Florida Chapter: U.S. Notary Reference

Table of Contents

Last Update: January 17, 2023

Notary Jurisdiction

Statewide (FS 117.01[1]).

Notary Term Length

Four years (FS 117.01[1]).

Notary Bond

$7,500 for Notaries Public (FS 117.01[7][a]); $25,000 for Notaries who are online Notaries Public (FS 117.225[6]).

Notary Seal

Required (FS 117.05[3][a]).

Notary Journal

Required for online notarizations (FS 117.245[1]); Not required for any other notarizations.

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ADMINISTRATION AND RULES

Commissioning Official

Though Florida’s Notaries are appointed by the Governor (FS 117.01[1]), whose office provides instructional literature and information for appointees, it is the Secretary of State’s Notary Commissions and Certifications Section that performs the ministerial function of issuing commissions to the state’s Notaries and maintaining records on them (FS 117.01[2]). The Governor’s Notary Section was established in July 1992 after the Legislature appropriated funds to educate and assist the state’s Notaries Public.

Contact Information

A. Department of State
Division of Corporations
Notary Commissions and Certifications Section
P.O. Box 6327
Tallahassee, FL 32314
1-850-245-6975

Website: http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/index.html

B. Executive Office of the Governor
Notary Section
2415 North Monroe St. Ste. 810
Tallahassee, FL 32303
1-850-717-9310

Website: www.flgov.com/notary

Laws, Rules and Guidelines

Laws: Most Notary regulations are in the Florida Statutes (FS), Chapter 117, “Notaries Public” and Chapter 695, “Record of Conveyances of Real Estate.”

Rules: Rules for electronic notarization and Florida Civil Law Notaries are in the Florida Administrative Code (FAC), Title 01, Department of State, Division 1N, Division of Corporations, Chapter 1N-5 “Electronic Notarization” And Chapter 1N-7 “Remote Online Notarization.”

Guidelines: Other guidelines for Notaries are in the “Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries” (RMN) (Updated Dec. 17, 2019).

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COMMISSION AND APPOINTMENT

Commission Process

Qualifications: An applicant for a commission as a Florida Notary Public must:
(a) be at least 18 years old,
(b) be a legal resident of Florida, and
(c) if ever convicted of a felony, have had civil rights restored.

Course: “A first-time applicant for a notary commission must submit proof that the applicant has, within 1 year prior to the application, completed at least 3 hours of interactive or classroom instruction, including electronic notarization, and covering the duties of the notary public. Courses satisfying this section may be offered by any public or private sector person or entity registered with the Executive Office of the Governor and must include a core curriculum approved by that office” (FS 668.50[11][b]).

An online interactive course is offered by the state at http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/education/index.html. Applicants taking the state’s online course must complete each of its eight sections, spending on average about 23 minutes per section to total 180 minutes, before printing out the completion certificate, which must be presented to the applicant’s bonding/processing company.

Exam: Not required.

Application: Applications are normally submitted to the Department of State both electronically and in paper format by the state-approved bonding company – the so-called “Notary Processor” – providing the applicant’s Notary bond. “Most of these companies provide “one-stop-shopping.” You make one payment to the company and they provide the application, pay the state fees, write your notary bond, and supply your notary seal. The bonding agencies provide the surety bond that is required for notaries public to obtain a commission” (Governor’s website, “Become a Notary”). The application form includes an “Oath of Office” and an “Affidavit of Character,” which must be signed by a person unrelated to the applicant who has known the applicant for at least one year. For non-citizens of the United States, a recorded “Declaration of Domicile” (available at a county clerk’s office) must be included with the application. A signed certificate of completion for the required three-hour Notary course must also be submitted, along with a Notary surety bond signed by the applicant and by a licensed surety agent and bearing the seal of the surety company. The total state fees are $39, which includes a $25 application fee, a $10 commission fee and a $4 education surcharge. Completed forms DS-DE 77 and DS-DE 76 from the application packet must be returned to the Notary Commissions and Certifications Section, along with a $39 check or money order made payable to the “Department of State.”

An applicant may not obtain or use a Notary commission in other than his or her legal name. Applicants must submit proof of identity to the Department of State (FS 117.05[1]). The application for a Notary commission is maintained by the Department of State for the full term of a Notary’s commission. The application and the information it contains, except for the Social Security number, are a public record and may be disclosed to any person upon request.

Background Screening: Not required.

Commission Mailed to Bonding Company: “If your application is approved, you will receive your commission certificate and notary seal from your bonding agency. Please confirm that the information on the seal and certificate are correct; if so, you may proceed to perform your duties as notary public” (Governor’s website, “How to Become a Notary”).

Non-Residents: Persons who do not reside in Florida may not become Notaries in the state (FS 117.01).

Reappointment: “No person may be automatically reappointed as a notary public. The application process must be completed regardless of whether an applicant is requesting his or her first notary commission, a renewal of a commission, or any subsequent commission.” Fla. Stat. § 117.01(6).
“Please be advised that, to allow for ample processing time to ensure that there is no break in service, the Department of State suggests renewal applicants submit their notary public commission applications approximately six months in advance of their current commission’s expiration date.
“Continue using your current notary public seal through the end of your current commission. If you are reappointed, you must not use your new notary public seal until the first day of your new commission. Destroy your old notary public seal to prevent its misuse” (RMN).

The Florida Department of State’s online “Notary Search” allows access to the Notary database by submitting a Notary’s last name, first name, commission serial number, zip code, or “Notary ID” at http://notaries.dos.state.fl.us/not001.html. Included in the data provided for a given Notary are the commission starting and expiration dates, bonding agency and mailing address.

“Daily activity journals reporting updates to the Notaries Public database are available ... and may be downloaded as ASCII comma-delimited text files” (Dept. of State website, “Notary Public Access System” accessible by clicking the “Daily Transaction Journals” link).

Jurisdiction

“A notary public… may only use and exercise the office of notary public if he or she is within the boundaries of this state” (FS 117.01[1]).

Term Length

“A notary public shall be appointed for 4 years…” (FS 117.01[1]).

Bond

Notary Public: “A notary public shall, prior to executing the duties of the office and throughout the term of office, give bond, payable to any individual harmed as a result of a breach of duty by the notary public acting in his or her official capacity, in the amount of $7,500, conditioned for the due discharge of the office and shall take an oath that he or she will honestly, diligently, and faithfully discharge the duties of the notary public. The bond shall be approved and filed with the Department of State and executed by a surety company for hire duly authorized to transact business in this state” (FS 117.01[7]).

Online Notary Public: If a Notary registers to become an online Notary Public, a $25,000 bond is required, and this bond satisfies the requirement of the $7,500 bond. “Compliance by an online notary public with this requirement [filing a $25,000 bond] shall satisfy the requirement of obtaining a bond under [FS] s. 117.01(7)” (FS 117.225[6]).

Employer Liability: “The employer of a notary public shall be liable to the persons involved for all damages proximately caused by the notary’s official misconduct, if the notary public was acting in the scope of his or her employment at the time of notary engaged in the official misconduct” (FS 117.05[6]).

Changes of Status

Address Change: “A notary public shall notify, in writing, the Department of State of any change in his business address, home telephone number, business telephone number, home address, or criminal record within 60 days after such change” (FS 117.01[2]). A Notary “who does not maintain legal residence in this state during the entire term of appointment” must resign his or her commission in a signed letter to the Governor (FS 117.01[5][b]).

Name Change: “Any notary public who lawfully changes his name shall, within 60 days after such change, forthwith request an amended commission from the Secretary of State ... (who) shall issue an amended commission to the notary public in the new name. A rider to the notary public’s bond must accompany the notice of change form. After submitting the required notice of change form and rider to the Secretary of State, the notary public may continue to perform notarial acts in his former name for 60 days or until receipt of the amended commission, whichever date is earlier” (FS 117.05[9]).

“Contact your Bonding Agency…[t]o amend your notary public commission after a lawful name change” (RMN).

Resignation: A resignation of a Notary Public commission must be submitted to the Florida Governor’s Notary Section.

“Please send a letter to our office and include the following information:
“1. Name as commissioned and Certificate number
“2. Attach the original Notary Commission Certificate OR state in the letter it is no longer in your possession
“3. State in the letter that you have destroyed your notary stamp OR that you have included it with the letter for our office to destroy
“4. Provide a forwarding address to send a resignation acceptance letter
“5. Date resignation effective
If you have a log book, it is at your discretion if you would like to keep it for personal records (recommended), destroy it, or include it with the letter for our office” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “How to Resign Your Notary Public Commission”).

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NOTARIAL ACTS

Authorized Acts

Florida Notaries are authorized to perform the following notarial acts (FS 117.03 and 117.04):

  • Take acknowledgments;

  • Administer oaths and affirmations, as when executing jurats for affidavits and depositions;

  • Attest copies (FS 117.05[12]);

  • Solemnize marriages (FS 117.045);

  • Verify vehicle identification numbers (FS 319.23[3][a]);

  • Certify contents of safe deposit boxes (FS 655.94).

Acknowledgments

Definition: “Acknowledgment – A formal declaration before an authorized official (a notary public) by a person signing an instrument that such execution is his or her free act and deed. The term also refers to the notary’s certificate on the document indicating that it was so acknowledged” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “Educational Resources,” “Additional Resources” and “Glossary of Terms”).

Oaths and Affirmations

Definition: An oath is “[a]ny form of attestation or pledge by which a person signifies that he or she is bound in conscience and out of a sense of responsibility to a Supreme Being to the truthfulness for some statement. Willfully swearing to untrue statements constitutes perjury” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “Educational Resources,” “Additional Resources” and “Glossary of Terms”).

To affirm means “[t]o make a solemn, formal declaration under the penalty of perjury that certain statements are true” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “Educational Resources,” “Additional Resources” and “Glossary of Terms”).

“The word ‘oath’ includes affirmations” (FS 1.01[5]).

“Whenever an oath shall be required by any law of this state in any proceeding, an affirmation may be substituted therefor” (FS 92.52).

“A notary public may administer an oath and make a certificate thereof when it is necessary for the execution of any writing or document to be published under the seal of a notary public. The notary public may not take an acknowledgment of execution in lieu of an oath if an oath is required” (FS 117.03).

Declaration in Lieu of Oath: In some cases, a signed declaration may substitute for a notarized oath if it contains the following language: “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing (document) and that the facts stated in it are true” (FS 92.525).

Electronic Oaths: Legislation enacted in 2015 (Chapter 2015-23) now allows certain law enforcement officers who are Notaries Public to administer oaths in the performance of their duties by reliable electronic means.

Remote Administration of Oaths: Legislation creating new FS 117.231 and effective on January 1, 2022, allows Notaries to administer remote oaths using audio-video communication without registering to be an online Notary or using a remote online notarization service provider: “When taking the oath of an individual who is testifying at any court proceeding, deposition, arbitration, or public hearing and who is outside of the physical presence of the notary public, the notary public may fulfill the requirements of s. 117.05 using audio-video communication technology” (FS 117.231[1]).

“When taking an oath of admission to The Florida Bar from an individual who is outside of the physical presence of the notary public, the notary public may fulfill the requirements of s. 117.05 using audio-video communication technology” (FS 117.231[2]).

“If an individual is located outside of this state at the time the notary public is to take the individual’s oath under this section, consent from the individual must be obtained to take his or her oath using audio-video communication technology pursuant to this section” (FS 117.231[3]).

“When taking an oath under this section, the notary public is not required to be an online notary public or to use a [remote online notarization] service provider” (FS 117.231[4]).

Jurats

Definition: A jurat is “[t]he written notarial certificate on any sworn statement or affidavit completed by the notary public indicating that the document was sworn or affirmed to by the signer” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “Educational Resources,” “Additional Resources” and “Glossary of Terms”).

Copy Certifications (Attestations)

Authorization: “A notary public may supervise the making of a copy of a tangible or electronic record or the printing of an electronic record and attest to the trueness of the copy or of the printout, provided the document is neither a vital record in this state, another state, a territory of the United States, or another country, nor a public record, if a copy can be made by the custodian of the public record” (FS 117.05[12][a]).

Resident Alien Card: “Q: May I attest to a photocopy of a resident alien card issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service? – “A: Yes. This is a frequent request in Florida because of the large number of resident aliens living here. We have consulted the office of Immigration and Naturalization Service in Miami and learned that a person cannot obtain a certified copy of a resident alien card from any INS office. Therefore, if you have the original card, you may attest to the trueness of a photocopy if you make the copy or supervise the making of the copy. You should use a notarial certificate in substantially the same form as that provided in the notary law for attested photocopies.
“The INS office emphasized that an attested photocopy of a resident alien card should not be used to prove residency status. Although the notary is not responsible for how the attested photocopy will be used, it may be a good idea to refer the party to an INS office if such certification is needed. If you believe that an attested copy may be used for an improper purpose, you should decline to attest to the copy” (Executive Office of the Governor’s website, “FAQ”).

Tax Returns: “Q: I am often asked to certify a photocopy of a tax return for customers who are enrolling their children in college or applying for a mortgage on a new home. May I do so? – A: No. Section 117.05(12), Florida Statutes, which authorizes notaries to attest to photocopies, requires the following:
“• the notary may not certify a copy of a public record, if a copy can be obtained from the official source;
“• the notary must have the original document from which to make the copy;
“• the notary must either make the copy or supervise the making of the copy; and
“• the notary must complete a certificate in substantially the form specified in the law.
“In this case, the original tax forms have been filed with the Internal Revenue Service, and no original is available from which you can photocopy the document. However, certified copies are available from IRS. For additional information, your customer should visit an office of the Internal Revenue Service or call (800) 829-1040” (Executive Office of the Governor’s website, “FAQ”).

Wedding Officiations

Authorization: “A notary public is authorized to solemnize the rites of matrimony. For solemnizing the rites of matrimony, the fee of a notary public may not exceed those provided by law to the clerks of the circuit court for like services” (FS 117.045).

“All regularly ordained ministers of the gospel or elders in communion with some church, or other
ordained clergy, and all judicial officers, including retired judicial officers, clerks of the circuit courts, and notaries public of this state may solemnize the rights of matrimonial contract, under the regulations prescribed by law. Nothing in this section shall make invalid a marriage which was solemnized by any member of the clergy, or as otherwise provided by law prior to July 1, 1978” (FS 741.07[1]).

Standards: “Before any of the persons named in [FS] s. 741.07 shall solemnize any marriage, he or she shall require of the parties a marriage license issued according to the requirements of [FS] s. 741.01, and within 10 days after solemnizing the marriage he or she shall make a certificate thereof on the license, and shall transmit the same to the office of the county court judge or clerk of the circuit court from which it issued” (FS 741.08).

The following information is provided by the Executive Officer of the Governor (website, “Completing the Marriage Record” under “Performing Marriage Ceremonies”): “The required information in [spaces 21-25 of the Certificate of Marriage] must be completed in black ink by the person performing the ceremony – the Notary Public. You will certify the date and location of the marriage, and add your signature, name, title, and address as the person performing the ceremony. Your notary seal must also be affixed in space 23b. Witnesses are optional, and if included, they should sign in black ink in spaces 24-25.”

“After the Certificate is completed, you are required to return the Marriage Record to the official who issued it within 10 days after the ceremony. Most Clerks’ Offices provide written instructions and a self-addressed envelope to accommodate this task. After the Marriage Record is recorded, the Clerk's Office will mail a certified copy to the couple” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “Completing the Marriage Record” under “Performing Marriage Ceremonies”)

Validity of Marriage License: ““Marriage licenses shall be valid only for a period of 60 days after issuance, and no person shall perform any ceremony of marriage after the expiration date of such license. The county court judge or clerk of the circuit court shall recite on each marriage license the final date that the license is valid” FS 741.041).

Vehicle Identification Number Verifications

Authorization: “If a certificate of title has not previously been issued for a motor vehicle or mobile home in this state, the application, unless otherwise provided for in this chapter, shall be accompanied by a proper bill of sale or sworn statement of ownership, or a duly certified copy thereof, or by a certificate of title, bill of sale, or other evidence of ownership required by the law of the state or county from which the motor vehicle or mobile home was brought into this state. The application shall also be accompanied by:
“(a)1. A sworn affidavit from the seller and purchaser verifying that the vehicle identification number shown on the affidavit is identical to the vehicle identification number shown on the motor vehicle; or
“2. An appropriate departmental form evidencing that a physical examination has been made of the motor vehicle by the owner and by a duly constituted law enforcement officer in any state, a licensed motor vehicle dealer, a license inspector as provided by [FS] s. 320.58, or a notary public commissioned by this state and that the vehicle identification number shown on such form is identical to the vehicle identification number shown on the motor vehicle … Verification of the vehicle identification number is not required for any new motor vehicle; any mobile home; any trailer or semitrailer with a net weight of less than 2,000 pounds; or any travel trailer, camping trailer, truck camper, or fifth-wheel recreation trailer” (FS 319.23[3]).

Standards: HSMV 82042 (Rev. 01/13/13) is the form for verifying a VIN. Part B of the form requires the Notary to physically inspect the vehicle for the VIN and to sign the following statement: “I, the undersigned, certify that I have physically inspected the above described vehicle and find that the vehicle identification number on the vehicle to be identical to the vehicle identification number recorded on this form.” The Notary must print, type or stamp the Notary’s name, sign the form and affix the Notary’s official seal.

Safe Deposit Box Content Certifications

Authorization: “If the rental due on a safe-deposit box has not been paid for 3 months, the lessor may send a notice by certified mail to the last known address of the lessee stating that the safe-deposit box will be opened and its contents stored at the expense of the lessee unless payment of the rental is made within 30 days. If the rental is not paid within 30 days from the mailing of the notice, the box may be opened in the presence of an officer of the lessor and of a notary public” (FS 655.94[1]).

Standards: “The contents shall be sealed in a package by a notary public who shall write on the outside the name of the lessee and the date of the opening. The notary public shall execute a certificate reciting the name of the lessee, the date of the opening of the box, and a list of its contents. The certificate shall be included in the package, and a copy of the certificate shall be sent by certified mail to the last known address of the lessee. The package shall then be placed in the general vaults of the lessor at a rental not exceeding the rental previously charged for the box. The lessor has a lien on the package and its contents to the extent of any rental due and owing plus the actual, reasonable costs of removing the contents from the safe deposit box” (FS 655.94[1]).

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STANDARDS OF PRACTICE

Personal Appearance

Requirement: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is being notarized does not appear before the notary public either by means of physical presence or by means of audio-video communication technology as authorized under part II of this chapter at the time the signature is notarized. Any notary public who violates this subsection is guilty of a civil infraction, punishable by penalty not exceeding $5,000, and such violation constitutes malfeasance and misfeasance in the conduct of official duties. It is no defense to the civil infraction specified in this subsection that the notary public acted without intent to defraud. A notary public who violates this subsection with the intent to defraud is guilty of violating [FS] s. 117.105” (FS 117.107[9]).

Identification

Requirement: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document unless he or she personally knows, or has satisfactory evidence, that the person whose signature is to be notarized is the individual who is described in and who is executing the instrument. A notary public shall certify in the certificate of acknowledgment or jurat the type of identification, either based on personal knowledge or other form of identification, upon which the notary public is relying. In the case of an online notarization, the online notary public shall comply with the requirements set forth in part II of this chapter” (FS 117.05[5]).

Personal Knowledge: Personally knows “means having an acquaintance, derived from association with the individual, which establishes the individual’s identity with at least a reasonable certainty” (FS 117.05[5][a]).

Satisfactory Evidence: Satisfactory evidence “means the absence of any information, evidence, or other circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to believe that the person whose signature is to be notarized is not the person he or she claims to be and any one of the following:
“1. The sworn written statement of one credible witness personally known to the notary public or the sworn written statement of two credible witnesses whose identities are proven to the notary public upon the presentation of satisfactory evidence that each of the following is true:
“a. That the person whose signature is to be notarized is the person named in the document;
“b. That the person whose signature is to be notarized is personally known to the witnesses;
“c. That it is the reasonable belief of the witnesses that the circumstances of the person whose signature is to be notarized are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for that person to obtain another acceptable form of identification;
“d. That it is the reasonable belief of the witnesses that the person whose signature is to be notarized does not possess any of the identification documents specified in subparagraph 2.; and
“e. That the witnesses do not have a financial interest nor are parties to the underlying transaction; or
“2. Reasonable reliance on the presentation to the notary public of any one of the following forms of identification, if the document is current or has been issued within the past 5 years and bears a serial or other identifying number:
“a. A Florida identification card or driver’s license issued by the public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses;
“b. A passport issued by the Department of State of the United States;
“c. A passport issued by a foreign government if the document is stamped by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (sic);
“d. A driver’s license or an identification card issued by a public agency authorized to issue driver’s licenses in a state other than Florida or in a territory of the United States, or Canada or Mexico;
“e. An identification card issued by any branch of the armed forces of the United States;
“f. A veteran health identification card issued by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs;
“g. An inmate identification card issued on or after January 1, 1991, by the Florida Department of Corrections for an inmate who is in the custody of the department;
“h. An inmate identification card issued by the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Federal Prisons, for an inmate who is in the custody of the department;
“i. A sworn, written statement from a sworn law enforcement officer that the forms of identification for an inmate in an institution of confinement were confiscated upon confinement and that the person named in the document is the person whose signature is to be notarized; or
“j. An identification card issued by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (sic)” (FS 117.05[5]).

ID with Different Name: “Q: What should I do if a person produces identification with a name different from the name being signed? – A: This problem may occur in different situations. In some situations, individuals may have simply neglected to update their identification cards after a name change. You should direct them to the local Division of Motor Vehicles office to make the necessary changes.
“In some instances, individuals may need to sign a document with their former name after making the necessary updates to their identification cards. A classic situation arises when a woman changes her name after marriage and has to sign a document, such as a warranty deed, in her former name. You may notarize her signature if she signs both names, but you may want to indicate that fact in your notarial certificate.
For an acknowledgment, you could state, ‘The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this _____ day of ______, 19, by Mary Smith, who represented to me that she was formerly known as Mary Jones, and who provided a Florida driver license, No. 123 45 678 890 in the name of Mary Smith as identification.’ You may also want to include information such as the date of birth, expiration date, or physical description. You may always provide additional information in your certificate, especially if it helps to clarify the circumstances. You may also want to include information about supporting documentation concerning the name change or additional identification cards, if available, in your journal” (Executive Office of the Governor’s website, “FAQ).

Mental Competence

“A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if it appears that the person is mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document at the time of notarization” (FS 117.107[5]).

“A notary public may not take the acknowledgment of or administer an oath to a person whom the notary public actually knows to have been adjudicated mentally incapacitated by a court of competent jurisdiction, where the acknowledgment or oath necessitates the exercise of a right that has been removed pursuant to [FS] s. 744.3215(2) or (3), and where the person has not been restored to capacity as a matter of record” (FS 117.107[4]).

Refusal of Services

“Q: Can I refuse to provide notary services? – A: Yes, a notary may refuse to perform a notarization. The situations in which a notary must refuse are set forth in the Florida Statutes sections 117.05 and 117.107” (Executive Office of the Governor’s website, “FAQ).

“If you are asked to provide notary services and would like to refuse, you may wish to consult with
an attorney regarding any concerns you may have in providing the requested notary services” (RMN).

Incomplete Documents

“A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the document is incomplete or blank” (FS 117.107[10]).

Exception: “However, an endorsement or assignment in blank of a negotiable or nonnegotiable note and the assignment in blank of any instrument given as security for such note is not deemed incomplete” (FS 117.107[10]).

Accommodating Persons with Disabilities

“A notary public must make reasonable accommodations to provide notarial services to persons with disabilities” (FS 117.05[14]).

Blind Signers: “A notary public may notarize the signature of a person who is blind after the notary public has read the entire instrument to that person” (FS 117.05[14][a]).

Signature by Mark: “A notary public may notarize the signature of a person who signs with a mark if:
“1. The document signing is witnessed by two disinterested persons; and
“2. The notary public prints the person’s first name at the beginning of the designated signature line and the person’s last name at the end of the designated signature line; and
“3. The notary prints the words ‘his (or her) mark’ below the person’s signature mark” (FS 117.05[14][b]).
See the notarial acknowledgment and jurat certificate forms for a signing by mark, below under “Certificate of Notarial Act.”

Signature by Proxy: “A notary public may sign the name of a person whose signature is to be notarized when that person is physically unable to sign or make a signature mark on a document if:
“1. The person with a disability directs the notary public to sign in his or her presence by verbal, written, or other means;
“2. The document signing is witnessed by two disinterested persons; and
“3. The notary public writes below the signature the following statement: ‘Signature affixed by notary, pursuant to [FS] s. 117.05[14]), Florida Statutes,’ and states the circumstances and the means by which the notary public was directed to sign in the notarial certificate” (FS 117.05[14][d]).

See the notarial acknowledgment and jurat certificate forms for when the Notary signs on behalf of a person unable to sign, below under “Certificate of Notarial Act.”

More specifically, FS 709.2202[2] empowers a Notary to sign and/or initial a power of attorney on behalf of a principal physically unable to sign or initial. The principal must direct the Notary to do so, and the signing or initialing by the Notary must be done in the presence of the principal and two disinterested subscribing witnesses. The Notary must write the statement “Signature or initials affixed by the Notary pursuant to [FS] s. 709.2202(2), Florida Statutes” below each such signature or initialing. The law further states: “Only one notarial certificate in substantially the same form as those described in [FS] s. 117.05(14), which states the circumstances of all signatures and initials written by the notary public is required to be completed by the notary public.” Notarial acknowledgment and jurat certificate forms authorized by FS 117.05(14) for when a Notary signs on behalf of a person unable to sign are printed below, under “Certificate of Notarial Act.”

Notary as Witness

“Generally, a notary public may sign as one of the witnesses and as the notary public on a document. In fact, it is a common practice among Florida notaries, particularly on real estate transactions … In addition, a Florida court has held that ‘there is nothing to prevent a notary from also being a witness.’ See Walker v. City of Jacksonville, 360 So.2d 52 (1978). However, before signing as a witness, the notary should ensure that the document does not require the notarization of the witnesses’ signatures” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “FAQ”).

Disqualifying Interest

Personal: “[I]t is unlawful for a notary public to notarize his own signature” (FS 117.05[1]).

Employees: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction; however, a notary public who is an employee may notarize a signature for his or her employer, and this employment does not constitute a financial interest in the transaction nor make the notary a party to the transaction under this subsection as long as he or she does not receive a benefit other than his or her salary and the fee for services as a notary public authorized by law” (FS 117.107[12]).

Attorneys: “For purposes of this subsection, a notary public who is an attorney does not have a financial interest in and is not a party to the underlying transaction evidenced by a notarized document if he or she notarizes a signature on that document for a client for whom he or she serves as an attorney of record and he or she has no interest in the document other than the fee paid to him or her for legal services and the fee authorized by law for services as a notary public” (FS 117.107[12]).

Relatives: “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is to be notarized is the spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father of the notary public” (FS 117.107[11]).

Attorney General Opinion 91-70 (1991) answers the question, “Does [Florida law] prohibit a notary public from solemnizing the rites of matrimony of persons related by blood or marriage to the notary public?
“Section 117.05(6)(d), F.S., as amended by Ch. 91-291, Laws of Florida, effective January 1, 1992, does not prohibit a notary public form solemnizing the rites of matrimony of persons related by blood or marriage to the notary public … [Note: the statute was renumbered as FS 117.107(11) in 1998.].
“Section 117.05(6)(d) [current FS 117.107(11)], … prohibits a notary public from notarizing the signature of a relative on a document. In solemnizing the rites of matrimony and certifying on the marriage license that he has solemnized the marriage, the notary is not notarizing the signature of the relative on a document. Accordingly, the prohibition … would not appear to be applicable.
“Therefore, I am of the opinion that [Florida statute] does not prohibit a notary public from solemnizing the rites of matrimony pursuant to [FS] s. 117.04, F.S., as amended by s. 3, Ch. 91-292, Laws of Florida” (Attorney General Opinion, 91-70 [1991]).

Facsimile Stamp Signature

“A notary public may not sign notarial certificates using a facsimile signature stamp unless the
notary public has a physical disability that limits or prohibits his or her ability to make a written
signature and unless the notary public has first submitted written notice to the Department of
State with an exemplar of the facsimile signature stamp. This subsection does not apply to or prohibit the use of an electronic signature and seal by a notary public who is registered as an online notary public to perform an electronic or online notarization in accordance with this chapter” FS 117.107[2]).

Foreign-Language Signers

“A notary public may not take the acknowledgment of a person who does not speak or understand the English language, unless the nature and effect of the instrument to be notarized is translated into a language which the person does understand” (FS 117.107[6]).

‘Unnotarized Oaths’

“In a 1993 case, the Florida Supreme Court addressed the issue of ‘unnotarized oaths.’ State v. Shearer, 617 So.2d (Fla. App. 5 Dist. 1993). This case may significantly affect the role of notaries in Florida because it recognized an acceptable alternative oath that may be used for verified or sworn written documents. A person using the alternative oath would not need the services of a notary public or other official authorized to administer oaths.

Changing Document

“A notary public may not change anything in a written instrument after it has been signed by anyone” (FS 117.107[7]).

Advertisements

Foreign Language Ads: “A notary public who is not an attorney who advertises the services of a notary public in a language other than English, whether by radio, television, signs, pamphlets, newspapers, or other written communication, with the exception of a single desk plaque, shall post or otherwise include with the advertisement a notice in English and in the language used for the advertisement. The notice shall be of a conspicuous size, if in writing, and shall state: ‘I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY LICENSED TO PRACTICE LAW IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA, AND I MAY NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE OR ACCEPT FEES FOR LEGAL ADVICE.’ If the advertisement is by radio or television, the statement may be modified but must include substantially the same message” (FS 117.05[10]).

Translation of “Notary Public”: “Literal translation of the phrase “Notary Public” into a language other than English is prohibited in an advertisement for notarial services” (FS 117.05[11]).

Validity of Notarial Acts

Electronic Journal: “An omitted or incomplete entry in the electronic journal does not impair the validity of the notarial act or of the electronic record which was notarized, but may be introduced as evidence to establish violations of this chapter; as evidence of possible fraud, forgery, impersonation, duress, incapacity, undue influence, minority, illegality, or unconscionability; or for other evidentiary purposes” (FS 117.245[5]).

Audio-Video Recording of Electronic Will: “[I]f the recording of the audio-video communication required under [FS 117.245] subsection (2) relating to the online notarization of the execution of an electronic will cannot be produced by the [remote online notarization] service provider, the online notary public, or the qualified custodian, the electronic will shall be treated as a lost or destroyed will subject to [FS] s. 733.207” (FS 117.245[5]).

Online Notarizations: “Any failure to comply with the online notarization procedures set forth in [FS 117.265] does not impair the validity of the notarial act or the electronic record that was notarized, but may be introduced as evidence to establish violations of this chapter or as an indication of possible fraud, forgery, impersonation, duress, incapacity, undue influence, minority, illegality, or unconscionability, or for other evidentiary purposes. This subsection may not be construed to alter the duty of an online notary public to comply with this chapter and any rules adopted hereunder” (FS 117.265[9]).

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CERTIFICATE OF NOTARIAL ACT

Required Elements

Any jurat or certificate of acknowledgment must contain the following elements (FS 117.05[4]):

1. The venue stating the location of the notarization in the format “State of Florida, County of ________”.
2. The type of notarial act performed, whether an oath or acknowledgment, as evidenced by the word “sworn” or “acknowledged”.
3. Whether the signer personally appeared in the physical presence of the Notary or by means of audio-video communication technology at the time of notarization.
4. The true date of the notarial act.
5. The name of the person whose signature is being notarized (“It is presumed, absent such specific notation by the notary public, that notarization is to all signatures.”).
6. The specific type of identification the Notary is relying on in identifying the signer, either based on personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence.
“A notary public shall certify in his certificate of acknowledgment or jurat the type of identification, either based on personal knowledge or other form of identification, upon which the notary public is relying. In the case of an online notarization, the online notary public shall comply with the requirements set forth in part II of this chapter” (FS 117.05[5]).
7. The Notary’s official signature.
8. The Notary’s name – typed, printed, or stamped below the signature.
9. The Notary’s official seal affixed below or to either side of the Notary’s signature.

Certificate Forms

Florida law prescribes the following certificates of acknowledgment, not precluding the use of other forms:

Short Form Acknowledgment by Individual (FS 695.25[1])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name of person acknowledging), who is personally known to me or who has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Acknowledgment by Individual (FS 117.05[13][b])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person acknowledging).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Acknowledgment by Individual Signing by Mark (FS 117.05[14][c])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of ____, 20 (year), by ________ (name of person acknowledging), who signed with a mark in the presence of these witnesses: _________ (names of two witnesses).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Acknowledgment of Signature Affixed on Behalf of Person Unable to Sign (FS 117.05[14][d])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person acknowledging) and subscribed by _________ (name of Notary) at the direction of and in the presence of _________ (name of person acknowledging), and in the presence of these witnesses: _________ (names of two witnesses).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Acknowledgment by Representative (FS 117.05[13][c])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person acknowledging) as _________ (type of authority, e.g., officer, trustee, attorney in fact) for _______________ ___ (name of party on behalf of whom instrument was executed).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Short Form Acknowledgment by Corporation (FS 695.25[2])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name of officer or agent, title of officer or agent) of _________ (name of corporation acknowledging), a _________ (state or place of incorporation) corporation, on behalf of the corporation. He/she is personally known to me or has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Short Form Acknowledgment by Limited Liability Company (FS 695.25[3])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name of member, manager, officer or agent), _________ (title of member, manager, officer or agent), of _________ (name of company acknowledging), a _________ (state or place of formation) limited liability company, on behalf of the company, who is personally known to me or has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Short Form Acknowledgment by Partnership (FS 695.25[4])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name of acknowledging partner or agent), partner (or agent) on behalf of _________ (name of partnership), a partnership. He/she is personally known to me or has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Short Form Acknowledgment by Attorney in Fact (FS 695.25[5])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name of attorney in fact) as attorney in fact, who is personally known to me or who has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification on behalf of _________ (name of principal).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Short Form Acknowledgment by Public Officer, Trustee or Personal Representative (FS 695.25[6])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _________ (date) by _________ (name and title of position), who is personally known to me or who has produced _________ (type of identification) as identification.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
________________ (Title or Rank)
________________ (Serial number, if any)

Jurat (FS 117.05[13][a])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

Sworn to (or affirmed) and subscribed before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person making statement).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Jurat for Signer by Mark (FS 117.05[14][c])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

Sworn to and subscribed before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person making statement), who signed with a mark in the presence of these witnesses: _________ (names of two witnesses).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Jurat for Signature Affixed on Behalf of Person Unable to Sign (FS 117.05[14][d])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

Sworn to (or affirmed) before me by means of [ ] physical presence or [ ] online notarization, this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), by _________ (name of person making statement), and subscribed by _________ (name of Notary) at the direction of and in the presence of _________ (name of person making statement), and in the presence of these witnesses: _________ (names of two witnesses).

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Notary’s Name printed, typed or stamped)
____ Personally known
____ OR Produced identification
Type of identification produced: _________

Attested Copy Certificate (FS 117.05[12][b])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

On this _____ day of _____, 20 (year), I attest that the preceding or attached document is a true, exact, complete, and unaltered photocopy made by me of _________ (description of document) presented to me by the document’s custodian, _________, and, to the best of my knowledge, that the photocopied document is neither a vital record nor a public record, certified copies of which are available from an official source other than a notary public.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Name of Notary printed, typed or stamped)

Attested Copy Certificate of a Tangible or Electronic Record or a Printout of an Electronic Record (FS 117.05[12][c])

STATE OF FLORIDA
COUNTY OF _________

On this _____ day of _________, ____ (year), I attest that the preceding or attached document is a true, exact, complete, and unaltered (copy of a tangible or an electronic record presented to me by the document's custodian) or a (printout made by me from such record). If a printout, I further attest that, at the time of printing, no security features, if any, present on the electronic record, indicated that the record had been altered since execution.

________________ (Signature) (Seal)
________________ (Name of Notary printed, typed or stamped)

Incomplete Certificate

“A notary public may not affix his or her signature to a blank form of affidavit or certificate of acknowledgment and deliver that form to another person with the intent that it be used as an affidavit or acknowledgment” (FS 117.107[3]).

Amending a Certificate

“A notary public may not amend a notarial certificate after the notarization is complete” (FS 117.107[8]).

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SEAL AND SIGNATURE

Seal Requirement

A Florida Notary must affix a seal of office on all documents notarized (FS 117.05[3][a]).

Seal Format

Inked Rubber Stamp: “The rubber stamp seal must be affixed to the notarized paper document in photographically reproducible black ink” (FS 117.05[3][a]).

Optional Embosser: “An impression-type seal may be used in addition to the rubber stamp seal, but the rubber stamp seal shall be the official seal for use on a paper document, and the impression-type seal may not be substituted therefor” (FS 117.05[3][a]).

Shape and Size: Not specified.

Components:

  1. Name of Notary;

  2. “Notary Public – State of Florida”;

  3. Commission number;

  4. Commission expiration date.

Use of Great Seal: “Please be advised that, pursuant to Section 15.03(3), Florida Statutes, only the Department of State shall be authorized to affix the Great Seal of the State of Florida to any document for the purpose of attesting, certifying, or otherwise formalizing such document. Any facsimile or reproduction of the great seal shall be manufactured, used, displayed, or otherwise employed by anyone only upon the approval of the Department of State. The Department of State may grant a certificate of approval upon application to it by any person showing good cause for the use of the seal for a proper purpose. The Department of State may adopt reasonable rules for the manufacture or use of the great seal or any facsimile or reproduction thereof. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree” (RMN).

Seal Property of Notary

“The notary public official seal and the certificate of notary public commission are the exclusive property of the notary public and must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public. The seal and certificate of commission must not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, regardless of whether the employer paid for the seal or for the commission” (FS 117.05[3][b]).

“Q: Do I keep my Notary Stamp even if I am no longer employed or was fired from my previous job? – A: Yes, you should keep your stamp even if your commission, bond, and seal were paid for by your employer. Your employer has no right to keep these items and it may be a criminal offense to do so. According to section 117.05(3)(b), Florida Statutes, ‘The notary public official seal and the certificate of notary public commission are the exclusive property of the notary public and must be kept under the direct and exclusive control of the notary public. The seal and certificate of commission must not be surrendered to an employer upon termination of employment, regardless of whether the employer paid for the seal or for the commission.’ You should take several precautions to protect yourself. First, contact that (sic) Department of State (850-245-8975) and tell them the last date that your seal was in your possession. Second, you may want to send a written request by certified mail to your employer requesting the return of your notary commission and seal. If your employer does not comply, you should file a report with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction. Third, you may obtain a duplicate notary commission certificate from the Department of State, Notary Commissions and Certifications Section, and another seal from your bonding agency or an office supply store. Your notary bond cannot be revoked, and you may continue serving as a notary public until the expiration of your term” (Executive Office the Governor’s website, “FAQ”).

Lost Seal

“A notary public whose official seal is lost, stolen, or believed to be in the possession of another person shall immediately notify the Department of State in writing” (FS 117.05[3][c]).

A Notary may send the written notification required by law via regular mail to the Division of Corporations, ATTN: Notary Section, P.O. Box 6327, Tallahassee, FL 32314. A Notary may hand-deliver or use a courier service to deliver the written notification to Division of Corporations, ATTN: Notary Section, Clifton Building, 2661 Executive Center Circle, Tallahassee, FL 32301.

Unlawful Possession of Seal

“Any person who unlawfully possesses a notary public official seal or any papers or copies relating to notarial acts is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree …” (FS 117.05[3][d]).

Destruction of Seal

“(A) resigning notary public shall destroy his or her official notary public seal of office, unless the Governor requests its return” (FS 117.01[5][b]).

Examples

The below typical, actual-size examples of official Notary stamping devices and electronic Notary seals which are allowed by Florida law. Formats other than these may also be permitted. The circular embossment shown here may only accompany and never replace a mandatory inked seal.

Notary’s Signature

“A notary public may not use a name or initial in signing certificates other than that by which the notary public is commissioned” (FS 117.107[1]).

Facsimile Signature Stamp: “A notary public may not sign notarial certificates using a facsimile signature stamp unless the notary public has a physical disability that limits or prohibits his or her ability to make a written signature and unless the notary public has first submitted written notice to the Department of State with an exemplar of the facsimile signature stamp. This subsection does not apply to or prohibit the use of an electronic signature and seal by a notary public who is registered as an online notary public to perform an electronic or online notarization in accordance with this chapter” (FS 117.107[2]).

Notary’s Name Printed, Typed or Stamped

“Every notary public shall print, type, or stamp below his or her signature on a paper document his or her name exactly as commissioned” (FS 117.05[3][a]).

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RECORDS OF NOTARIAL ACTS

Records Requirement

Electronic Journal of Online Notarizations: “An online notary public shall keep one or more secure electronic journals of online notarizations performed by the online notary public” (FS 117.245[1]).

Recordings of Online Notarizations: “The [remote online notarization] service provider shall retain an uninterrupted and unedited copy of the recording of the audio-video communication in which an online notarization is performed. The online notary public shall ensure that the recording includes all of the following:
“(a) Appearance by the principal and any witness before the online notary public.
“(b) Confirmation of the identity of the principal and any witness.
“(c) A general description or identification of the records to be signed.
“(d) At the commencement of the recording, recitation by the online notary public of information sufficient to identify the notarial act.
“(e) A declaration by the principal that his or her signature on the record is knowingly and voluntarily made.
“(f) All of the actions and spoken words of the principal, notary public, and any required witness during the entire online notarization, including the signing of any records before the online notary public” (FS 117.245[2]).

Journal Endorsement

Paper-Based Notarial Acts: “Although not required by Florida law, you may consider keeping a notary journal. Even though journals are not required, any notary who is concerned with liability may want to consider this protective measure to provide a permanent record of his or her notarial acts” (RMN).

Electronic Journal Format

The journal of an online Notary must be a secure electronic journal (FS 117.245[1]).

Electronic Journal Entries

For each online notarization, the electronic journal entry must contain all of the following:
“(a) The date and time of the notarization.
“(b) The type of notarial act performed, whether an oath or acknowledgment.
“(c) The type, the title, or a description of the electronic record or proceeding.
“(d) The name and address of each principal involved in the transaction or proceeding.
“(e) Evidence of identity of each principal involved in the transaction or proceeding in either of the following forms:
“1. A statement that the person is personally known to the online notary public; or
“2a. A notation of the type of government-issued identification credential provided to the online notary public;
“b. “An indication that the government-issued identification credential satisfied the credential analysis; and
“(c) An indication that the principal satisfactorily passed the identity proofing.
“(f) The fee, if any, charged for the notarization” (FS 117.245[1]).

Journal Fingerprints

“Q: May I require the fingerprints of a person for whom I notarize? – “A: No. Florida law does not require, nor authorize, notaries to take fingerprints from persons whose signatures they notarize. Many notary journals or records books allow space for a thumbprint, but this feature is optional. If there is no objection from the signer, you may record a thumbprint in your journal. However, you should not refuse to provide notary services based solely on the person's refusal to provide a fingerprint in your record book” (Executive Office of the Governor’s website, “FAQ”).

Copies of Electronic Journal, Recordings

“An online notary public shall provide electronic copies of the pertinent entries in the electronic journal, and a [remote online notarization] service provider shall and provide access to the related audio-video communication recordings, or a copy thereof, to the following persons upon request:
“(a) The parties to an electronic record notarized by the online notary public;
“(b) The qualified custodian of an electronic will notarized by the online notary public;
“(c) The title agent, settlement agent, or title insurer who insured the electronic record or engaged the online notary public with regard to a real estate transaction;
“(d) Any person who is asked to accept a power of attorney that was notarized by the online notary public;
“(e) The Department of State pursuant to a notary misconduct investigation;
“(f) Any other persons pursuant to a subpoena, court order, law enforcement investigation, or other lawful inspection demand”
“(g) With respect to audio-video communication recordings of an online notarization, the online notary public performing that notarization; and
“(h) With respect to electronic copies of pertinent entries” (FS 117.255[2]).

Maximum Fee: “The online notary public may charge a fee not to exceed $20 per transaction record for making and delivering electronic copies of a given series of related electronic records, and a [remote online notarization] service provider may charge a fee not to exceed $20 for providing access to, or a copy of, the related audio-video communication records, except such copies or access must be provided without charge if requested by any of the following within the 10-year period specified in [FS] s. 117.245(4):
“(a) A party to the electronic record;
“(b) In a real estate transaction, the title agent, settlement agent, or title insurer who insured the electronic record or engaged the online notary public with regard to such transaction;
“(c) The Department of State pursuant to an investigation relating to the official misconduct of an online notary public;
“(d) The qualified custodian of an electronic will notarized by the online notary public;
“(e) With respect to audio-video communication recordings of an online notarization, the online notary public performing that notarization; or
“(f) With respect to electronic copies of a given series of related electronic records, the [remote online notarization] service provider used for the online notarization of those records” (FS 117.255[3]).

“If the online notary public or [remote online notarization] service provider charges a fee, the online notary public or [remote online notarization] service provider must disclose the amount of such fee to the requester before making the electronic copies or providing access to, or making a copy of, the requested audio-video communication recordings” (FS 117.255[3]).

Backup of Electronic Journal

“The online notary public shall take reasonable steps to…[m]aintain a backup record of the electronic journal required by [FS 117.245] subsection (1)” (FS 117.245[3][b]).

Security of Electronic Journal, Recordings

An online notary public shall … [k]eep the electronic journal … under his or her sole control, which includes access protection using passwords or codes under control of the online notary public. The online notary public may not allow another person to use the online notary public's electronic journal… other than a [remote online notarization] service provider or other authorized person providing services to an online notary public to facilitate performance of online notarizations” (FS 117.255[1][b]).

“The online notary public shall take reasonable steps to … [p]protect the electronic journal, the backup record, and any other records received by the online notary public from unauthorized access or use” (FS 117.245[3][c]).

“The online notary public shall take reasonable steps to … [n]otify an appropriate law enforcement agency and the Department of State of any unauthorized use of or compromise to the security of the electronic journal… within 7 days after discovery of such unauthorized use or compromise to security” (FS 117.255[4]).

Retention of Electronic Journal, Recordings

“The electronic journal required under [FS 117.245] subsection (1) and the recordings of audio-video communications required under subsection [FS 117.245] (2) shall be maintained for at least 10 years after the date of the notarial act” (FS 117.245[4]).

Disposition of Records

Electronic Journal: “The Department of State maintains jurisdiction over the electronic journal and audio-video communication recordings to investigate notarial misconduct for a period of 10 years after the date of the notarial act. The online notary public, a guardian of an incapacitated online notary public, or the personal representative of a deceased online notary public may, by contract with a secure repository in accordance with any rules established under this chapter, delegate to the repository the online notary public's duty to retain the electronic journal provided that the Department of State is notified of such delegation of retention duties to the repository within 30 days thereafter, including the effective date of the delegation and the address and contact information for the repository. If an online notary public delegates to a secure repository under this section, the online notary public shall make an entry in his or her electronic journal identifying such repository, and provide notice to the Department of State as required in this subsection” (FS 117.245[4]).

Recordings: “A [remote online notarization] service provider may, by contract with a secure repository in accordance with any rules established under this chapter, delegate to the repository the [remote online notarization] service provider’s duty to retain the required recordings of audio-video communications, provided that the Department of State is notified of such delegation of retention duties to the repository within 30 days thereafter, including the effective date of the delegation and the address and contact information for the repository. During any delegation under this subsection, the secure repository shall fulfill the responsibilities of the online notary public or [remote online notarization] service provider to provide copies or access under [FS] s. 117.255(2) and (3)” (FS 117.245[4]).

Paper Journal of Notarial Acts: “If you have a log book, it is at your discretion if you would like to keep it for personal records (recommended), destroy it, or include it with the letter for our office” (Executive Office of the Governor's website, “How to Resign Your Notary Public Commission”).

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FEES FOR NOTARIAL ACTS

Maximum Fees

Paper and Electronic Notarizations: “The fee of a notary public may not exceed $10 for any one notarial act under this part, except as provided in [FS] s. 117.045 (i.e., rite of matrimony fee) or [FS] s. 117.275 (online notarization fees)” (FS 117.05[2][a] and RMN).

Online Notarizations: “An online notary public or the employer of such online notary public may charge a fee, not to exceed $25, for performing an online notarial act under this part. Fees for services other than notarial acts, including the services of a [remote online notarization] service provider, are not governed by this section. A [remote online notarization] service provider’s services are also not considered closing services, as defined in [FS] s. 627.7711, and a fee for those services may be separately charged” (FS 117.275).

Marriages: “For solemnizing the rites of matrimony, the fee of a notary public may not exceed those provided by law to the clerks of the circuit court for like services” (FS 117.045). The current such fee charged by clerks is $30 (FS 28.24[24]).

Vote-By-Mail Ballots

A Notary may not charge a fee for witnessing a vote-by-mail ballot in an election (FS 117.05[2][b]).

Government Notaries

Notaries employed by a state, county or city government agency, board, commission or department must charge for their notarial services (except for loyalty oaths and government vehicle tags and titles) and these fees must be deposited in the governmental body’s general operating fund (FS 116.35 through 116.38). “The chief administrative officer of any such agency, board, commission or department may, upon determining that such service should be performed as a public service, authorize such service to be performed free of charge.”

Certain Officers May Not Charge

The following officers are Notaries only in connection with their official duties and may not charge for notarial services: law enforcement officers, correctional officers, including probation officers, traffic accident investigation officers and traffic infraction enforcement officers (FS 117.10).

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ELECTRONIC NOTARIAL ACTS

Applicable Law

Uniform Electronic Transaction Act: Florida has adopted the Uniform Electronic Transaction (sic) Act (UETA) (FS 668.50[1] through 668.50[20]), including the provision on notarization, thereby recognizing the legal validity of electronic signatures used by Notaries: “If a law requires a signature or record to be notarized, acknowledged, verified, or made under oath, the requirement is satisfied if the electronic signature of the person authorized by applicable law to perform those acts, together with all other information required to be included by other applicable law, is attached to or logically associated with the signature or record. Neither a rubber stamp nor an impression type seal is required for an electronic notarization” (FS 668.50[11][a]).

Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act: Florida has also enacted the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA) – FS 695.27 – but with a unique definition of “electronic signature”: “‘Electronic signature’ means an electronic sound, symbol, or process that is executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the document and is attached to or logically associated with a document such that, when recorded, it is assigned the same document number or a consecutive page number immediately following such document” (FS 695.27[2]).

Florida Statutes, Chapter 117: In Florida’s Notary Public statutes, Section 117.021 prescribes rules for the use of electronic signatures by Notaries. These provisions are summarized below.

Florida Administrative Code Title 01, Division 1N, Chapter 1N-5 “Electronic Notarization”: Effective January 26, 2010, rules were put in place in the Florida Administrative Code by the Department of State (FS 117.021[5]) that set basic definitions for electronic notarizations (1N-5.001) and dictate how a Notary’s electronic signature and seal information must be affixed on an electronic document (1N-5.002). These provisions are summarized below.

Definitions

“1. ‘Capable of independent verification’ means any interested person may reasonably determine the notary’s identity, the notary’s relevant authority and that the electronic signature is the act of the particular notary identified by the signature.
“2. ‘Electronic document’ means information that is created, generated, sent, communicated, received, or stored by electronic means.
“3. ‘Electronic notarization’ and ‘electronic notarial act’ means an official act authorized under Section 117.021(1), F.S., using electronic documents and electronic signatures.
“4. ‘Electronic Notary System’ means a set of applications, programs, hardware, software, or technology designed to enable a notary to perform electronic notarizations.
“5. ‘Electronic signature’ means an electronic sound, symbol, or process attached to or logically associated with an electronic document and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the electronic document or record.
“6. ‘Attached to or logically associated with’ means the notary’s electronic signature is securely bound to the electronic document in such a manner as to make it impracticable to falsify or alter, without detection, either the signature or the document.
“7. ‘Unique to the notary public’ means the notary’s electronic signature is attributable solely to the notary public to the exclusion of all other persons.
“8. ‘Retained under the notary public’s sole control’ means accessible by and attributable solely to the notary to the exclusion of all other persons and entities, either through being in the direct physical custody of the notary or through being secured with one or more biometric, password, token, or other authentication technologies in an electronic notarization system that meets the performance requirements of Sections 117.021(2) and (3), F.S.
“9. ‘Public key certificate’ means a computer-based record that:
“a. Identifies the certification authority issuing it;
“b. Names or identifies its subscriber;
“c. Contains the subscriber’s public key; and
“d. Is digitally signed by the certification authority issuing it” (FAC 1N-5.001).

Authorization

“Any document requiring notarization may be notarized electronically. The provisions of [FS] ss. 117.01, 117.03, 117.04, 117.05(1) - (11), and (14), 117.105, and 117.107 apply to all notarizations under this section” (FS 117.021[1]).

Notary’s Electronic Signature

“(2) In performing an electronic notarial act, a notary public shall use an electronic signature that is:
“(a) Unique to the notary public;
“(b) Capable of independent verification;
“(c) Retained under the notary public’s sole control and includes access protection through the use of passwords or codes under control of the notary public; and
“(d) Attached to or logically associated with the electronic document in a manner that any subsequent alteration to the electronic document displays evidence of the alteration: (FS 117.021[1] and [2]).

“1. In performing an electronic notarial act, a notary shall execute an electronic signature in a manner that attributes such signature to the notary public identified on the official commission.
“2. A notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure the security, reliability and uniformity of electronic notarizations, including, but not limited to, the use of an authentication procedure such as a password, token, card or biometric to protect access to the notary’s electronic signature or the means for affixing the signature.
“3. The notary’s electronic signature and seal information may be affixed by means of a public key certificate.
“4. The notary’s electronic signature and seal information may be affixed by means of an electronic notary system.
“5. Any public key certificate or electronic notary system that is used to affix the Notary's electronic signature and seal information shall be issued at the third or higher level of assurance as defined by the U. S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-63-2 (NIST800-63-2), Electronic Authentication Guideline Version 1.0.2., effective 8-2013, available at NIST's website www.csrc.nist.gov which is incorporated by reference at: https://www.flrules.org/Gateway/reference.asp?No=Ref-07017 and may be accessed at the following URL:  http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/SpecialPublications/NIST.SP800-63-2.pdf“ (FAC 1N-5.002).

Physical Seal Not Required

“When a signature is required to be accompanied by a notary public seal, the requirement is satisfied when the electronic signature of the notary public contains all of the following seal information:
“(a) The full name of the notary public exactly as provided on the notary public’s application for commission;
“(b) The words ‘Notary Public State of Florida’;
“(c) The date of expiration of the commission of the notary public; and
“(d) The notary public’s commission number” (FS 117.021[3]).

Real Property Records: “A requirement that a document or a signature associated with a document be notarized, acknowledged, verified, witnessed, or made under oath is satisfied if the electronic signature of the person authorized to perform that act, and all other information required to be included, is attached to or logically associated with the document or signature. A physical or electronic image of a stamp, impression, or seal need not accompany an electronic signature” (FS 695.27[3]).

Selection of Technology

“A notary public performing a notarial act with respect to an electronic record shall select the technology to be used for such notarial act. A person may not require the notary public to use a particular technology; however, if the notary public is required by his or her contract or employer to perform notarial acts with respect to electronic records, the contract or employer may require the use of a particular technology for those acts” (FS 117.021[4]).

Electronic Oaths

Chapter 2015-23 (Senate Bill 526) authorized certain law enforcement officers who are Notaries Public to administer oaths in the performance of their duties by reliable electronic means: “Law enforcement officers, correctional officers, and correctional probation officers, as defined in [FS] s. 943.10, and traffic accident investigation officers and traffic infraction enforcement officers, as described in [FS] s. 316.640, are authorized to administer oaths by reliable electronic means or in the physical presence of an affiant when engaged in the performance of official duties” (FS 117.10[2]).

“For purposes of this section, the term ‘reliable electronic means’ means the signing and transmission of a document through means compliant with criminal justice information system security measures. Such signing and transmission must be made by an affiant to an officer authorized to administer oaths under subsection (2) under circumstances that indicate that the document was submitted by the affiant” (FS 117.10[1]).

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REMOTE NOTARIAL ACTS

Applicable Law

Florida Statutes Chapter 117, Part II: In 2019, Florida enacted substantive statutory provisions related to remote notarization (the terms “online” and “remote online” notarization are used in the law). These provisions are summarized below.

Florida Administrative Code Title 01, Division 1N, Chapter 1N-7 “Remote Online Notarization”: In 2020, the Florida Department of State adopted rules related to remote notarization. These rules are summarized below.

Definitions

“As used in this part, the term:
“(1) ‘Appear before,’ ‘before,’ or ‘in the presence of’ mean:
“(a) In the physical presence of another person; or
“(b) Outside of the physical presence of another person, but able to see, hear, and communicate with the person by means of audio-video communication technology.
“(2) ‘Audio-video communication technology’ means technology in compliance with applicable law which enables real-time, two-way communication using electronic means in which participants are able to see, hear, and communicate with one another.
“(3) ‘Credential analysis’ means a process or service, in compliance with applicable law, in which a third party aids a public notary in affirming the validity of a government-issued identification credential and data thereon through review of public or proprietary data sources.
“(4) ‘Electronic,’ ‘electronic record,’ or ‘electronic signature’ has the same meaning as provided in [FS] s. 668.50.
“(5) ‘Errors and omissions insurance’ means a type of insurance that provides coverage for potential errors or omissions in or relating to the notarial act and is maintained, as applicable, by the online notary public or his or her employer, or a Remote Online Notarization service provider.
“(6) ‘Government-issued identification credential’ means any approved credential for verifying identity under [FS] s. 117.05(5)(b)2. However, for an online notarization of a principal not located within the United States, a passport issued by a foreign government not including the stamp of the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services may be used as a government-issued identification credential to verify the principal's identity.
“(7) ‘Identity proofing’ means a process or service in compliance with applicable law in which a third party affirms the identity of an individual through use of public or proprietary data sources, which may include by means of knowledge-based authentication or biometric verification.
“(8) ‘Knowledge-based authentication’ means a form of identity proofing based on a set of questions which pertain to an individual and are formulated from public or proprietary data sources.
“(9) ‘Online notarization’ means the performance of a notarial act using electronic means in which the principal or any witness appears before the notary public by means of audio-video communication technology.
“(10) ‘Online notary public’ means a notary public commissioned under part I of this chapter, a civil-law notary appointed under chapter 118, or a commissioner of deeds appointed under part IV of chapter 721, who has registered with the Department of State to perform online notarizations under this part.
“(11) ‘Physical presence’ means being in the same physical location as another person and close enough to see, hear, communicate with, and exchange credentials with that person.
“(12) ‘Principal’ means an individual whose electronic signature is acknowledged, witnessed, or attested to in an online notarization or who takes an oath or affirmation administered by the online notary public.
“(13) ‘Record’ means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form, including public records as defined in [FS] s. 119.011.
“(14) ‘Remote Online Notarization service provider’ or 'RON service provider’ means a person that provides audio-video communication technology and related processes, services, software, data storage, or other services to online notaries public for the purpose of directly facilitating their performance of online notarizations in compliance with the requirements of this chapter and any rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to [FS] s. 117.295.
“(15) ‘Remote presentation’ means transmission of an image of a government-issued identification credential that is of sufficient quality to enable the online notary public to identify the individual seeking the notary's services and to perform credential analysis through audio-video communication technology” (FS 117.201).

Registration

To register as an online Notary Public, an applicant must be a Notary Public, civil-law Notary Public, or commissioner of deeds and submit the Notary’s commission or appointment number. Each applicant must complete a classroom or online course (see “Online Notarization Course” below), pay the registration fee, submit a signed and sworn registration to the Department of State, and provide evidence of a $25,000 bond (see “Online Notary Bond” below) and $25,000 errors and omissions insurance policy (see “Online Notary E&O Policy” below) (FS 117.225).

A registration form is available from the Department of State. Applicants must include their Notary commission number, proof of completion of the educational course, and evidence of a $25,000 bond and separate $25,000 errors and omissions insurance policy. A fee of $10 payable by check must accompany the application, which must be mailed to the Department of State, presented in person or by courier service (FAC 1N-7.001[2]).

Selection: “An online notary public shall select the [remote online notarization] service provider to be used to perform an online notarization, and a person may not require the online notary public to use a particular [remote online notarization] service provider; however, if the online notary public is required by his or her contract or employer to perform online notarizations, the contract or employer may require the use of a particular [remote online notarization] service provider for those online notarizations” (FS 117.265[5][a]).

Name of Service Providers: “Within 30 days of the effective date of this rule, a currently registered online notary public shall provide the Florida Department of State the name of the online notary public’s RON service providers, the effective dates during which the online notary public used each RON service provider, and, if applicable, the name of any secured repositories to which the online notary public may have delegated his or her duties pursuant to Section 117.245(4), F.S., from January 1, 2022, and thereafter” (FAC 1N-7.005[1][a]). Form DS-DOC-50 (“Online Notary Public: Required Information”) must be used by an Online Notary to report this information (FAC 1N-7.005[1][c]).

An individual registering as an Online Notary must provide the name of their remote online notarization service provider at the time of registration (FAC 1N-7.005[1][b]).

Changing Service Provider: “An online notary public may change his or her [remote online notarization] service provider or providers from time to time, but shall notify the Department of State of such change, and its effective date, within 30 days thereafter” (FS 117.265[5][b]).

“An online notary public that changes, adds, or removes a RON service provider or secured repository from the online notary public’s use shall submit to the Department within 30 days of the change an amended Form DS-DOC-50 identifying the online notary public’s updated RON service providers and, if applicable, secured repositories” (FAC 1N-7.005[1][c]).

Online Notarization Course

An applicant for registration as an online Notary must certify “that the notary public, civil-law notary, or commissioner of deeds registering as an online notary public has completed a classroom or online course covering the duties, obligations, and technology requirements for serving as an online notary public” (FS 117.225[2]).

“A 2-hour in-person or online course addressing the duties, obligations, and technology requirements for serving as an online notary public offered by the Florida Land Title Association; the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Florida Bar; the Florida Legal Education Association, Inc.; the Department of State; or a vendor approved by the Department of State shall satisfy the education requirements of [FS] s. 117.225(2). Each such provider shall make the in-person or online course generally available to all applicants. Regardless of membership in the provider's organization, the provider shall charge each attendee the same cost for the course unless the course is provided in conjunction with a regularly scheduled meeting of the provider's membership” (FS 117.295[6]).

Online Notary Bond and Insurance

An applicant for registration as an online Notary Public must provide “evidence satisfactory to the Department of State that the registrant has obtained a bond in the amount of $25,000, payable to any individual harmed as a result of a breach of duty by the registrant acting in his or her official capacity as an online notary public, conditioned for the due discharge of the office, and on such terms as are specified in rule by the Department of State as reasonably necessary to protect the public. The bond shall be approved and filed with the Department of State and executed by a surety company duly authorized to transact business in this state. Compliance by an online notary public with this requirement shall satisfy the requirement of obtaining a bond under [FS] s. 117.01(7)” (FS 117.225[6]).

Online Notary E&O Policy: An applicant for registration as an online Notary Public must provide “evidence satisfactory to the Department of State that the registrant acting in his or her capacity as an online notary public is covered by an errors and omissions insurance policy from an insurer authorized to transact business in this state, in the minimum amount of $25,000 and on such terms as are specified by rule by the Department of State as reasonably necessary to protect the public” (FS 117.225[7]).

Technology Systems

“Online notaries public shall utilize remote online notary service providers to facilitate their performance of online notarization” (FAC 1N-7.001[8]).

Approval of Providers: Not Required.

Compliance Requirement: “The remote online service provider utilized by the online notaries public shall comply with the standards and requirements pursuant to section 117.295, F.S., and utilize tamper-evident technologies” (FAC 1N-7.001[9]).

Self-Certification: “A [remote online notarization] service provider must file a self-certification with the Department of State, on a form adopted by department rule, confirming that its audio-video communication technology and related processes, services, software, data storage, or other services provided to online notaries public for the purpose of directly facilitating their performance of online notarizations satisfy the requirements of this chapter and any rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to this section. Each certification shall remain active for a period of 1 year after the date of filing. The Department of State must publish on its website a list of each [remote online notarization] service provider that has filed a self-certification, the date of filing of the self-certification, any secure repositories to which the [remote online notarization] service provider may have delegated its duties pursuant to [FS] s. 117.245(4) from January 1, 2022, and thereafter, and the effective dates of that delegation” (FS 117.295[4][a]).

“Within 30 days of the effective date of this rule, and annually thereafter, a RON service provider shall provide the Florida Department of State, a self-certification form confirming that its audio-video communication technology and related processes, services software, data storage, or other services provided to online notaries public for the performance of online notarization satisfy the requirements of Chapter 117, F.S., and any rules promulgated by the Florida Department of State pursuant to Section 117.295, F.S.” (FAC 1N-7.005[2][a]). Form Number DS-DOC-51 (“RON Service Provider: Self-Certification and Required Information”) must be used to report this information (FAC 1N-7.005[2][d]).

“The RON service provider’s self-certification is effective for a period of 1 year after the date the RON service provider files it with the Department” (FAC 1N-7.005[2][b]).

Name of Delegated Repositories: “If applicable, the RON service provider shall, at the same time it files its self-certification, identify any secure repositories to which the RON service provider may have delegated its duties pursuant to Section 117.245(4), F.S., from January 1, 2022, and thereafter” (FAC 1N-7.005[2][c]).

“A RON service provider that, pursuant to Section 117.245(4), F.S., delegates its duties to a secured repository after it has already filed its annual certification shall submit to the Department an amended Form DS-DOC-51 within 30 days after making such delegation” (FAC 1N-7.005[2][e]).

Insurance Requirement: “In addition to any coverage it elects to provide for individual online notaries public, maintenance of errors and omissions insurance coverage by a [remote online notarization] service provider in a total amount of at least $250,000 in the annual aggregate with respect to potential errors or omissions in or relating to the technology or processes provided by the [remote online notarization] service provider. An online notary public is not responsible for the security of the systems used by the principal or others to access the online notarization session” (FS 117.295[5]).

Protection of Personal Information: “A [remote online notarization] service provider may not use, sell, or offer to sell or transfer to another person for use or sale any personal information obtained under this part which identifies a principal, a witness, or a person named in a record presented for online notarization, except:
“(a) As necessary to facilitate performance of a notarial act;
“(b) To administer or process a record provided by or on behalf of a principal or the transaction of which the record is a part;
“(c) To detect fraud, identity theft, or other criminal activities;
“(d) In accordance with this part and the rules adopted pursuant to this part or any other applicable federal, state, or local law, or to comply with a lawful subpoena or court order or a lawful request from a law enforcement or regulatory agency;
“(e) To monitor and improve the audio-video communication technology and related processes, services, software, data storage, or other services offered by the [remote online notarization] service provider to online notaries public for the purpose of directly facilitating their performance of online notarizations; or
“(f) In connection with a proposed or actual sale, merger, transfer, or exchange of all or a portion of a business or operating unit of a [remote online notarization] service provider, or the dissolution, insolvency, or cessation of operations of a business or operating unit, if limited to such personal information held by that business or unit and any transferee agrees to comply with the restrictions set forth in this subsection” (FS 117.295[8]).

Authority to Perform Online Notarizations

“An online notary public may perform any of the functions authorized under part I of this chapter as an online notarization by complying with the requirements of this part and any rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to [FS] s. 117.295, excluding solemnizing the rites of matrimony” (FS 117.209[1]).

“If a notarial act requires a principal to appear before or in the presence of the online notary public, the principal may appear before the online notary public by means of audio-video communication technology that meets the requirements of this part and any rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to [FS] s. 117.295” (FS 117.209[2]).

“If a provision of law requires a notary public or other authorized official of this state to notarize a signature or a statement, to take an acknowledgment of an instrument, or to administer an oath or affirmation so that a document may be sworn, affirmed, made under oath, or subject to penalty of perjury, an online notarization performed in accordance with the provisions of this part and any rules adopted hereunder satisfies such requirement” (FS 117.215[1]).

Location of the Online Notary

“An online notary public physically located in this state may perform an online notarization as authorized under this part, regardless of whether the principal or any witnesses are physically located in this state at the time of the online notarization” (FS 117.209[3]; see also FS 117.265[1]).

“In performing an online notarization of a principal not located within this state, an online notary public must confirm, either verbally or through the principal's written consent, that the principal desires for the notarial act to be performed by a Florida notary public and under the general law of this state” (FS 117.265[3]).

Communication Technology

“Use of audio-video communication technology in completing online notarizations that must meet the following requirements:
“1. The signal transmission must be reasonably secure from interception, access, or viewing by anyone other than the participants communicating.
“2. The technology must provide sufficient audio clarity and video resolution to enable the notary to communicate with the principal and any witness, and to confirm the identity of the principal and any witness, as required, using the identification methods described in [FS] s. 117.265” (FS 117.295[3][c]).

Identification of Principal

“An online notary public shall confirm the identity of the principal by:
“(a) Personal knowledge of each principal; or
“(b) All of the following, as such criteria may be modified or supplemented in rules adopted by the Department of State pursuant to [FS] s. 117.295:
“1. Remote presentation of a government-issued identification credential by each principal.
“2. Credential analysis of each government-issued identification credential.
“3. Identity proofing of each principal in the form of knowledge-based authentication or another method of identity proofing that conforms to the standards of this chapter.
“If the online notary public is unable to satisfy subparagraphs (b)1.-3., or if the databases consulted for identity proofing do not contain sufficient information to permit authentication, the online notary public may not perform the online notarization” (FS 117.265[4]).

Credential Analysis

“Use of credential analysis using one or more commercially available automated software or hardware processes that are consistent with sound commercial practices; that aid the notary public in verifying the authenticity of the credential by analyzing the integrity of visual, physical, or cryptographic security features to indicate that the credential is not fraudulent or inappropriately modified; and that use information held or published by the issuing source or authoritative source, as available, to confirm the validity of credential details. The output of the credential analysis process must be provided to the online notary public performing the notarial act” (FS 117.295[3]b]).

Identity Proofing

“Use of identity proofing by means of knowledge-based authentication which must have, at a minimum, the following security characteristics:
“1. The principal must be presented with five or more questions with a minimum of five possible answer choices per question.
“2. Each question must be drawn from a third-party provider of public and proprietary data sources and be identifiable to the principal's social security number or other identification information, or the principal's identity and historical events records.
“3. Responses to all questions must be made within a 2- minute time constraint.
“4. The principal must answer a minimum of 80 percent of the questions correctly.
“5. The principal may be offered one additional attempt in the event of a failed attempt.
“6. During the second attempt, the principal may not be presented with more than three questions from the prior attempt” (FS 117.295[3][a]).

Online Notarial Certificate

“The electronic notarial certificate for an online notarization must include a notation that the notarization is an online notarization which may be satisfied by placing the term "online notary" in or adjacent to the online notary public's seal” (FS 117.265[7]).

“An online notary public shall attach the online notary public’s electronic signature and seal to the electronic notarial certificate of an electronic document in a manner that is capable of independent verification and renders any subsequent change or modification to the electronic document evident” (FAC 1N-7.001[7]).

Maximum Fees for Online Notarizations

For the maximum fees that an online Notary may charge, see “Fees for Notarial Acts” above.

Electronic Journal

See “Records of Notarial Acts” above for the requirement of an online Notary to keep an electronic journal of online notarizations.

Recording of Online Notarizations

See “Records of Notarial Acts” above for the requirement of an online Notary to retain audio-visual recordings of online notarizations.

Security of Electronic Journal, Signature, and Seal

“The online notary public’s electronic journal, electronic signature, and electronic seal shall be retained under the online notary public’s sole control. The online notary public may not allow another person to use the online notary public’s electronic journal, electronic signature, or electronic seal” (FAC 1N-7.001[6]).

“‘Retained under the online notary public’s sole control’ means accessible by and attributable solely to the notary to the exclusion of all other persons and entities, either through being in the direct physical custody of the notary or through being secured with one or more biometric, password, token, or other authentication technologies in an electronic notarization system that meets the performance requirements of sections 117.021(2) and (3), F.S” (FAC 1N-7.001[1][i]).

Validity of Online Notarizations

“The validity of an online notarization performed by an online notary public registered in this state shall be determined by applicable laws of this state regardless of the physical location of the principal or any witnesses at the time of the notarial act” (FS 117.209[4]).

Rulemaking

“For purposes of this part, the Department of State may adopt rules necessary to implement the requirements of this chapter and to set standards for online notarization which include, but are not limited to:
“(a) Improvements in technology and methods of assuring the identity of principals and the security of an electronic record, including tamper-evident technologies in compliance with the standards adopted pursuant to [FS] s. 117.021 which apply to online notarizations.
“(b) Education requirements for online notaries public and the required terms of bonds and errors and omissions insurance, but not including the amounts of such bonds and insurance policies.
“(c) Identity proofing, credential analysis, unauthorized interception, remote presentation, audio-video communication technology, and retention of electronic journals and copies of audio-video communications recordings in a secure repository” (FS 117.295[1]).

“The Department of State shall:
“(a) Adopt forms, processes, and rules necessary to accept applications from and register online notaries public pursuant to [FS] s. 117.225.
“(b) ”Publish on its website a list containing each online notary public, the online notary public’s [remote online notarization] service providers from January 1, 2022, and thereafter, the effective dates during which the online notary public used each [remote online notarization] service provider, as identified pursuant to [FS] ss. 117.225(5) and 117.265(5)(b), any secure repositories to which the online notary public may have delegated his or her duties pursuant to [FS] s. 117.245(4) from January 1, 2022, and thereafter, and the effective dates of that delegation” (FS 117.295[2]).

Temporary Rules for Online Notarizations

Until the Department of State adopts rules for online notarization, minimum standards for online notarizations as provided in FS 117.295[3] will apply to any online notarizations performed after January 1, 2020. The rules that the Department adopts must be equally or more protective than the minimum standards. The minimum standards are summarized under “Credential Analysis, “Identity Proofing,” and “Communication Technology” above.

Electronic Witnessing

As a part of the new online notarization law, Florida enacted provisions related to the witnessing of electronic records by the same communication technology as for online notarizations. Witnesses to electronic wills or mortgages, for example, may be in different locations. The electronic witnessing provisions extend the authority to use communication technology for these witnesses to sign electronic records. Following are the important provisions related to electronic witnessing.

Electronic Witnessing is a Notarial Act: “Supervising the witnessing of an electronic record by an online notary public in accordance with this section is a notarial act” (FS 117.285).

Meaning of Electronic Witnessing: “The act of witnessing an electronic signature means the witness is either in the physical presence of the principal or present through audio-video communication technology at the time the principal affixes the electronic signature and the witness hears the principal make a statement to the effect that the principal has signed the electronic record” (FS 117.285[3]).

Authority Granted to Online Notaries: “An online notary public may supervise the witnessing of electronic records by complying with the online notarization procedures of this part and using the same audio-video communication technology used for online notarization by a principal …” (FS 117.285).

Legality of Electronic Witnessing: “Except as set forth in [FS] s. 709.2202, an act of witnessing performed pursuant to this section satisfies any requirement that the witness must be a subscribing or attesting witness or must be in the presence of the principal at the time of signing” (FS 117.285[7]).

“Notwithstanding [FS 709.2202] subsection (1) and [FS] s. 709.2106(3), a power of attorney, executed by a principal domiciled in this state at the time of execution, that is witnessed remotely pursuant to [FS] s. 117.285 or other applicable law by a witness who is not in the physical presence of the principal is not effective to grant authority to an agent to take any of the actions enumerated in [FS 709.2202] subsection (1)” (FS 709.2202). Those actions include:
(1) creating an inter vivos trust;
(2) with respect to a trust created by or on behalf of the principal, amend, modify, revoke, or terminate the trust, but only if the trust instrument explicitly provides for amendment, modification, revocation, or termination by the settlor’s agent;
(3) making a gift, subject to [FS 709.2202] subsection (4);
(4) creating or changing rights of survivorship;
(5) Creating or changing a beneficiary designation;
(6) waiving the principal’s right to be a beneficiary of a joint and survivor annuity, including a survivor benefit under a retirement plan; or
(7) disclaiming property and powers of appointment.

Location of Witness: “The witness may be in the physical presence of the principal or remote from the principal provided the witness and principal are using audio-video communication technology” (FS 117.285[1]).

Requirements for Remote Witnesses: “If the witness is remote from the principal and viewing and communicating with the principal by means of audio-video communication technology, the principal’s and witness's identities must be verified in accordance with the procedures for identifying a principal as set forth in [FS] s. 117.265(4). If the witness is in the physical presence of the principal, the witness must confirm his or her identity by stating his or her name and current address on the audio-video recording as part of the act of witnessing” (FS 117.285[2]).

“A witness remote from the principal and appearing through audio-video communication technology must verbally confirm that he or she is a resident of and physically located within the United States or a territory of the United States at the time of witnessing” (FS 117.285[4]).

Specific Requirements for Certain Records: According to FS 117.285(5), when performing an electronic witnessing of a last will under FS 732, a revocable trust with testamentary aspects as described in FS 736.0403(2)(b), a health care directive, an agreement concerning succession or a waiver of spousal rights under FS 732.701 or 732.702, or a power of attorney authorizing any of the transactions enumerated in FS 709.2208 (FS 117.285[5] and fewer than two witnesses are in the physical presence of the principal, the online Notary must ask the principal to provide verbal answers to 5 questions in substantially the following form:
1. Are you currently married? If so, name your spouse.
2. Please state the names of anyone who assisted you in accessing this video conference today.
3. Please state the names of anyone who assisted you in preparing the documents you are signing today.
4. Where are you currently located?
5. Who is in the room with you?
The online Notary must consider the responses to these questions in carrying out the responsibility set forth in FS 117.107(5), which says, “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if it appears that the person is mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of the document at the time of notarization.”

Response to Legal Requests: “Pursuant to subpoena, court order, an authorized law enforcement inquiry, or other lawful request, a [remote online notarization] service provider or online notary public shall provide:
“(a) The last known address of each witness who witnessed the signing of an electronic record using audio-video communication technology under this section.
“(b) A principal's responses to the questions in paragraphs (5)(a) or (b), as applicable.
“(c) An uninterrupted and unedited copy of the recording of the audio-video communication in which an online notarization is performed” (FS 117.285[6]).

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REAL ESTATE PRACTICES

Notary Signing Agents

Currently, there are no statutes, regulations, or rules expressly governing, prohibiting, or restricting the operation of Notary Signing Agents within the statute of Florida.

Deed Witness Requirement

“No estate or interest of freehold, or for a term of more than 1 year, or any uncertain interest of, in or out of any messuages, lands, tenements or hereditaments shall be created, made, granted, transferred or released in any other manner than by instrument in writing, signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party creating, making, granting, conveying, transferring or releasing such estate, interest, or term of more than 1 year, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, unless by will and testament, or other testamentary appointment, duly made according to law; and no estate or interest, either of freehold, or of term of more than 1 year, or any uncertain interest of, in, to, or out of any messuages, lands, tenements or hereditaments, shall be assigned or surrendered unless it be by instrument signed in the presence of two subscribing witnesses by the party so assigning or surrendering, or by the party’s lawfully authorized agent, or by the act and operation of law. No seal shall be necessary to give validity to any instrument executed in conformity with this section. Corporations may execute any and all conveyances in accordance with the provisions of this section or [FS] ss. 692.01 and 692.02” (FS 689.01).

Recording Requirements

“(1) No instrument by which the title to real property or any interest therein is conveyed, assigned, encumbered, or otherwise disposed of shall be recorded by the clerk of the circuit court unless:
“(a) The name of each person who executed such instrument is legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument immediately beneath the signature of such person and the post-office address of each such person is legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument;
“(b) The name and post-office address of the natural person who prepared the instrument or under whose supervision it was prepared are legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument;
“(c) The name of each witness to the instrument is legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument immediately beneath the signature of such witness;
“(d) The name of any notary public or other officer authorized to take acknowledgments or proofs whose signature appears upon the instrument is legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument immediately beneath the signature of such notary public or other officer authorized to take acknowledgment or proofs;
“(e) A 3-inch by 3-inch space at the top right-hand corner on the first page and a 1-inch by 3-inch space at the top right-hand corner on each subsequent page are reserved for use by the clerk of the court; and
“(f) In any instrument other than a mortgage conveying or purporting to convey any interest in real property, the name and post-office address of each grantee in such instrument are legibly printed, typewritten, or stamped upon such instrument.
“(2) If a name or address is printed, typewritten, or stamped on an instrument in a position other than the position required by subsection (1), the clerk of the circuit court may, in her or his discretion, accept the instrument for recordation if she or he determines that the connection between the signature and the name or the name and the address is apparent.
“(3) This section does not apply to:
“(a) An instrument executed before July 1, 1991.
“(b) A decree, order, judgment, or writ of any court.
“(c) An instrument executed, acknowledged, or proved outside of this state.
“(d) A will.
“(e) A plat.
“(f) An instrument prepared or executed by any public officer other than a notary public.
“(4) The failure of the clerk of the circuit court to comply with this section does not impair the validity of the recordation or of the constructive notice imparted by recordation” (FS 695.26).

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RECOGNITION OF NOTARIAL ACTS

Notarial Acts in Florida

“Oaths, affidavits, and acknowledgments required or authorized under the laws of this state (except oaths to jurors and witnesses in court and such other oaths, affidavits and acknowledgments as are required by law to be taken or administered by or before particular officers) may be taken or administered by or before any judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of any court of record within this state, including federal courts, or by or before any United States commissioner or any notary public within this state. The jurat, or certificate of proof or acknowledgment, shall be authenticated by the signature and official seal of such officer or person taking or administering the same; however, when taken or administered by or before any judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of a court of record, the seal of such court may be affixed as the seal of such officer or person” (FS 92.50[1]).

“An acknowledgment or proof made within this state may be taken, administered, or made by or before a judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of any court; a United States commissioner or magistrate; or a notary public or civil-law notary of this state, and the certificate of acknowledgment or proof must be under the seal of the court or officer, as the case may be” (FS 695.03[1]).

Civil-Law Notaries: The Florida Secretary of State may appoint attorneys in good standing who have practiced law in the state for at least five years as “Florida civil-law Notaries” with worldwide jurisdiction. This program is of greatest benefit to Florida attorneys who practice international law and have a need to authenticate acts or attest to the validity of documents. Equivalent to the notarial officers of Latin nations (Notarios, Notaries, etc.), Florida civil-law Notaries are authorized to issue “authentic acts” and must maintain a “protocol,” or registry of their acts. Civil-law Notaries may also exercise the powers of regular Florida Notaries, including the power to perform marriages. (See FS 118.10 and 118.12; and Florida Admin. Code 1C-18.001.) The Florida Secretary of State’s office issues authenticating certificates, including apostilles, for the acts of civil-law Notaries.

“(T)here is a required exam that is preceded by an optional two day training held (at) various locations throughout the state. The location of the training and exam site is determined by the location of the majority of the pool of applicants” (Dept. of State website, “Civil Law Notary”).

The same legislative act (Chapter 97-241, Laws of 1997) that created the office of Florida civil-law Notary to interact with Latin Notaries also repealed the statutes authorizing the Florida Governor to appoint general commissioners of deeds to notarize in jurisdictions outside the state of Florida.

Notarial Acts in U.S. State or Jurisdiction

“Oaths, affidavits, and acknowledgments required or authorized under the laws of this state, may be taken or administered in any other state, territory, or district of the United States, by or before any judge, clerk or deputy clerk of any court of record, within such state, territory, or district, having a seal, by or before any notary public or justice of the peace, having a seal, in such state, territory, or district; provided, however, such officer or person is authorized under the laws of such state, territory, or district to take or administer oaths, affidavits and acknowledgments. The jurat, or certificate of proof or acknowledgment, shall be authenticated by the signature and official seal of such officer or person taking or administering the same; provided, however, when taken or administered by or before any judge, clerk, or deputy clerk of a court of record, the seal of such court may be affixed as the seal of such officer or person” (FS 92.50[2]).

“An acknowledgment or a proof taken, administered, or made outside of this state but within the United States may be taken, administered, or made by or before a civil-law notary of this state or a commissioner of deeds appointed by the Governor of this state; a judge or clerk of any court of the United States or of any state, territory, or district; by or before a United States commissioner or magistrate; or by or before any notary public, justice of the peace, master in chancery, or registrar or recorder of deeds of any state, territory, or district having a seal, and the certificate of acknowledgment or proof must be under the seal of the court or officer, as the case may be. If the acknowledgment or proof is taken, administered, or made before a notary public who does not affix a seal, it is sufficient for the notary public to type, print, or write by hand on the instrument, “I am a Notary Public of the State of (state), and my commission expires on (date)” (FS 695.03[2]).

Notarial Acts in Foreign Countries

“Oaths, affidavits, and acknowledgments, required or authorized by the laws of this state, may be taken or administered in any foreign country, by or before any judge or justice of a court of last resort, any notary public of such foreign country, any minister, consul general, charge d’affaires, or consul of the United States resident in such country. The jurat, or certificate of proof or acknowledgment, shall be authenticated by the signature and official seal of the officer or person taking or administering the same; provided, however, when taken or administered by or before any judge or justice of a court of last resort, the seal of such court may be affixed as the seal of such judge or justice” (FS 92.50[3]).

“An acknowledgment, an affidavit, an oath, a legalization, an authentication, or a proof taken, administered, or made outside of the United States or in a foreign country, may be taken, administered, or made by or before a commissioner of deeds appointed by the Governor of this state to act in such country; before a notary public of such foreign country or a civil-law notary of this state or of such foreign country who has an official seal; before an ambassador, envoy extraordinary, minister plenipotentiary, minister, commissioner, charge d’affaires, consul general, consul, vice consul, consular agent, or other diplomatic or consular officer of the United States appointed to reside in such country; or before a military or naval officer authorized by 10 U.S.C s. 1044a to perform the duties of notary public, and the certificate of acknowledgment, legalization, authentication, or proof must be under the seal of the officer. A certificate legalizing or authenticating the signature of a person executing an instrument concerning real property and to which a civil-law notary or notary public of that country has affixed her or his official seal is sufficient as an acknowledgment. For the purposes of this section, the term “civil-law notary” means a civil-law notary as defined in chapter 118 or an official of a foreign country who has an official seal and who is authorized to make legal or lawful the execution of any document in that jurisdiction, in which jurisdiction the affixing of her or his official seal is deemed proof of the execution of the document or deed in full compliance with the laws of that jurisdiction” (FS 695.03[3]).

Timeshare Commissioners of Deeds: The Florida Governor may appoint “timeshare commissioners of deeds,” with four-year terms, to notarize documents abroad related to purchase of timeshare property in a foreign country (FS 721.97).

Notarial Acts by Military Personnel

“Oaths, affidavits, and acknowledgments required or authorized by the laws of this state may be taken or administered within or without the United States by or before any commissioned officer in active service of the Armed Forces of the United States with the rank of second lieutenant or higher in the Army, Air Force or Marine Corps or ensign or higher in the Navy or Coast Guard when the person required or authorized to make and execute the oath, affidavit, or acknowledgment is a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, the spouse of such member or a person whose duties require the person’s presence with the Armed Forces of the United States” (FS 92.51[1]).

“In addition to the manner, form and proof of acknowledgment of instruments as now provided by law, any person serving in or with the Armed Forces of the United States, including the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or any component or any arm or service of any thereof, including any female auxiliary of any thereof, and any person whose duties require his or her presence with the Armed Forces of the United States, as herein designated, or otherwise designated by law or military or naval command, may acknowledge any instrument, wherever located, either within or without the state, or without the United States, before any commissioned officer in active service of the Armed Forces of the United States, as herein designated, or otherwise designated by law, or military or naval command, or order, with the rank of second lieutenant or higher in the Army or Marine Corps, or of any component or any arm or service of either thereof, including any female auxiliary of any thereof, or ensign or higher in the Navy or United States Coast Guard, or of any component or any arm or service of either thereof, including any female auxiliary of any thereof” (FS 695.031[1]).

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AUTHENTICATION OF NOTARIAL ACTS

Secretary of State

Authenticating certificates, including apostilles, are issued only by the office of Florida’s Secretary of State (FS 15.16 and 118.12) and the fees are the same for both. “A notary public is not required to record his or her notary public commission in an office of a clerk of the circuit court. If certification of the notary public’s commission is required, it must be obtained from the Secretary of State” (FS 117.103).

Fees: $10 per notarized document for a certificate of notarial authority or an apostille. Apostille certification of a certified copy of a document obtained from a clerk of the circuit court (such as a marriage license or divorce document) costs $20 per document (Dept. of State website, “Procedure for Notarial or Apostille Certification” accessible by clicking the “Procedure for Document Authentication” link). Checks or money orders payable to the “Department of State” are the only acceptable forms of payment.

Address:
Department of State
Division of Corporations
Apostille Certification
P.O. Box 6800
Tallahassee, FL 32314-6800

Telephone: 1-850-245-6945

In Person or Courier Service:
Department of State
Division of Corporations
Clifton Building, Apostille Section
2661 Executive Center Circle
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Procedure: Complete the Department of State’s Apostille and Notarial Certificate Request Form (available for download at the Department’s website). Mail or present in person the original notarized document(s), Apostille and Notarial Certificate Request Form, and the appropriate fee. If mailed, enclose an addressed, stamped return envelope or pre-paid air bill pre-addressed with the requestor’s name and address listed as both sender and recipient (website, “Frequently Asked Questions”).

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