person's signature. IC 33-42-4
Q. What should I do when I have a question about performing a notarial act?
A. Contact the Secretary of State's office for assistance or legal counsel for advice.
Q. How much are the filing fees?
A. There are several transactions that have a filing fee. A fee of $11.22 will be charged for becoming a Notary and renewing a Notary commission. A fee of $6.12 will be charged for changing ones name, change of address (if you have moved to a different county) and printing a copy of your commission certificate. The following transactions are free: address change (within the same county), changing an email address, terminating your commission and reprinting your certificate with a transaction ID number.
Q. Where does a person report illegal, improper, or questionable acts by a notary public?
A. Persons who suspect any wrongdoing or mistake by a notary public should report it to the Business Services Division, Room E-018, Indiana Government Center South, 302 W Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204, 317-232-2677 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org or refer to Official Notary Guide for more information.