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  • Writer's picturejsiegelhill

Beware of Unskilled Notaries in Virginia

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

This content comes from a letter I wrote to Delegate Marcus Simon in May 2023. I have been trying to present important issues that are affecting the public. As of 2023, there is no such thing as state-mandated training for notaries in Virginia. In order to get a Virginia notary commission, you have to be at least 18, be a legal U.S. resident, be able to read and write English, and cannot have been convicted of a felony. The notary applicant pays the $45 fee to the state and goes down to the courthouse where they are administered an oath. The bar couldn't possibly be set any lower for what is known as a public servant whose main purpose is to protect the public from fraud. A few months ago, I received a phone call from a notary who had been sworn in a few days prior. With absolutely no training at all, she asked me if she was ready to go out and notarize legal documents. I suggested that she start with National Notary Association's basic training and then take several more well-respected courses afterward. I call Virginia the Wild West for notaries. I see all kinds of false information on notary websites, on YouTube, and in notary Facebook groups. There are countless YouTube notaries who call themselves trainers, falsely promising absolute beginners that they can make $5K a month with no experience or that they can earn $150 by notarizing a single Power of Attorney. To be clear, the notarization fee for a POA is the same as any other legal document. There is an ever-growing generation of notaries who are promoting their get-rich-quick schemes and making out like bandits on what they call "training." Why these people aren't investigated or held to any standards is beyond me. These are the same notaries who get away with charging exorbitant fees and taking advantage of the elderly and the disabled who are homebound or in long-term healthcare facilities. There is also no entity that actively regulates or oversees the actions of notaries in Virginia. The Notary Division at the Secretary of the Commonwealth in Richmond issues notary commissions and maintains a database of notaries in the state. As far as I can see, there is no entity that regulates or oversees notaries in Virginia. Although we are commissioned by the state and are considered public servants, there is no oversight or communication with notaries. There are some states in the U.S. whose Secretaries of State provide their notaries with monthly newsletters containing updates to their state laws and discuss issues that affect our work. I got my commission on Feb. 1, 2021, and as of May 2023, I have not received a single email or newsletter from our Notary Division. I have written to my state delegate, Marcus Simon, about these issues and many more, and I also offered some solutions. I'm eagerly waiting for a response to my letter, as these are serious issues that are having a huge impact on the public. What can a notary charge in Virginia? Our state law says we can charge up to $5 for a notarial act and as the Handbook states, "The only other payment a notary may request is actual travel expenses if the notary is required to travel away from home or office to perform the notarial act." For the past three years I have taken this quite literally and have been careful to abide by the law. Many of my customers have told me that the previous notary they called was charging $100 per document. That leaves the law-abiding notary like myself, who follows the notary statutes, unable to provide this service full-time, while the notary who is violating the law, charging weekend fees, after-hour fees, convenience fees, and administrative fees, continues to thrive. These are the ones who will outlive the notary who does everything by the book. I suppose one thing that you, the consumer, should do is look for a well-trained notary, verify that they have actually completed the training, and know what your state's allowable fees are. Of course, reviewing their Google Business Profile reviews and Yelp reviews will tell you a lot about their history. Who suffers when the notary has no training? Who suffers when the notary ignores the laws? I'll address that in my next blog post. June the Notary October 2023


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