MISSOURI FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
1. Where can I get an application?
An application can be downloaded here. Applications may be obtained from the secretary of state’s office or the county clerk’s office in your area. County clerk offices are located in the city which is designated as the county seat of government. The circuit clerk can provide applications in St. Louis City.
2. What application do I have to use?
You are required by law to use the application prepared by the secretary of state. Missouri residents should use the white form, while nonresident applicants are to use the marked nonresident application form.
3. What is a “nonresident” notary?
A person applying for a nonresident commission as a notary public in Missouri is someone who legally resides in another state but has a work address inside the boundaries of the state of Missouri.
4. How soon may I begin to notarize documents?
The secretary of state processes all correctly completed applications within 48 hours of receipt. It takes about a week to obtain your notary seal from an office supply store, at which time you should have all your supplies and be sworn in and ready to notarize documents.
5. What are the fees?
An application for a notary commission submitted to the Secretary of State must be accompanied with $25. This fee is permitted under Section 28.160.3 and 486.225.3, RSMo. Additionally, there will be costs for your notary bond, seal, journal and rubber stamp. These costs usually vary from $60 to $100. The county clerk will also charge a fee for recording your commission. This fee is allowed by law.
6. What about the bond?
You are required by law to provide a $10,000 notary public bond. You are also required to maintain this bond for your four-year term of office. (The bond dates must be the same as your commission dates.) Any other bond you may have will NOT provide the coverage required.
7. Who are these bonding companies that send information in the mail?
These bonding companies are privately owned companies soliciting your notary supply business. It should be emphasized that they are not connected with the secretary of state’s office. They are privately owned businesses that solicit notaries for their bond, journal, seal and other supplies.
8. Who are these “notary associations” that I receive information from?
The “notary associations” are privately owned corporations. Their sole business is soliciting notaries for their applications, bonds and other notary supplies. They sell the notary supplies for a fee, which they collect. Some of them also collect the $25 fee allowed by law to the secretary of state and submit this fee with your application to our office so that we can issue your commission as a notary public. Again, these are private organizations and are not associated with the secretary of state’s office. You may choose to do business with them, in which case you should retain a record of the company’s name, address and telephone number. If you do not receive what you order from them you must contact the private company.
There is a page for this information to be recorded in the Bonding Company Information section of this handbook.
9. How do the associations get my name?
Notary public applications are public record. Names and addresses are available to any interested party for examination.
10. What if I go through a bonding company to obtain my notary commission?
The bonding company will have you complete the same application provided by our office. It generally takes longer to receive your commission since the paperwork goes to the bonding company first, and they forward your application and fee to us for processing. This firm will not pay the recording fee charged by the county clerk.
11. Explain a surety bond.
A surety bond is written by a company qualified to write bonds in Missouri. This company has been approved by the Missouri Division of Insurance to write bonds. The surety bond guarantees to any third party that if the notary public fails to perform the duties allowed by law, the surety company will provide coverage to the third party for any damages caused up to $10,000. Bonding companies must provide their own bond application and bond form.
12. What is an errors and omissions policy?
An errors and omissions policy protects the notary public and pays for any charges the notary might owe for legal fees and costs should the notary be sued.
13. Should I buy an errors and omissions policy?
This is a decision you should make. An errors and omissions policy is optional for each individual notary and not required by law. If you choose to purchase an errors and omissions policy, please keep that paperwork in your own records for personal reference.
14. What type of seal should I buy?
Missouri law requires you to keep and use a notary seal embosser or a black inked rubber stamp that has been engraved with ALL of the following: your official name style as a notary public, the words “Notary Seal” “Notary Public,” and “State of Missouri.” This seal must be embossed into or applied on every notary certificate. The seal should not contain the Great Seal of the State of Missouri.
15. Should I buy a rubber stamp?
The law does not require that you buy a rubber stamp. However, a stamp is more convenient than having to print or type the wording required on every notary certificate.
16. What is this wording?
The wording consists of your official notary name style, the words “Notary Seal”, “Notary Public,” “State of Missouri,” “Commissioned for ( ) county” and “My commission expires ( ).”
17. How long does my commission last?
A notary commission is for a four-year term of office. The term begins on the date the Secretary of State issues the commission.
18. Can my commission be renewed?
No. There are no provisions for renewing notary commissions. If you wish to again become a notary, you must submit a new application and fee.
19. When should I send this application for a new term of office to you?
Send the completed application no earlier than one month in advance of your present expiration date.
20. Where can I use my commission?
A Missouri notary commission can be used in any county of Missouri and the City of St. Louis.
21. What about notarizing documents in other states?
Missouri notary commissions can ONLY be used in Missouri. Other states have notary laws regarding their notaries.
22. May I notarize my own signature or the signatures of relatives?
A notary CANNOT notarize his or her own signature. A notary is to be an impartial witness. The law does not forbid notaries from notarizing the signatures of relatives. However, if the notarized document was ever the subject of a court suit a judge might determine the notary was not an impartial witness to the signing of the document. We suggest that you do not notarize documents for a spouse, grandparent, parent, brother, sister, niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, child or grandchild.
23. May I notarize documents from other states?
Documents that originate in other states may be notarized by you as long as you are in Missouri. On the notary certificate you identify the jurisdiction in which the notarization took place in the venue portion of the certificate.
24. What information should I record in my journal?
We recommend that you record every notarization in your journal. This is self-protection against possible suits. The law requires that you record every notarization that will not be filed for public record in an office of record. You should keep a record of the date and time you notarized the document, the type of notarization completed, the signature of the person(s), the address, identification of person and notary fee, if any.
25. Can a notary prepare legal documents?
No. A notary does not have this authority. All documents presented to you to notarize should have the correct form of notary certificate on them. As a notary your only duty is to perform the notarial act and complete the notarial certificate.
26. What forms of identification can I request?
The best form of identification is one that includes a photograph and signature. A valid driver’s license is a good source of identification. The person can also be personally known to the notary or can be identified by an individual personally known to the notary.
27. Must the document be signed in my presence?
If the notary certificate states “Subscribed and sworn to/affirmed before me,” etc., then it must be signed in your presence. An oath or affirmation must be administered to the person whose signature you are notarizing. An acknowledgment need not be signed in your presence. The person who signed the acknowledgment must appear before you and acknowledge he or she is the signer and that he or she signed the document. The form for an oath or affirmation is in Section 486.335.2 of the notary law.
28. What if the document is already signed when brought to me for notarizing?
You should never notarize a document that has already been signed outside your presence. If a document has already been signed when it is brought to you, you may ask the person to re-sign it in your presence either above or below the existing signature. As in any instance when you are notarizing a document, you should ask for identification and properly identify the person and their signature, and only if you are satisfied that the person before you is the original signer should you administer the oath or affirmation and complete the notary certificate. You may also ask such person to sign your journal.
29. What if my employer asks me to notarize documents which have not been signed in my presence?
Agreements for your services as a notary public should be discussed with your employer at the time you are requested to apply for a commission. According to law, an employer may also be liable for a notary’s misconduct.
30. My commission expired and I have been notarizing documents. What should I do?
Any person who acts as a notary and is not lawfully commissioned is guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable upon conviction by a fine or imprisonment.
31. I have a commission and my name has changed. What should I do?
You must apply for an amended commission for your new name. A request form for an amended commission can be downloaded here. The application must be completed and returned to the secretary of state. You will also likely need to purchase a rider to your notary public bond changing your name (check with your bonding company). You will also have to purchase a new die for your seal or a new black inked rubber stamp. If you are using a rubber stamp, your name will need to be changed on this also. Your commission with your new name will be mailed directly to you.
32. I have moved and my county of residence has changed. What should I do?
You are required by law to apply for an amended commission for your new county of residence. An application for an amended commission can be downloaded here. The application must be completed and returned to the secretary of state’s office. You will need to purchase a rider to your notary public bond changing your county of residence. If you are using a rubber stamp the county name will need to be changed accordingly. In the case of a county change your amended commission is mailed to your new residence and the Secretary of State’s office will notify the county clerk in your new county of residence.
33. What are the fees for amending my commission for a name or county of residence change?
The fee allowed by law for issuing an amended commission is $5.
34. I have moved just changing my street address in the county in which I have a commission. Do I need to notify the secretary of state?
Yes. The secretary of state provides a form for this information. To obtain a form you can request one from the Secretary of State’s office. You may also notify the secretary of state by letter. Include your old address as well as your new address and your new voter registration information.
35. How do I resign my commission as a notary public?
To resign your commission as a notary public, return your commission with the State Capitol dome in the oval in the upper left corner to the secretary of state with a letter of resignation.
36. What is a commission?
The commission certificate is the document you received when you took your oath of office. The document contains the state Capitol dome in an oval at the top of the page (see page 2). It also contains a letter of appointment with the notary’s name, commission dates, the Great Seal of the State of Missouri and the signature of the secretary of state.
37. Will I receive notice when my commission has been issued?
The secretary of state’s office mails a courtesy letter to each notary the day the commission is issued. If you have not received a letter in approximately 10 days, call your county clerk’s office to see if your commission has arrived. If it is at the county clerk’s office you will need to take your bond to that office immediately and qualify. If it is not at the county clerk’s office, the county clerk should call our office and request a duplicate commission. Remember, you only have 90 days to qualify at your county clerk’s office. This is 90 days from the date we issue your commission.
Some county clerks will request that you show them the letter from our office for identification, so you will want to take that letter with you when you go. Also, some bonding companies will request a copy of this letter before they will issue your notary bond. You are responsible for sending them the copy of your letter.
A list of the county clerks is provided here.
38. I have been asked to certify a document. What do I do?
The notary law allows a notary public to certify a copy of an original document if the notary receives a signed written request stating the certified copy or facsimile, preparation of a copy or certification of a copy of the document does not violate any state or federal law. DO NOT CERTIFY ANY COPIES OF DOCUMENTS WHICH STATE ON THE FACE OF THE DOCUMENT THEY CANNOT BE REPRODUCED. You are required by law to keep a copy of the document you have certified.
Chapter 486.345(3), RSMo 2000, contains the proper wording to use for this type of certification. This is in the notary law which is reproduced here.
(Documents that are issued by record keeping agencies should be certified by the issuing agency. A notary can witness and notarize the signature of the individual certifying the document for the agency.)
Birth and death certificates are NOT notarized. Documents issued by most recorders of deeds do not need notarization. Such documents are authenticated by our office.
39. Can I notarize birth certificates and death certificates?
MISSOURI birth certificates and death certificates should be certified by the issuing agency. Birth and death certificates should be obtained from the State Bureau of Vital Records, 930 Wildwood, PO Box 570, Jefferson City, MO 65102. There is a fee charged by Vital Records for these copies. Vital Records will issue a certified copy of these MISSOURI records and we will authenticate this certified copy.
40. Can I notarize marriage licenses and divorce decrees?
Marriage licenses and divorce decrees can sometimes be obtained from the county recorder of deeds offices where they have been recorded for public record. In this case the recorder of deeds will issue and sign the copy of the original document. We will then authenticate the official act of the recorder of deeds.
ONE EXCEPTION: The St. Louis County and Jackson County Recorders of Deeds must have their signature certified by a local government official who has official record of their appointment, generally the county clerk. The signature can also be notarized at the time the document is issued at the office.
41. Can I charge a fee for certifying a document?
As a notary public, you are allowed to charge fees for notarizing documents. Section 486.350, RSMo 2000, allows you to charge $2 for each signature on a document and the proper recording of the notarization in your journal. The maximum fee for any other notarial act is $1. You may charge $2 for each 8 1/2 x 11 inch page you certify as a facsimile of an original document. The certification of a facsimile must also be recorded in your journal. You must also retain a copy of each page in your notary file. You are not permitted to charge a fee for notarizing the signature on any absentee ballot.
42. I have been asked where to obtain a certification of my authority as a notary public. Where can this be obtained?
Certificates of Authority for notaries are issued by the secretary of state. They may be obtained by submitting the original document requiring the certificate with a written request for the certificate to the secretary of state’s office. The fee for each certificate is $10 and should accompany the request. Checks and money orders are to be made payable to the Director of Revenue.
Certificates of Authority for a notary public can also be obtained in a few hours from our branch offices in Springfield, St. Louis and Kansas City.
43. What should I do if there is not enough room for a seal or rubber stamp information on a document?
In most instances a separate notary certificate can be affixed to the document. The person requesting the notarization should check to see if a separate notary certificate can be attached to the document. In other instances the notary should carefully place the rubber stamp information and seal on the document in a place where it will cover only a very small part of the printing on the document.
44. Is it all right to notarize photocopies and carbon copies of documents?
As long as the photocopies and carbon copies are exact replicas of the original document and they contain original signatures they may be notarized. The notarizations should be completed as they would for an original document. Some recorder of deeds offices will not accept photocopies of documents for recording.
45. Can I hold a Missouri notary commission if I do not reside in the state?
It is possible to obtain a commission as a notary public in Missouri if you work in the state. The qualifications for a nonresident to obtain a commission as a notary public in Missouri are given in the notary laws reproduced in this handbook. Refer to Section 486.220.2 of the law.
46. I am a nonresident notary public and I have changed my employer. Do I need to notify the secretary of state?
Yes. If your new employer is located in the same Missouri county for which your notary commission is issued, you can notify the secretary of state by letter indicating the name of your new employer, the street address, city, state, zip and the telephone number where you can be reached between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You also need to include the date your employment began and the last date of employment at your previous employer.
If you change employer and also change Missouri counties, you need to request an amended commission for a county change. Forms and instructions for an amended commission can be downloaded here.
47. Are motor vehicle, trailer, boat and outboard motor certificates of ownership (titles) required to be notarized?
As of August 28, 1989, these documents no longer require notarization. Odometer disclosure statements or other statements related to odometer disclosures completed after this date are no longer required to be notarized. Any questions may be directed to the Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Bureau, PO Box 100, Jefferson City, MO 65105-0100, phone 573-751-4509.
48. I have been asked to notarize a document but there is no place for a notarization. What should I do?
All documents brought to you for notarization should have the correct form of notarization on them. It is not your duty as a notary public to determine the correct notary certificate. Completing the wrong notary certificate on a document could render the document invalid.
49. Can I charge for ALL notarizations?
No. In Section 486.350 (4), RSMo 2000 (see here) it states that no notary shall charge or collect a fee for notarizing the signature on any absentee ballot or absentee voter registration. If a notary is found to have charged for these two kinds of notarizations, it will constitute official misconduct.