Notary Information, Resources and FAQs
Are you qualified?
To be a notary public, an individual must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Be a legal resident of Ohio or an attorney admitted to the practice of law in Ohio, and has his or her primary practice in Ohio.
- Not to be disqualified to receive a commission by having been convicted of or pleaded guilty or no contest to a disqualifying offense.
Submitting Commission Applications, Renewals and Updates
All applications for new notary commissions, renewal applications, online authorizations, amendments and resignations must be filed electronically here: notary.ohiosos.gov. If you have an active notary commission, please create a user account to ensure you receive email reminders prior to the expiration of your commission. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari as your internet browser when accessing this online filing system.
Non-attorney notary commissions expire after five years. To renew the commission, you must submit a renewal application in the three-month window prior to the expiration date. Once your commission expires, there is no grace period to renew and you must file a new application for a notary commission, which requires additional training and testing.
Attorney notary commissions do not expire if you remain in good standing with the Ohio Supreme Court – this includes attorneys in “Active” and “Inactive” status. An attorney notary public, who is a legal resident of Ohio, may apply to be authorized to perform online notarizations and that authorization will expire five years from the date issued.
Electronic Notarizations and Online Notarizations
A notary public with an active commission in Ohio may perform electronic notarizations without any additional authorization from our office. An electronic notarization is a notarial act performed by a notary public using his or her electronic seal and electronic signature on a digital document. An electronic notarization is an in-person act where the notarial act procedures remain the same. The requirements include personal appearance, verifying the identity of the signer, completion of the notarial certificate by affixing the notary’s electronic signature and electronic seal to the certificate.
An online notarization is a notarial act performed by an Ohio notary public who has been authorized to perform online notarizations when a signer personally appears before the notary using audio-visual technology instead of being physically present in the same location as the notary. An online notarization requires requires the use of an online notarization system to perform the act as the signer is not located in the same location as the notary.
To perform an online notarization, a notary public must be authorized by the Secretary of State’s Office. To be authorized the notary must file an online authorization application showing proof of the completion of a 2 hour education program, passing a test and stating the name of the online notarization system/vendor to be used. All notaries public authorized to perform online notarizations must be legal residents of Ohio and may only perform online notarizations when they are located in Ohio, although the signer can be outside of Ohio or outside of the United States at the time of the act.
How to Properly Perform a Notarial Act
The signer must appear before you during the notarial act. This must occur in person for a traditional notarial act or an electronic notarial act, but personal appearance can occur through a real-time audio and video conferencing system if the notary public is authorized to perform online notarizations.
Verify the Document
The document should be reviewed to ensure the notarial certificate language appears and no blanks appear or other issues that would result in an improper notarization.
Identify the Signer and the Signer’s Willingness/Awareness to Sign
Ohio Revised Code Section 147.53 requires the notary public to have satisfactory evidence as to the signer’s identity, which means personal knowledge or evidence of the signer’s identity. The notary public must determine if the evidence provided is satisfactory to make a proper identification. Generally, this means a U.S. Government issued photo identification such as a valid state driver’s license or passport.
Verify that the signer is understands the document and is aware of the consequences of executing the document by signing it. This requires the notary to be able to communicate directly with the signer in a common language.
Complete the Notarial Act and Notarial Certificate
The notary may then perform the notarial act. In most cases, the document will contain a notarial certificate to indicate if the act required is an acknowledgment or a jurat. If the document does not contain a notarial certificate, then the signer must state which act is requested and the notary public must include the proper notarial certificate.
An acknowledgement is an act requiring the signer to acknowledge his or her signature on a document and the notary public notarizes the signature. It is not required that the signature be witnessed by the notary, the act occurs when the signer acknowledges the signature on the document.
This is an example of the notarial certificate for an acknowledgement:
A jurat is an act requiring the signer to take an oath or affirmation to attest to the truthfulness of the written statement and states the contents of the document are true. The oath or affirmation must be taken prior to signing the document and the notary public must witness the signing of the document. A jurat is required on documents such as an affidavit and motor vehicle title.
This is an example of the notarial certificate for a jurat:
The notarial certificate requires the following:
- Wording of acknowledgment or jurat;
- The signature of the notary public;
- The typed/printed/stamped name of the notary public;
- The date of the notarial act;
- The venue where the notarization occurred (county/state);
- Notary commission’s expiration date, if applicable; and
- The notarial seal. The notarial seal must include the coat of arms of Ohio, which is ¾ inch up to 1 inch in diameter, the words “Notary Public” and “State of Ohio” or similar words.
A notary public may charge a fee of $5.00 per act for any notarial act that is not an online notarization. The fee can be up to $25 for an online notarization. Note: fees may not be charged per signature, but instead per notarial act. The law permits a reasonable travel fee as agreed upon by the notary public and the signer prior to the act. No additional fees may be charged in connection to the notarization.
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 147.141, a notary public must not do any of the following, but please reference the law for a complete list:
- Notarize their own signature
- Perform a notarial act if a conflict of interest occurs. A conflict of interest means a direct financial or other interest in the transaction.
- Certify that a document is an original document or true copy of another record (Note: An individual can make a written statement that the document is an original or a true copy and sign that statement. That signature can be notarized).
- Affix the notary’s signature to a blank form.
- Alter the document or notarial certificate after signing
- Take an acknowledgement in lieu of an oath or affirmation when an oath or affirmation is required.
Frequently Asked Questions
When notarizing an affidavit or other document containing a sworn statement, must an oath or affirmation be administered?
- Yes, Ohio law requires a notary to administer an oath or affirmation for affidavits or documents containing sworn statements such as “John Doe, upon oath,” “sworn to and subscribed,” or “Being duly sworn.” Failure to give an oath or affirmation will result in the revocation of the notary commission.
How do I give an oath or affirmation?
- Prior to notarizing an affidavit, a notary should ask the affiant whether they are willing to take an oath before God. If the affiant is willing, the notary must have the affiant stand, raise their right hand, and answer affirmatively the following question: “[D]o you solemnly swear that the statements in the affidavit are true, so help you God?”
- If the affiant is unwilling to take an oath before God for personal reasons, the affiant must answer affirmatively the following question, commonly referred to as an “affirmation”: “[D]o you solemnly affirm that the statements in the affidavit are true under penalty of the law of perjury?”
Does a notary public have to administer an oath or affirmation before notarizing all documents?
- No, an oath or affirmation is not required when taking an acknowledgement.
Can I notarize a document that has already be signed?
- If it is an acknowledgment, then yes, you may notarize it, but you may not notarize an affidavit or other jurat certificate if that document has already been signed, as that requires an oath or affirmation prior to signing.
I live in Ohio, but work out of state; can I use my Ohio notary commission to notarize documents out of state?
- No, a notary commissioned in Ohio may only notarize documents in Ohio.
If I am authorized to perform online notarizations, can I perform notarizations when I am out of the state?
- No, even with online notarizations, the notary public must be in Ohio at the time of the notarization, but the signer could be outside of Ohio.
If I am signing a vehicle title, do all parties have to appear in front of me?
- No, only the seller must appear before the notary public if notarizing “assignment of ownership” portion on the back of the title. This section must be complete including purchase price, buyer’s name/address, date of transfer and current mileage. The notary public must verify that all fields are completed, witness the seller’s signature and notarize the document.
Can I be a witness and notary public for a Power of Attorney (POA)?
- In Ohio the law does not require a POA to be notarized, however, some third parties will only accept the document if the principal’s signature has been notarized. In addition to a notarization of the principal’s signature, two disinterested parties should witness it. In this case, the notary public should not also be signing as a witness.
Can I notarize a signature and act as a witness for a document?
- Generally, this is not recommended. Witnessing a document may require you to sign the document, which could create a conflict of interest if you are asked to notarize other signatures on the same document. You may act as a document witness, but this is not a notarial act.
If the signer is unable to write their name due to a physical condition, how do I notarize a document?
- ORC 147.59 permits a designated alternative signer permitting someone to sign on the principal’s behalf if the principal clearly communicates to the notary public the intent for the designated signer to sign the individuals name on the document. Both the principal and designated signer must be satisfactorily identified by the notary public; the designated signer signs in the presence of the notary public; the designated signer is not named in the document; the notarial certificate provided to the principal gives the name of the designated signer and states that the document was signed under direction of the principal.
Can I prepare a notary certificate to be used if the document presented to me does not contain a notary certificate, the notary certificate language is incorrect, or there is not enough space on the document to notarize?
- Yes, the notary public may have prepared notarial certificates available at the time of the notarial act. The notary public should have notarial certificates prepared for an acknowledgement and jurat in case the signer’s document does not contain a proper notarial certificate. The notary public must attach the completed certificate to the document.
Is a notary public able to officiate a wedding in Ohio?
- No, Ohio law requires someone to obtain a ministers license to officiate a wedding in Ohio. A notary commission is not sufficient for this purpose.
Can I notarize a document for a minor?
- Ohio law does not prohibit you from notarizing the signature of a minor. All elements must be met to perform the act as if it were an adult signing, for example, the minor must be properly identified, the minor should understand what they are signing and be able to sign the document.
Is a notarization valid if the notary public’s commission was expired at the time of signing?
- The document is properly notarized if the notary public’s commission was valid at the time the document was signed, even if the commission has since expired. A notary public must not perform any notarial act knowing that the notary public’s term of office has expired and if they do perform an act after the expiration of the term then they may be subject to legal action and found ineligible for reappointment.
However, pursuant to ORC 147.12, if a notary, acting in good faith, following proper procedures, performs a notarial act after the expiration of the term, the act may be considered valid. This does not prevent a document from being rejected for being notarized by an expired notary public.
Can I notarize a copy of a vital record, such as a birth certificate?
- No, a notary public may not notarize copies of vital records such as birth, marriage or death certificates. Vital records can only be certified by the registrar or the clerk with the requisite authority to issue the record. There is no notarial certificate to be completed or signature to notarize. If an individual wants a notarization on a vital record, the option is to notarize an affidavit from the principal stating the record is a true and accurate copy of the record. The notary public must give the signer an oath/affirmation and follow the procedure for notarizing an affidavit. However, it is possible that the entity receiving the record will reject the affidavit and copy.
My employer instructed me to only provide notary services to customers/clients of the company. Can I refuse to notarize for the general public?
- Yes, the employer may direct an employee notary public’s activities within the scope of their employment; however, an employer may not restrict or control the employee notary public’s activities outside the work place/outside business hours.
My employer terminated me and kept my notary seal, what do I do?
- The notary public is responsible for maintaining and keeping control of their notary seal and journal. The employer may not keep these items even if they paid for them. The notary public must insist on taking these items when employment ends. If the employer refuses, then suggested steps would be sending a certified letter to the employer requesting the items attesting they are the sole property of the notary public; contact the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office or contact your local police department.