HAMILTON — Signature witnessing for the execution of legal documents is still as important today as it was decades ago, especially for deeds, law purposes and a myriad of other uses. Notaries public, who witness such signatures and affix a raised seal or stamp upon it, have new guidelines to follow effective Friday, Sept. 1.
One major change to the old guidelines is that all applicants, unless otherwise exempt by law, must complete a training program. There will be no test or no fee to take the course, but it must be completed within 30 days after submitting an application for becoming a notary. Once the course has been completed, the applicant must print out their certificate and bring it with them to the probate office, either while filling out the application or with their bond.
Those who have applied or are current notaries will not be required to take the course until it is time to renew their commission, which is every four years. This course is available online at alpja.org.
Other changes include the increase of fees as well as an increase of the bond amount from $25,000 to $50,000.
“Senate Bill 322 was enrolled as an act in June of this year,” Marion County Probate Judge Paige Vick stated. “It affects only those notaries public that renew or apply after Sept. 1, 2023.”
The changes in the Code of Alabama stem from notaries misusing their commission. Vick assures that no misuse has occurred within Marion County.
“This legislation was necessary due to multiple notaries public misusing their commissions. We currently have 363 (notaries) in Marion County. I can tell you that we have had no reports out of our county of such behaviors.”
Another new change to the law is the penalties section for the misuse of a commission. According to a pamphlet from the Alabama Probate Judges’ Association, “If any person performs a notarial act without being a notary or after their commission has expired, they are guilty of a Class C misdemeanor. If any person performs a notarial act knowing that they are not properly commissioned with the intent to commit fraud or intentionally assist with a fraudulent action, they are guilty of a Class D felony.”
“This new legislation provides for a uniform application, grounds to deny a notary's application, requires a training, a specific oath and provides criminal penalties for misuse of the commission,” Vick continued. “It further allows for a probate judge to order injunctive relief against an individual who violates the Notary Public Act.”
While the new changes may make it more difficult for a notary to commit fraud, it does add more steps and increases the difficulty for those notaries who are doing everything correctly.
“I realize that the process required in this new legislation is lengthier than the old process,” Vick said. “The legislation could require multiple trips to the probate office to complete the application. I am working on time-saving measures that will meet the legal requirements of this act, while at the same time stream-lining the process to better serve our county.”
Those with questions are urged to contact Vick by calling the probate office at 205-921-2471.
See complete story in the Journal Record.