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 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 other evidence of the signer’s identity. A notary public has personal knowledge of the identity of the signer if the signer is personally known to the notary public through dealings sufficient to provide reasonable certainty that the signer has the identity claimed. A notary public may have satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity by viewing a passport, driver’s license or other government issued photo identification card. Although, a notary public may consider other forms of identification or verification on oath or affirmation of a credible witness personally appearing before the notary public and known to the notary public or whom the notary public can identify by viewing a passport, driver’s license or other government issued photo identification card. A notary public should only proceed with the notarial act upon receipt of satisfactory evidence of the signer’s identity.
Further, the notary public must 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 acknowledgment 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 acknowledgment:
A jurat is an act requiring the signer to give an oath or affirmation that the statement in the notarized document is true and correct and the signer must sign the notarized document in the presence of a notary public. 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.
What is a Representative Signer?
A “representative signer” is a person signing a document on behalf of another person or business entity. A representative signer may include a power of attorney/attorney in fact or company executive authorized to sign on behalf of a business.
What is a power of attorney document?
A power of attorney is a legal document authorizing someone to make decisions and sign documents on behalf of someone else. The person creating the power of attorney is a “principal” who authorizes another person known as “the attorney in fact” or “the agent” to sign documents as the principal’s representative.
How do I perform a notarial act if there is a representative signer?
When notarizing a document that is being signed by someone other than the person or entity designated as the principal, the notary should determine the identity of the person who is signing the document and their authority to sign, although Ohio law does not specifically require a notary public to view the power of attorney document prior to proceeding with a notarial act.
When signing the document, the representative signer should sign with both their name and the name of the principal, such as “Jane Doe, attorney in fact for John Smith, principal.”
The notary public completes the notarial act as follows:
- The representative signer must appear before the notary public.
- Verify the document is complete and no blank sections appear.
- Verify the signer’s identity and willingness/awareness to sign.
- Complete the notarial act
- If an acknowledgment, the representative signer must acknowledge their signature on the document.
- If a jurat, the notary public must administer an oath or affirmation to the representative signer and witness the signing of the document.
- Complete the notarial certificate according to Ohio law (See “How to Properly Perform a Notarial Act” above). Consider the following language to be included:
- Acknowledgement language - “The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me on this (DATE) by Jane Doe, attorney in fact for John Smith”
- Jurat language - “Sworn to and subscribed before me on this (DATE) by Jane Doe, attorney in fact for John Smith.”
A Certificate of Title, often just referred to as a “title,” is a commonly used document requiring the notarization of signatures. This document is used to transfer title of a motor vehicle to a buyer. On the Certificate of Title there are two sections in which a notarial act may occur; the Assignment of Ownership, and the Application for a Certificate of Title.
Assignment of Ownership
An assignment of ownership is a transfer of the title from one owner to the next. The title itself indicates a seller and buyer relationship. This part of the document requires an affidavit in which the seller swears to the true selling price, the true odometer reading, and provides the buyer’s name and address. As this document requires an affidavit, the notary public must perform a jurat.
The following information must be completed in the top portion of the form prior to notarizing the seller’s signature. Until the following portions of the form are complete, the notarial act cannot take place.
- Selling Price
- Date of Sale/Delivery
- Minor? Consent Form Required
- Buyer(s) legal name and address
- Odometer reading
- Check appropriate box
The seller must appear before the notary public and give an oath or affirmation that the information in the document is true and correct. The signer must sign the document in the presence of the notary public. The notary public must then complete the notarial certificate with his or her signature, the venue, date the act took place, typed/printed/stamped name, notary seal and expiration date, if applicable. As stated in R.C. 147.141(A)(13), a notary public shall not notarize a signature on a document if the document is incomplete or blank. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in the revocation of the notary’s commission.
Application for Certificate of Title
After the title has been transferred from the seller to the buyer, the buyer will need to complete the Application for a Certificate of Title section, which is below the Assignment of Ownership. This section must be completed so that the BMV can title the vehicle in the name of the new owner.
The following information must be completed on the form prior to notarizing the buyer’s signature. Until all portions of the form are complete, the notarial act cannot take place.
- Acceptance of Odometer Certification
- Name and Address
- Purchase price and other required financial information
- Vehicle Information
- Lienholder’s Information, if applicable
- Minor? Consent Form Required
The signer must appear before the notary public and give an oath or affirmation that the information in the document is true and correct. The signer must sign the document in the presence of the notary public. The notary public must then complete the notarial certificate with his or her signature, the venue, date the act took place, typed/printed/stamped name, notary seal and expiration date, if applicable. As stated in R.C. 147.141(A)(13), a notary public shall not notarize a signature on a document if the document is incomplete or blank. Failure to adhere to these requirements may result in the revocation of the notary’s commission.
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 or incomplete form.
- Alter the document or notarial certificate after signing (although the law does require a notary to provide a correct certificate in some circumstances).
- Take an acknowledgment in lieu of an oath or affirmation when an oath or affirmation is required.
- Notarize a signature on a document if it appears that the person is mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document at the time of notarization.
- Charge or receive an excessive fee for performing a notarial act.
The Ohio Secretary of State is responsible for appointing and commissioning notaries public. In the performance of such duties, the Secretary of State strives to ensure that applicants and commissioned notaries public possess the requisite honesty, credibility, truthfulness, and integrity to fulfill the responsibilities of the position. Government, business, and the public depend on the integrity of notaries public to take the required steps in authenticating signatures and properly completing transactions. With this responsibility, the Ohio Secretary of State has the authority to investigate and discipline notaries public commissioned in Ohio for failure to uphold the duties of their office.
Complaints against notaries public are reviewed, investigated and discipline against the notary public may result. In additional to potentially having a notary public’s commission suspended or revoked, the law may also include a fine and/or imprisonment. The law specifically states that an individual who performs a notarial act while knowing that their commission is expired may be fined up to $500 and be ineligible for reappointment as a notary public. A notary public who receives an excessive fee, acts dishonestly or unfaithfully with official duties will have a permanent loss of commission. And, if a notary public certifies to an affidavit without first administering an oath or affirmation, the notary public may have their commission revoked, be fined up to $100 or imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both. Most common complaints received relate to the improper notarization of a Certificate of Title to transfer a motor vehicle title from a seller to a buyer. These forms are often incomplete when notarized which may result in the revocation of the notary public’s commission. Also, common complaints allege a signer did not appear before the notary or give an oath or affirmation which one is required. To ensure compliance with the notary law, ensure you have been properly educated on the process and legal responsibilities.
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 acknowledgment.
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 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.
Can I notarize for a spouse or family member?
- Ohio law does not expressly prohibit a notary public from notarizing for a spouse or family member, however, Ohio Revised Code section 147.141 states a notary public may not perform a notarial act if the notary has a conflict of interest with regard to the transaction. A conflict of interest means the notary has a direct financial or other interest in the transaction or the notary is named as a party in some capacity to the transaction.