Law on Notarial Acts, Revised Summary


- A Summary –

The original Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (ULONA) was promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission in 1982, and was designed to provide a consistent framework for notarial acts and officers among the states.  To that end, the original ULONA also replaced the earlier Uniform Acknowledgement Act (1892) and the Uniform Recognition of Acknowledgements Act (1968).  Since the original promulgation of ULONA, society and technology have again advanced considerably, requiring notarial officers and their practice to adapt.  Growing variations in the law and practice of notarial acts have had an increasingly resonant effect on interstate commercial and lending transactions.  Further, broadening use of technology and electronic records has created a need for clarification and guidance on how notarization of electronic records should be treated.  In recognition of these trends, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) in 2010 to comprehensively revise and modernize the original ULONA.

Like its 1982 predecessor, RULONA provides minimum standards for all notarial acts and governs the recognition of notarizations across state and national lines.  RULONA covers and applies to all notarizations of both tangible and electronic records, and harmonizes treatment of notarization of electronic records with the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (1999), the federally enacted Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (2000), and the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (last amended in 2005).  Specifically, RULONA does the following:

● Authorizes the performance of notarial acts by a “notarial officer,” which can be a notary public, judge, clerk or other court officer.  A state may also allow an attorney or other individual to perform notarial acts.  A notarial officer is prohibited from performing a notarial act in which they or their spouse is a party or has a direct beneficial interest in the underlying transaction.

● Requires personal appearance by a party before the notarial officer if the notarial act relates to a statement made in or a signature executed on a record.  The requirement of personal appearance applies for notarization of tangible and electronic records.

● Requires that a notarial officer who takes an acknowledgement of a record, a verification of a statement of an oath or affirmation, or witnesses or attests to a signature, shall determine and verify the identity of the individual appearing before them from personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence as defined in section 7 of the Act, and that any signatures are the signature of the person appearing.  A notarial officer who certifies or attests a copy of a record or other item must determine that the copy is a full, true, and accurate reproduction of the record or item.  A notarial officer who makes or notes a protest of a negotiable interest shall do so in conjunction with required determinations under Article 3 of the Uniform Commercial Code.

● Requires a notarial officer to refuse to notarize if satisfactory identification is not provided, and allows a notarial officer to refuse to perform a notarial act if they are not satisfied that the person executing a record is competent, that a signature is knowingly and voluntarily made or authorized, or unless prohibited from refusing by other law.  The notary may not refuse if prohibited from doing so by other law.

● A notarial act, with regard to either a tangible or electronic record, must be evidenced by a certificate containing the notarial officer’s title, jurisdiction, and expiration of commission (if applicable), that is signed and dated contemporaneously with the notarial act.  RULONA provides various acceptable formats, and provides for the form and content of the official stamp and the security of the stamping device.

● Allows a notarial officer to select one or more tamper evident technologies for the performance of notarial acts for electronic records.  A notarial officer may not be required to use a technology other than one that they have selected.  For notaries public, if the commissioning authority has set standards for technology, any technology that they select must conform to those guidelines.

● Provides for recognition of a notarization rendered under the authority and in the jurisdiction of another state, federally recognized American Indian tribe or nation, or federal law, if the act is performed by a proper party.  RULONA also allows for recognition of foreign notarial acts or their equivalents, and U.S. consular authentications.

 ● Provides minimum standards for receiving a commission as a notary public.  RULONA also provides optional requirements for a surety bond and for the examination of notaries public as a condition of their commissioning.  The act also sets forth the grounds for the commissioning authority to deny, suspend, revoke, refuse to renew, or otherwise condition the commission of a notary public.

● Addresses deceptive, fraudulent and prohibited practices and advertising, including prohibitions on unauthorized practice of law and consultation or representation on immigration issues.  Outlaws the use of the term “notario publico.”

● Provides states with the option of requiring notarial officers to keep journals chronicling notarial acts, and details requirements, medium, content, and various procedures related to security and maintenance of the journal, and submission to the state when the notarial officer ceases to perform notarial acts.

● Allows the commissioning authority to establish rules for the implementation of the act, and guidelines for the formation of rules related to electronic records.

RULONA continues to focus on the preservation of the integrity of notarial transactions to best assure the authenticity of the information they certify.  The act carries forward the traditional principles that notarial officers and the public understand and use, with modernized guidance and application.  RULONA includes new provisions outlawing certain deceptive practices in advertising, emphasizing that notaries have no authority to practice law, and banning specific incidents which create conflicts of interests for notaries.  RULONA recognizes and facilitates notarizations for electronic records, and harmonizes their use with widely adopted state laws and federal ESIGN.  It should be adopted in every state as soon as possible.