Notaries public are people in whom the state has vested special authority. They are not lawyers, but they provide valuable legal services, such as witnessing documents. As a result of the type of work they do, any mistake they make could have series financial implications. For this reason, most notaries are required to have a notary bond.
What Is a Notary Public?
If you have ever needed a document notarized, chances are you had to take the document to a notary public, pay a fee, show your ID, and then the notary public signs, stamps and dates the document. This is called witnessing a document.
In order to get a license to be a notary public, a person must undergo the proper training for this position and in some cases, pass a state licensing test. Most state-mandated training courses teach the prospective notary public about their responsibilities. Once licensed, the notary public has broad authority, depending on the state. They can witness signatures, administer oaths and in some jurisdictions, they can even perform marriages.
What Is a Notary Bond?
A notary bond essentially protects the general public in the event the notary makes a mistake in the course of performing her notary duties, and that error causes another party financial harm. If this happens, the company that provided the bond will pay the person damages up to the amount of the bond. The type of bond a notary public gets is called a surety bond.
How to Get a Notary Bond
A notary public can purchase a surety bond from any insurance company or bonding company that sells surety bonds and is licensed to do business in their state. In order to be effective, the notary bond must be timely filed with the appropriate licensing office. Some states require you to file the bond with the application to become a notary, while other states allow you a certain time after filing the application to submit proof of the bond.
Cost of a Notary Bond
The amount of insurance coverage a notary public needs is usually set by the state legislature. Before purchasing a bond, be sure to check with the appropriate licensing board in your state to learn the specific bond requirements. Although the coverage may go as high as $25,000, the actual cost of the notary bond is a small fraction of the value of the bond. It is important to note that the notary may be responsible for the entire value of the bond if a claim is made against him or her.
Read More: How to Sign As a Notary
How the Notary Bond Works
Once you have purchased your bond and submitted proof to the state licensing agency, you are free to offer your notary license services to the public. The notary bond is good for the duration of the notary commission, which your state should have provided to you. In the unlikely event you make a mistake while carrying out your notary public duties, a claim may be filed against you.
The claims department of the surety company will investigate the claim. As with most claims investigations, they will contact you for information involving the claim. You may have to provide them with documentation regarding the incident, so they can complete their investigation.
It is important to note that just because a claim has been filed, it does not mean the claim is legitimate. If the surety company decides that the claim is legitimate, they will take care of the costs of the claim. They may also require you to repay them, including any defense costs.
Consider Additional Errors and Omissions Insurance
Many professional notary organizations recommend that notaries carry Errors and Omissions Insurance to cover any such payments on your behalf. This extra insurance only covers you for mistakes and omissions, not fraudulent acts. If a claim is successfully made against your bond, in some states your commission may be suspended, pending securing a new bond.
Melissa McCall is an accomplished lawyer, science journalist and legal analyst. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 2003 and spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk, followed by 2 years at a general litigation firm and a brief stint as the Director of Environmental Protection for the Virgin Islands. Since leaving the US Virgin Islands, she has worked as a legal recruiter, legal writer and legal analyst.