Notary Manual

Introduction

Responsibility

Refusal of Service

Notary Commission

Notary Signing Agent

Jurisdiction

Non-Michigan Resident

Notarization Methods

Traditional Pen and Paper – Applies to all commissioned Notary publics

Electronic Notarizations or e-Notarization

Remote Notarizations

Approved Vendors

Electronic and Remote Notarial Acts – General Information Guide

Notary Public Requirements before Notarizing

Use of a Stamp or Embossed Seal

Signer with Physical Limitations

Notarization Types

Acknowledgements

Oaths or Affirmations (Jurat)

Witness or Attest to a Signature

Fees

Prohibitions

Penalties

Liability

Foreign Language Documents

Record Keeping

Traditional Pen and Paper

Remote Notarizations

Resignation

Death of a Notary

 

Introduction

Michigan’s Law on Notarial Acts (MiLONA), P.A. 238 of 2003, as amended, is an act to provide for the qualification, appointment, and regulation of Notary Publics (Notaries) by the Secretary of State. As such, a Notary is a public servant. The MiLONA prescribes powers and duties of state agencies and local officers and provides for remedies and penalties. The MiLONA provides for the protection of citizens against fraud by requiring that a commissioned Notary verify and attest to the signing of documents. The MiLONA further provides for the admissibility of evidence and establishes the recognition of acknowledgments and other notarial acts performed outside of this state.

The intent of this manual is to provide a comprehensive review of the MiLONA and provide guidance to the community of Michigan’s Notary Publics as they carry out the duties as prescribed by the MiLONA.  For more information on Becoming a Notary, visit our website.

Responsibility

As public servants, Notaries must act responsibly and exercise reasonable care in the performance of their official duties.  If a Notary fails to do so, they may be subject to a civil suit to recover financial damages caused by the Notary’s error or omission.  Complying with all pertinent laws is the first rule of reasonable care for a Notary. 

It is the Notary’s legal responsibility under the MiLONA to read the MiLONA in its entirety before performing a notarial act. 

Refusal of Service

Notaries should honor all lawful and reasonable requests to notarize. A person’s race, age, gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, lifestyle or political viewpoint is never a legitimate cause or reason for refusing to perform a notarial act.  However, a Notary may and should refuse to perform a notarial act when a document is blatantly fraudulent, or the Notary determines that the signer is under duress or not acting of their own volition.  A Notary should never submit or agree to perform an improper notarization.

 

Notary Commission

A Notary Public commission is a statewide appointment. Although commissioned in a specific county, once commissioned, a Notary may notarize anywhere within the State of Michigan.

A commissioned Notary is authorized to perform three (3) types of notarizations. 

  1. take acknowledgments,

  2. administer oaths or affirmations (Jurat), and

  3. witness or attest to a signature.

More detailed information on the types of notarizations and the process of notarizing a document can be found later in this manual.

Notary signing agents: are employed by private companies and are not certified or qualified by the State of Michigan beyond the normal Notary application process. A Notary signing agent has no special powers and must adhere to MiLONA in all transactions. It is illegal for a Notary or a Notary signing agent to give legal advice, explain legal documents or aid client(s) in completing legal or immigration forms. This is considered unauthorized/unlawful practice of law.

 

Jurisdiction: Michigan Notaries are commissioned to perform notarial acts throughout the entire State of Michigan; but not beyond the State’s borders. All of the requirements for notarization must be met in the State and at the time of the notarization. A Notary must reside (Michigan resident) or be employed in the county in which they have been commissioned. 

If notarization takes place in a county other than the one that the Notary is commissioned, the phrase “Acting in the County of _______” must be added as an element to the notarization certificate. This is required to establish the jurisdiction where the document was executed in the event the document is used or challenged in a court of law. This ensures any court filings are made with the appropriate court and jurisdiction.

Michigan Notaries may notarize documents originating in another state or nation if the requested notarial act complies with Michigan law. 

Non-Michigan Resident: A non-Michigan resident may be commissioned as a Michigan Notary when they demonstrate that their business activity requires them to perform notarial acts in Michigan and they maintain/work at a principal place of business in the county where they are requesting to be commissioned.

 

Notarization Methods

Michigan’s Law allows for three (3) methods of notarizations.  The Notary is free to choose one of more of these notarization methods.  It is important to note that the requirements of the notarization do not change based on the method being used.  The Notary’s obligations and legal requirements to complete the notarization are not affected or deminished by the method.

  • Traditional Pen and Paper – Applies to all commissioned Notaries

A traditional/pen and paper notarization is conducted without the aid of electronic or remote notarization software.  This is the way all notarizations took place prior to the implementation of electronic and remote notarization methods.  The requirements for performing traditional/pen and paper notarizations have not changed.  All commissioned notaries are authorized to perform this method of notarizations immediately upon commission.

  • Electronic Notarizations (e-Notarization)

An e-notarization is like a traditional/pen and paper notarization inasmuch as the signer appears physically before the Notary, but in an electronic notarization the document being notarized is digital and the parties use electronic signatures. An example of this is signing and initialing at the bank or doctor’s office using a stylus and pad.  Only State approved electronic vendor systems can be used to perform electronic notarizations in Michigan.

  • Remote Notarizations

A remote notarization is an electronic notarization conducted through audio and visual equipment, so the signer is not in the physical presence of the Notary.  The notarization itself is considered an e-notarization as the document being notarized is digital and the Notary uses electronic signatures. A platform such as a webcam is used to simulate the clients appearing in the presence of the Notary. Only State approved remote vendor platforms can be used to perform remote notarizations in Michigan.

 

Approved Vendors: A list of approved vendors can be found on our website.

Find more on electronic and remote notarizations:  Electronic and Remote Notarial Acts – General Information Guide

 

Notary Public Requirements before Notarizing

When performing a notarial act, a Notary must:

  1. Identify the individual either from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence. Regardless of personal knowledge, it is recommended that the signer be asked to provide a pictured State or Federal identification.

    1. Notary personally knows the individual who is requesting a notarial act.

    2. Signer provides a valid driver license, passport or other pictured state/federal issued personal identification card.

    3. Notary upon the oath or affirmation of a credible witness personally known by the Notary, and the witness personally knows the individual.

  2. Have the individual sign the document in your presence. (To witness, attest or take an oath, the signer must sign in the presence of the Notary.)

  3. Administer an oath if required.

  4. Complete the notarial certificate. This must include all the required elements.

Notary Public - State of Michigan

Notary Name – exactly as commissioned

Date of Notarization

County of Commission

Commission Expiration Date

Acting in the County of _______. (Included when performing a notarial act outside of the Notary’s county of commission)

Notary Signature - exactly as commissioned.

Electronic or Remote Notarization statement if appropriate.

Note:  The county of notarization/venue is essential as it determines the legal jurisdiction in the event the notarization is challenged in a court of law. This is the Acting in the County of statement. If this statement is not completed, then the venue is the County of Commission.

 

Use of a Stamp or Embossed Seal

The MiLONA does not require Notaries to use an embossed seal or rubber stamp on a document.  However, the use of a stamp provides for a more consistent and complete notarization.  It is much more difficult to ensure that all the required elements are included when relying solely on memory or hand copying the elements. The Department of State/Office of the Great Seal does not provide these tools or supplies.  They can be purchased through most companies or stores that supply printing services.

While the MiLONA does not require the use of an embossed seal, documents for use outside of the State of Michigan may require an embossed Notary seal.

 

Signer with Physical Limitations

A Notary may sign the name of a person whose physical characteristics limit their capacity to sign or make a mark on a document presented for notarization if all the following circumstances exist:

  1. The Notary is orally, verbally, or through electronic or mechanical means provided by the person directed to do so by that person;

  2. The person is in the physical presence of the Notary;

  3. The Notary adds under the signature: signature affixed pursuant to section 33 of the Michigan Law on Notarial Acts.

 

Notarization Types

As discussed above, a commissioned Notary is authorized to perform three (3) types of notarizations. 

  1. Acknowledgments,

  2. Administer Oaths or Affirmations (Jurat), and

  3. Witness or Attest to a Signature

Note:  A Notary should not decide what type of notarial act a document requires. The client must know and tell the Notary or the document itself clearly indicates what is needed.  For example, the jurat indicates that the document was "sworn to before me," then an oath must be administered.

 

  1. Acknowledgements

An acknowledgment confirms the identity of the signer who acknowledges that they have signed the record. An acknowledgment does not require that a record be signed in the Notary's presence.

In executing an acknowledgement, a Notary guarantees that the signer:

  • personally appeared before the Notary

  • was positively identified using personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence

The acknowledgment notarization is not part of the document and it does not affect its validity. Typically, they are executed on deeds and other documents that will be publicly recorded by a county official.

An example of an "acknowledgment" is as follows:

Acknowledged by _________________ before me on the _________________ day of _________________ , _________
Signature______________________________________________

Printed name___________________________________________

Notary public, State of Michigan, County of_________________

My commission expires___________________________________

Acting in the County of_________________ (Included when performing a notarial act outside of the Notary’s county of commission)


When the notarization is being performed using an approved electronic or remote vendor system, an indication of the electronic or remote notarization must be included as well. 


 

  1. Oaths or Affirmations (Jurat)

Jurat notarizations are required for transactions where the signer must attest to the content of the document, such as all affidavits and pleadings in court. It is a certification on an affidavit declaring when, where and before whom it was sworn. However, jurat notarizations do not prove a document is true, legal, valid or enforceable.  

In executing a jurat, a Notary guarantees that the signer:

  • personally appeared before the Notary

  • was positively identified using personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence

  • was given an oath or affirmation by the Notary attesting to the truthfulness of the document and

  • signed the document in the Notary's presence as the Notary is certifying that the signer attested to the truthfulness of the document contents under penalty of perjury

When administering oaths, parties should raise their right hands. The left hand may be used in cases of disability.  Following the oath, the signer must answer affirmatively i.e.:  I do or Yes.

If no other wording is prescribed, a Notary may use the following or similar language for an affidavit or deposition:

  • Do you solemnly swear that the information set forth in this document is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge and belief?

  • Do you solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the statements made by you in this document are true and correct?

 

An example of a jurat is as follows:

Subscribed and sworn to by _________________ before me on the _________________ day of _________________ , _______.

Signature______________________________________________

Printed name___________________________________________

Notary public, State of Michigan, County of _________________

My commission expires___________________________________

Acting in the County of_________________ (Included when performing a notarial act outside of the Notary’s county of commission)


When the notarization is being performed using an approved electronic or remote vendor system, an indication of the electronic or remote notarization must be included as well. 

 

  1. Witness or Attest to a Signature

The act of witnessing or attesting a signature is like a jurat, except that it does not required the signer to take an oath or affirmation.  It is used when establishing the signing date is of major importance.

In witnessing or attesting to a signature, a Notary guarantees that the signer:

  • personally appeared before the Notary

  • was positively identified using personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence

  • signed the document in the Notary's presence

 

Signed or attested before me by _________________ on the _________________ day of _________________ , _______.

Signature______________________________________________

Printed name___________________________________________

Notary public, State of Michigan, County of _________________

My commission expires___________________________________

Acting in the County of_________________ (Included when performing a notarial act outside of the Notary’s county of commission)


When the notarization is being performed using an approved electronic or remote vendor system, an indication of the electronic or remote notarization must be included as well. 

 

A Notary public may not be a signature witness and notarize the same document.

 

Fees

The MiLONA provides that a Notary may charge up to $10.00 for performing each notarial act. Additional fees for travel may be negotiated between the Notary and the client prior to the commencement of the travel. The total of all fees including multiple notarizations and travel should be disclosed and agreed to before performing any notarization transaction.

 

Prohibitions

  • A Notary cannot certify or notarize that a record is an original or a true copy of another record.

  • A Notary cannot notarize his or her own signature or take their own deposition. (The safest course of action is to never have a notary act as a signing witness and notarize the same document because a notary cannot notarize their own signature.  A notary may witness the signing of the document and notarize the same document as long as the notary public is not notarizing their own signature. This means that if the witness’s signatures are required to be notarized, the notary public will only be able to notarize the record owner’s signature and the other witness. Best practice in this type of case is to have two witnesses e.g. friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. witness the document and only have a notary complete the document notarization.  Another option is to enlist another notary to notarize the notaries (witness) signature as a notary public cannot notarize their own signature.)

  • A Notary cannot claim to have powers, qualifications, rights or privileges that the office of Notary public does not provide, including the power to counsel on immigration matters.

  • A Notary cannot use any term that implies the Notary is an attorney.

  • A notary cannot advertise in a foreign language, unless the following statement is prominently displayed in the same language: "I am not an attorney and have no authority to give advice on immigration or other legal matters." The appropriate fees as specified by statute must also be displayed.

  • A Notary cannot use the term "notario publico" or any equivalent non-English term.

  • A Notary cannot perform a notarial act in connection with a transaction if the Notary is named in the transaction or has a direct financial or beneficial interest in the transaction.

  • A Notary cannot perform a notarial act for a direct lineal ancestor or descendant family member as listed below: 

    • Spouse (current)

    • Grand and Great Grant Parents

    • Parents

    • Children

    • Grand and Great Grand Children

    • Stepchildren

    • Siblings

    • Half-Siblings

    • In-Laws (Current)

Note:  A Notary public may perform notarizations for Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, former spouses and former in-laws.

 

Penalties

The MiLONA contains several sections that carry penalties for violations including civil infractions, misdemeanor convictions and felony convictions. For a full list of potential penalties, review the MiLONA.

Of special note, a violation of the Michigan Notary Public Act is a felony when a person knowingly violates this act when notarizing any document relating to an interest in real property or a mortgage transaction. Upon conviction, a person can be fined up to $5,000.00 and/or be imprisoned for up to four years.

 

Liability

A Notary and the sureties on the Notary’s surety bond are liable for damages sustained by a person who is injured by the Notary’s official misconduct. “Official misconduct” is defined as:

 

  • The exercise of power or the performance of a duty that is unauthorized, unlawful, abusive, negligent, reckless or injurious.

  • The charging of a fee in excess of $10.00.

 

A Notary public’s employer is also liable if the Notary was acting within the actual or apparent scope of their employment and the employer had knowledge of and consented to or permitted the official misconduct.

 

A Notary public is not liable for the truth, form or contents of a record that they notarize.

 

Foreign Language Documents

Notaries are not prohibited legally from notarizing a document written in a foreign language. However, there are numerous potential problems, including the fact that the term Notary public, when translated into other languages, can refer to a markedly different office, with far greater authority than in the United States. A Notary should not notarize any document with which they are not comfortable doing so. The Notary may recommend using a Notary public familiar with the language in which the document is written.

Record Keeping

For pen and paper and e-notarizations: The MiLONA does not require that Notary public keep a journal, ledger, list or other record for pen and paper notarizations and electronic notarizations. But many notaries find it beneficial to keep records. For those that choose to keep records, the following elements are recommended:

(a) The date, time, and nature of the notarial act.

(b) A description of the record, if any.

(c) The full name and address of each individual for whom the notarial act is performed.

(d) The identification method:

If the identity of the individual for whom the notarial act is performed is based on personal knowledge, a statement to that effect.

If the identity of the individual for whom the notarial act is performed is based on satisfactory evidence, a brief description of the method of identification and the identification credential presented, if any, including the date of issuance and expiration for the credential.

(e) The fee charged, if any, by the Notary public.

 

If records are created for traditional pen and paper notarizations or electronic notarizations, the MiLONA requires a Notary to maintain all records of a notarial act for at least 5 years. A Notary is required to provide copies of those records upon the request of the Secretary of State.

For remote notarizations:  The MiLONA requires the Notary to create and retain a journal with specific elements for remote notarizations. The journal MUST be created as the notarizations occur and the details are fresh in the memory of the Notary.  A Notary must maintain only a single journal and must keep the journal as either a tangible, permanent bound register or in a tamper-evident, permanent electronic format. The journal must contain:

(a) The date, time, and nature of the notarial act.

(b) A description of the record, if any.

(c) The full name and address of each individual for whom the notarial act is performed.

(d) The identification method:

If the identity of the individual for whom the notarial act is performed is based on personal knowledge, a statement to that effect.

If the identity of the individual for whom the notarial act is performed is based on satisfactory evidence, a brief description of the method of identification and the identification credential presented, if any, including the date of issuance and expiration for the credential.

(e) The fee charged, if any, by the Notary public.

(f) A reference only to any audio or visual recording of the remote notarial act.

The journal must be kept for at least 10 years after the date of the last act recorded in it. The Secretary of State must be notified of the location of the journal once a Notary public is no longer commissioned.  In addition, a Notary public must retain an audio or visual recording of a notarial act for at least 10 years after the performance of the notarial act. More information can be found in Section 26b of the MiLONA.

 

 

Resignation/Cancellation

To resign or cancel a commission, the Notary must contact the Michigan Department of State, Office of the Great Seal.

 

Death of a Notary

If a Notary should die, the Notary’s personal representative should notify the Department of State.  The notification should include the Notary’s name and address as well as any additional pertinent information.  If the deceased Notary has a seal of office or a stamp the was to affix information on certificates, these should be destroyed or defaced to prevent fraudulent use.  If the Notary maintained a journal or other record the personal representative should retain the records for the required duration.  See Record Keeping.