The $40.00 application fee you pay to become a notary public does not include the purchase of any supplies. The notary supplies outlined below will be an additional expense for you (or for your employer.)
The following is a brief summary of the tools used by the notary public.
Minimally, you will need an inking notary seal and a notary journal.
Notary Seal (required by law)
AS 44.50.064 requires commissioned notaries to use an official seal that contains the notary’s name exactly as indicated on the notary public’s commission certificate. The notary seal must also contain the phrases “Notary Public” and “State of Alaska” and may be either circular and not over two inches in diameter or rectangular and not more than one inch in width by two and one-half inches in length. In general, businesses that sell notary seals will already be familiar with the requirements.
Additionally, AS 44.50.065 requires that the impression made by your notary seal to be sharp, legible and photographically reproducible. We recommend that you purchase an inking notary seal for your primary notary seal because embossing seals (the kind that crimp the paper) are not automatically photographically reproducible. There are methods for shading over the raised portion of an embossed seal impression, but nothing that works well.
It’s important that the seal show up on copies because your name is part of your notary seal and signatures are frequently illegible. If your identity can’t be determined from your horribly illegible signature we’ll still be able to identify you using your sharp, legible and photographically reproducible notary seal.
It’s important that your notary seal show up on every original and copy of the document you apply it to and you can help us by using an inking notary seal and by only applying your seal to a blank portion of the document. You should never apply your seal over any signature or wording on the document (except maybe, the “apply seal here” or “seal goes here”, etc. wording!)
No other person should ever have access to your notary seal, and it is very common for employers to attempt to strip notaries of their seals upon termination. You must not let that happen. Alaska statutes make the notary seal the personal property of the notary public regardless of who has purchased it. If anyone is determined to take your seal away from you for any reason, please contact the notary office for assistance and we will explain to them that the law prohibits you from turning over your seal.
If you work in an environment where it is a common practice to strip notaries of their seals upon termination, please direct the person responsible to this information and/or have them contact the notary office to discuss.
If you are in possession of a notary seal that does not belong to you please either destroy it immediately or mail it to the notary office for disposal.
Ordering a notary seal
We provide a courtesy listing of businesses that sell notary seals and other supplies. Notary seal vendors should require identification and evidence that you are an actively commissioned Alaska notary public, which may take the form of having you provide a copy of your commission certificate. Again, your primary notary seal should be an inking seal, not an embossing seal.
Seals may be embellished with your commission number and/or commission expiration date but this is not a requirement. The law does require notaries to include their commission expiration date as part of every completed notarial certificate, so it is information that is commonly included in the seal. Many seal vendors have a standard format and you may not be able to pick and choose to add or remove optional elements.
You must faithfully maintain a notary journal if you intend to function responsibly and safely as a notary public. Alaska Statutes do not specifically address notary journals, but their use is implied because without maintaining a complete record of each notarial act that you perform there is no other way to prove that you have complied with the law. It is impossible for you to protect the interests of your clients or to maintain the integrity of the signatures on their underlying documents without producing an entry for each notarization in a notary journal.
The act of maintaining a notary journal is so integral to the process that if any commissioned notary compromises an investigation into potential notarial misconduct by refusing (or being unable) to provide their journal to the Lieutenant Governor when requested it will be grounds for the immediate revocation of your notary commission.
Notaries are frequently accused of misconduct by people unhappy with whatever that document bearing the signature that you notarized represents to them and, unfortunately, simply performing a flawless notarization is no guarantee that you will not be unjustly accused of wrongdoing. Only your notary journal will protect you in these situations. Without it, a court may eventually rule in your accuser’s favor with, perhaps, severe negative financial consequence to both you and your employer.
It’s probably best to purchase a commercial notary journal with bound pages and sequentially numbered journal entries. These features serve to protect notaries against accusations of journal tampering. Homemade notary journals generally will be more susceptible to tampering and should be avoided. Especially avoid anything that allows pages to be added or removed.
Your journal should provide fields for the basic identification information and a line for obtaining the signature of the principal. In addition to these basics, you should look for a journal that allows for the optional collection of a thumbprint and one that also has ample room for taking notes. Notes are necessary to document unique or unusual aspects of a notarization that may be important points of information to any future investigation. Note fields can be very handy to document important aspects of the notarization that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories (only one signer appeared when the document was drafted for two signers, etc.)
Your journal entry should be made prior to signing/notarization to make sure that the signer provides you with everything that you need before you perform the notarization. Completing a journal entry also serves as a guide that prompts you to collect the necessary data and signatures/thumbprints required by law for each notarization.
ID validation resources
Signers in Alaska are required to produce government-issued identification containing the photograph and signature of the person signing, or government-issued identification containing the signature of the person signing, but without a photograph; and another valid identification containing the photograph and signature of the person signing.
You will mostly encounter the familiar Alaska ID card but eventually someone will present unfamiliar ID from another state or country that you may need to verify as legitimate. ID checking guides are available that are updated each year that can be purchased from many notary supply companies.
You must secure your notary supplies (Locking Bank Deposit Bags may be helpful)
You are also required by law to secure your notary seal (treat your notary journal exactly the same as your notary seal) at all times. This means that no other person should ever have access to your notary seal or journal.
Your notary supplies are your personal property regardless of who pays for them and they should remain secure at all times and should be taken with you when you separate from an employer. It is not uncommon for employers or other misguided coworkers to attempt to access supplies and forge notarizations or to steal or attempt to recover your notary supplies from you upon termination of employment. You will be breaking the law if you allow this to happen. Call our office for assistance if you suspect that your supplies have been illegally used without your permission or if they have been stolen from you.
Besides the obvious and necessary use of locked cabinets and locked office doors you might also consider using a locking bank deposit bag. Someone intent on accessing the bag would have no trouble cutting into it, but it will be obvious that someone has tampered with it.
Inkless Thumbprint Kits
Alaska notaries are not required to collect thumbprints from signers, but may request the signer to supply a thumbprint and may turn down the notarization if the signer refuses to accommodate your request for a thumbprint.
Thumbprints are an easy way to further secure proof that the signer personally appeared before you during the notarization (which in addition to the identification requirement is another key element of notarization.) Signatures generally serve that purpose in the notary journal but thumbprints are another form of identification that may be even more secure than signatures.
Inkless thumbprint kits are affordable and can be a valuable item in your notary toolkit. Alaska notaries are required by law to sign your notarizations in your own handwriting, but the signer is not held to the same standard and may insist on using a signature stamp or some other unconventional method for “signing” the document. In these extreme situations – and in addition to obtaining the same mark/signature that the signer used on the document as part of your journal entry – you would also still need proof that the signer appeared before you personally during the notarization. A signature stamp would not be sufficient proof since anyone in possession of the stamp can make the same impression. The thumbprint kit becomes a valuable tool in this example.
They can also be used to further secure identity of the signer in situations where you are unfamiliar with the ID presented or where there are large sums of money or property related to the document being signed, or in other circumstances where you want the best protection possible against false claims of wrongdoing (which sometimes involve denying that the signer appeared before the notary during the notarization.)
Similarly, the signer can benefit from the addition of a thumbprint to their document if they wish. A thumbprint near the signature on the document being signed and notarized serves exactly the same purpose for the document signer as it does for the prudent notary. If you have the thumbprint kit available you may want to consider offering it to your signers to use on their documents to enhance the security of their signatures and the notarization.
If the notary and signer are still alive at the time the signature is questioned, it’s generally not difficult to talk to the parties in question to verify the validity of a signature. A thumbprint added to the mix in addition to a signature on important documents will further secure the signature on the document after the signer has passed away. It’s very difficult to argue that a signature is not genuine or that the signer did not appear personally before a notary when you have their thumbprint on the document and on the notary journal entry supporting the notarization that is being challenged.
Generic Loose Notarial Certificates
Ideally every time someone approaches you for a notarization the document(s) will be drafted to include the proper notarial language/certificate, but it is unfortunately going to be a common experience for you to be approached with documents that people have drafted themselves or that have otherwise not been properly prepared for notarization.
Many notary supply businesses sell pads of generic loose notarial certificates that may come in handy in these situations.
Embossing Notary Seals
You don’t want to use one as your primary notary seal (the seal that is placed near your name on your notarial certificates) but embossing notary seals do have other uses and Alaska statutes specifically allow you to use an embossing seal in addition to an inking seal if you want to purchase two separate seals.
Besides dressing up the page and making it look fancier and more “official”, embossing seals can be used to better secure elements of the document and notarization. Since an embossing seal physically crimps the page, you can use it as a tool to allow someone to more easily recognize whether they are in possession of the original document or a copy.
Notaries will also use embossing seals in conjunction with foil stickers to dress up the appearance of the notary seal and document.
People sometimes fear that a loose notarial certificate will be removed from the document it belongs to and will instead be used as part of a forged notarization on another document. Embossing seals can further secure the use of loose notarial certificates by using it to emboss both the loose certificate and the adjacent signature page at the same time making it difficult to use the loose certificate with any other document (any forged page will be missing the corresponding seal impression.) The appropriate notes are made on the loose certificate and in the notarial journal documenting this activity.