Academy of Notaries Public, Secretary of State Approved Vendor for Notary Public Mandatory Education

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916-722-1633 Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Free Notary Public State Exam Advanced Preparation

Do you need help preparing for the Notary State Exam?

At a Glance

The At a Glance feature is helpful for Notary State Exam pre-study.

This will help you to see very quickly what a notary needs for everyday service and to prepare for the State Exam.


Notary Rules and/or Exceptions

Fines and Penalties

Key Points

Test Taking Pointers


  • A Notary’s commission is valid for 4 years.

  • A Notary can notarize documents anywhere within the borders of the State of California.

  • A Notary is required to clear a background check by being Live Scan Fingerprinted before each commission.

  • Certain actions will bar a Notary from being commissioned by the Secretary of State:
    • Failure to disclose any arrest or conviction on the notary application;
    • Conviction of a felony where not less than 10 years have passed since the completion of probation;
    • Conviction of a disqualifying misdemeanor where not less than 5 years have passed since the completion of probation; and
    • Non-compliance with child or family support obligations.

  • A Notary cannot give legal advice about immigration or any other legal matters unless he/she is an attorney.

  • A Notary is required by law to perform notarizations when a proper request is made.

  • A Notary is required to obtain a right thumbprint for all documents involving real property and powers of attorney.

  • The notarial acts and procedures are:
    • Acknowledgments
    • Jurats
    • Signature by Mark
    • Proof of Execution by Subscribing Witness Certificates
    • Certified Copies Power of Attorney
    • Certified Copies the Notary’s journal

  • Before a document can be notarized, it must:
    • Be complete,
    • Contain the signature of the Principal, and
    • Have the correct notarial wording.
  • The Notarial Act/Wording is only completed by the Notary (not the signer).
  • Notarial wording can either appear on the document or on a Loose Leaf Certificate.
  • When performing a notarization, it is important to complete each step in its entirety. The three-step process is:
    • Identify the signer;
    • Complete the Journal entry;
      • Signer/Principal’s signature, and
      • When necessary, his/her right thumbprint.
    • Fill out notarial Act/Wording.

  • The Notary’s Seal/Stamp and Sequential Journal must be kept under the exclusive and direct control of the Notary (i.e., locked box or desk drawer).

Notary Rules and/or Exceptions

  • Every signer must be identified by Satisfactory Evidence, which are:
    • Specified Paper Identification Documents
    • Oath of a Single Credible Witness, or the
    • Oath of Two Credible Witnesses      
  • Maximum Notarial Fee is $15, except:
    • Deposition—$30, Administering the Oath-$7, and $7 for the certificate to the deposition. Never higher than $44.
  • The signer must personally appear before the notary to have his/her signature notarized; exception:
    • Subscribing Witness—A signer may have another person prove to the notary that he/she signed the document.
  • Every signer must sign the document and the notary journal, exception:
    • Signature by Mark—when the signer is unable to sign or write his/her name, the signer may have the document notarized by making a mark in the presence of two witnesses. 
  • Notaries Public notarize signatures; they do not certify documents, exceptions:
    • Copies of his/her own Notary Journal and
    • Copies of a Power of Attorney
  • 30-day rule when notaries must reply to the Secretary of State, except:
    • Immediately—when the stamp/seal is lost or stolen,
    • Immediately—when the journal is lost or stolen, and
    • 10 days—when the journal is taken by a peace officer.
  • Use stamp/seal on all documents notarized, except:
    • California Subdivision Maps
  • The Seal/Stamp is not to be surrendered to anyone, exception:
    • Court/Judge will require the surrender of the seal/stamp after a notary public’s commission is revoked when convicted of a crime related to Notarial Misconduct, including the false completion of a notarial certificate, or any Felony
      • The Court/Judge will forward the seal to the California Secretary of State with a certified copy of the judgment of conviction.
  • Journal is kept under the notary’s exclusive and personal control; no one may have access to the information in it, except:
    • Members of the public may receive a lined item copy from the journal upon written request,
    • Court Order, examination and copying may be done in the notary’s presence, and
    • Employer’s business examination and copying in the notary’s presence.

Fines and Penalties

  •  $75,000 Fine
    • Deed of Trust Fraud—Willful fraud and false fillings in connection with a Deed of Trust on a Single-Family Residence
  •  $10,000 Penalties
    • Identity of the Credible Witness—Failure to obtain the satisfactory evidence required to establish the identity of a single credible witness.
    • Penalty of Perjury/Acknowledgment—Willfully states as true a material fact and/or falsifies a certificate of acknowledgment.
  •  $2500 Civil Penalties
    • Failure to Provide Journal a peace officer the notary journal when requested.
    • Failure to Obtain Thumbprint as required.
  •  $1,500 Violations
    • The use of false or misleading advertising wherein the notary public has represented that he or she has duties, rights, or privileges that he or she does not possess;
    • Commission of any act involving dishonesty, fraud, or deceit with the intent to substantially benefit the notary public or another, or substantially injure another;
    • Notarial misconduct.
    • Execution of any certificate as a notary public containing a statement known to the notary public to be false;
    • Violating the prohibition against a notary public who holds himself or herself out as an immigration specialist or consultant advertising that he or she is a notary public or
    • Violating the restrictions on charging to assist in the completion of immigration forms; and
    • Violating the restrictions on advertising notarial services in a language other than English or
    • Literally translating the words “notary public” into Spanish;
    • Willfully failing to discharge fully and faithfully any of the duties or responsibilities required of a notary public.
    • Unauthorized manufacture, duplication, or sale of the notary public seal;
    • Failure to notify the California Secretary of State that a notary public seal is lost, stolen, destroyed or damaged:
  •  $1,000 Fine
    • Unlawful Practice of Law - Any person practicing law who is not an active member of the State Bar is guilty of unlawful practice of law.
  •  $750 Violations
    • Failure to Discharge Notary Duties.
    • Charging more than the notary fees prescribed by the notary law.
    • Failure to complete the acknowledgment at the time the notary's signature and seal are affixed to the document.
    • Failure to administer the oath or affirmation as required.
    • Taking Improper Identification
  •  $500 Infraction Penalties
    • Failure to notify the Secretary of State of a:
      • Address change of business or resident, and
      • Name change of the notary public.

 * These penalties may be in addition to denial of an application or suspension or revocation of the notary public commission, and be guilty of a misdemeanor/felony and liable in a civil action for damages to any person injured.

Key Points

  • The following Notarial Acts require exact wording:

    • Acknowledgment
      • the most common form of notarization;
      • in the notary’s presence;
      • the notary is to positively identify the signer;
      • the signer acknowledged signing the document.
        • Out-of-state acknowledgments are acceptable only if the certification does not require the Notary to supersede California notarial law.

    • Jurat
      • the second most common notarization;
      • in the notary’s presence the signer must sign document and
      • the notary must administer a separate oath for each Jurat.
        • Out-of-state Jurats are not acceptable and a loose leaf jurat must be used.  
    • Proof of Execution by a Subscribing Witness Certificate
      • used when the document signer/principal cannot personally appear before a notary.
        • Cannot be used on any documents affecting real property or on any documents requiring a thumbprint in the journal.
        • Subscribing Witness must be identified by a credible witness with ID.
        • There must be an “unbroken chain” of personal knowledge:
          • the Notary must know the Credible Witness
          • the Credible Witness must know the Subscribing Witness
          • the Subscribing Witness must know the Principal.

  • A Notary can notarize a document in a language he/she cannot speak or read (as a notary is not responsible for the contents of the document) as long as the notarial wording is in English.

  • A Notary cannot notarize for a signer with whom he/she is unable to communicate;
    • an interpreter may not be used.

  • Signature by Mark:
    • Requires two Viewing Witnesses who observe the Signer/Principal make his/her mark on the document and the notary's journal.
      • The Viewing Witnesses do not have to be identified.
    • The Viewing Witnesses must sign the document as witnesses.
      • Witness #1 must cursive the Signer/Principal’s name next to the mark on the document.
      • Witness #1 or the Notary must cursive the Signer/Principal’s name next to the mark in the notary's journal.

  • A Notary must take, subscribe, and file the oath of office and file a $15,000 surety bond with the county clerk's office of place of business stated in the application within 30 calendar days from the date stated on the commission.

  • Errors and Omissions Insurance would protect a notary who has damaged someone due to his or her notarial misconduct or negligence.
    • Even simple oversights, such as a failure to affix your notary seal or to properly identify the customer could subject you to be personally liable for losses.

  • A notary public is not prohibited from notarizing for relatives:
    • unless doing so would provide a direct financial or beneficial interest to the notary public.

  • A notary’s employer may limit, during the ordinary course of employment:
    • for whom and when to notarize, and
    • how much the notary may charge.

  • A notary public is prohibited from giving legal advice/practicing law, unless the notary public is also a licensed California attorney.


Test Taking Pointers

  • Relax and maintain a positive attitude while testing.
    • Focus on your own test, not others.

  • Determine what concept the question is testing.

  • Read the question, come up with the answer in your head, then read the possible choices.
    • This way the choices given on the test won’t throw you off or trick you.

  • Look for the overriding rules.
    • This is especially useful for word problems and scenarios.

  • When presented with a scenario, determine who the Notary is in the scenario.

  • Select the “best” answer.
    • use a process of elimination and
    • select the “best” answer from the choices given.

  • If you are not 100% sure of the answer, skip the queston for now.
    • Sometimes the test itself will help you answer the question.
    • Be sure to come back and answer the question.
    • Remember an unanswered question is a 100% wrong answer;
      • a wild guess has a 25% chance of being the correct answer.

  • Select the most whole and complete answer, which can stand on its own.

  • Look for keys words in the question (e.g., except, all, not, all except, etc…).
    • Read the test question through once looking for these key words and circle them.
    • Then re-read the question.
    • Then read all the choices before selecting the answer.

  • “All of the above” and “None of the above” answer choices:
    • if you are certain one of the statements is true, don’t choose “None of the above”; or
    • if one of the statements is false, don’t choose “All of the above”.

  • Don’t read into the question; answer only what is being asked.
    • The procedure may be correct, but is that what is being asked?

  • If a specific document is named, determine what special conditions or limitations pertain to that document.

  • Usually the correct answer is the choice with the most information.

  • A positive choice is more likely to be true than a negative one.

  • Ask yourself does the answer make sense and does it cover the whole problem?

  • When all else fails—choose “b”.

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