FAQ - Notary

Q. What is a Kansas notary public?
A. A Kansas notary public is a person appointed by the Kansas Secretary of State to acknowledge and witness the signing of documents, administer oaths and affirmations, take verifications and certify copies.

Q. When may I begin notarizing documents?
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 Kansas?
A. The notary public's seal shall either be a seal press or a rubber stamp. in either case, the notary public's seal must contain the notary public's name and the words "Notary Public" and "State of Kansas." If a seal press is used, the impression must be inked or blackened so that it may be photocopied.

Q. What is a surety?
A. A surety guarantees that if the notary public fails to properly perform a notarization the surety will indemnify a third party for any damages caused by the notary's negligence or misconduct, up to $7,500.

Q. What is Errors and Omissions Insurance and do I need it?
A. Errors and omissions insurance (commonly called E & o) is a form of liability insurance that protects the notary public from claims or suits that are the result of the notary's negligent acts, errors or omissions. Much like car insurance, this type of insurance covers investigation, defense and settlement of committed or alleged acts by the insured notary public, subject to policy limits and provisions. Kansas law does not require errors and omissions insurance; therefore, it is up to the notary to determine if he or she wants the additional coverage.

Q. Can information about my notary application or appointment be given to other people?
A. Yes. All notary public applications and appointments are open records and subject to public inspection pursuant to the Kansas open records act.

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. However, the power is limited by the provisions of K.S.A. 53-109.

Q. May I notarize documents that originate from out-of-state?
A. Yes. Documents originating from another state may be notarized as long as the signature and the notarial act are performed in Kansas and the notarial certificate indicates "State of Kansas, County of ______________" to identify the jurisdiction in which the notarial act took place.

Q. May I notarize documents when I am physically outside the state of Kansas?
A. No. A notary public only has jurisdiction to perform notarial acts while the notary public is in the state of Kansas.

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 notarization took place. The notary public completes the venue block by inserting "Kansas" and adding the county where the notarization occurred. a Kansas notary can notarize documents in all counties of Kansas but cannot notarize outside the state of Kansas.

Q. What if the prepared form contains an inaccurate notarial block, such as a notarial block that contains references to another state?
A. The notary can cross through any incorrect information and write in the correction. The notary should place his or her initials by the correction. White-out should not be used, as the receiving party may reject the notarized document if it contains white-out. White-out raises questions as to what information was deleted, whereas simply crossing through the incorrect information allows the receiving party to see what information has been altered.

Q. Should I charge a fee for my services as a notary public?
A. There is no statutory fee schedule in Kansas that a notary public must follow, nor is there a prohibition against a notary public charging a fee. Therefore, a notary public may charge a reasonable fee for the performance of a notarial act.

Q. Should I keep a log book of notarizations which I perform?
A. There is no statutory requirement in Kansas 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 for protection from liability.

Q. Can my employer keep my journal or notary stamp after I leave my job?
A. No. A notary commission is personal to the notary public. The stamp and journal belong to the notary public and must be safeguarded by the notary in order to prevent forgeries and other misuse. Even if an employer pays for the notary commission, the employer cannot convert the stamp and journal. However, if the employer provided the notary's surety bond, the employer may cancel the bond.

Q. How do I report a change in my name, address, or seal while I am serving as a notary public?
A. You must report the change to the secretary of state on a form supplied by that office. One change of status form is attached in the back of this handbook.

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.; and (5) failing to properly administer the oath.

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 may result in criminal and civil liability and the loss of the notary's commission.

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.

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 your boss that Kansas law requires that the person appear before you personally before you can notarize the document. Failure to follow this procedure could result in civil and criminal liability for both you and your boss. Also, the document may be invalidated by a court if it is improperly notarized.

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 Kansas notary, can I take a person's acknowledgment in another state, then return to Kansas and complete the notarial certificate here?
A. No. Your authority extends no further than the geographic boundaries of Kansas. you 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 Kansas. If the resident of another state cannot come to Kansas, he should find a notary public in his state.

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. Not necessarily. as long as the name that is printed on the document matches the name that is printed on the identification of the signer, the signature does not have to be legible or identical to the printed name.

Q. Can I notarize documents that I will be signing as an officer on behalf of a corporation?
A. No. You can never notarize your own signature, whether you are signing for yourself or for a corporation.

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 notarization required by law?
A. Notarization is required for many documents. The Kansas 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 "identification" 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, etc.).

Q. How do I renew my notary appointment?
A. There is no automatic reappointment in Kansas. 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, generally two months prior to the expiration of the current commission.

Q. Can I only notarize documents in my own county?
A. No, a Kansas notary public has authority throughout Kansas. The county in which the notarial act took place should be inserted in the appropriate blank above the notary's signature.

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 your presence. if the document requires acknowledgment, it is sufficient for the person to appear before you and acknowledge execution of the document. if the document requires witnessing, you 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. You cannot take a notarization over the phone. You cannot notarize a document just because someone else assures you that the signature is genuine. You cannot take an acknowledgment just because you recognize the person's signature.

Q. Can I advertise my notary services in a foreign language?
A. Yes, but a person who is not admitted to the practice of law in this state and who advertises notarial services in a language other than English must include a statement that is prominently displayed in the same language on all advertisements, notices, letterhead or signs. The statement must say, "I am not authorized to practice law and have no authority to give advice on immigration law or other legal matters."

Q. When can I use the term "notario publico?"
A. A notary who is not admitted to the practice of law in this state cannot use the term "notario publico" or any equivalent non-English term in any business card, advertisement, notice or sign unless it is accompanied by a statement that is prominently displayed in the same language that the notarial services are offered, stating: "I am not authorized to practice law and have no authority to give advice on immigration law or other legal matters."

Q. Does Kansas law allow notarization of an electronic document?
A. Kansas law (K.S.A. 16-1611) does authorize the use of electronic notarization, and the procedures are set out in K.A.R. 7-43-1 et seq. in order to complete an electronic notarization, a commissioned Kansas notary must complete a training course, including a test, and obtain a Kansas-issued digital signature.

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. 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 Kansas Secretary of State, Memorial Hall, 1st Floor Topeka, KS 66612-1594, (785) 296-2239 or by email at [email protected].