To notaries, the bond is a necessary step towards getting licensed as a notary public, assuming that it is required in your state.
Broadly speaking, the bond exists to financially safeguard notary mistakes that cause financial harm to members of the general public. Here’s an example:
Adam wants to buy a car that is titled to Bob, so they go to their local notary public to finalize the transaction and transfer the car title to Adam. When they go to the local notary, the notary attempts to validate their identity by asking for their driver license. Adam has his license but Bob claims that he’s lost his license and is waiting for his new license to arrive. Seeing that both Adam and Bob want to get the deal done today, the notary public asks to see a picture of Bob’s license (instead of a physical copy) and accepts that as proof of identification. The notary then instructs Bob and Adam to sign the title and notarizes their signature, finalizing the transaction.
A few weeks later, it’s revealed that “Bob” is actually “Ben”, Bob’s brother, and that the photo of the license shown was photoshopped. The real Bob was out on a business trip and had no intention of selling his car. In this situation, it’s perfectly valid for Bob to make a claim against the notary’s bond because the notary failed in their duty to verify and confirm identity.
No, notary bonds are meant to protect the public, while notary E&O insurance is meant to protect the notary. In the case of a notary bond, if someone were to make a claim on the bond, the notary is expected to repay the surety company for the claim amount. For E&O, the notary is not expected to repay the insurance company for losses and damages. It’s even commonplace for a notary’s E&O insurance to cover repayments to notary bond should claims occur on the bond.
Notary bonds are meant to satisfy state regulatory requirements for becoming a notary public. As a result, there is no reason to acquire a bond at an amount that is greater than what is required by the state.
The first step is checking if your state requires a notary bond, using the table above. Once you’re sure you need a bond, you can purchase the bond from us and we’ll send a PDF copy of the bond to you directly via email, after which you can then file it with your local state’s commissioning official. For notaries, the bond is filed alongside the application. For renewing notaries, the bond is required to be filed roughly a month prior to the notary commission’s end date.
This varies greatly per state. 20 out of 30 states have no requirement. For the states that do require a bond, the amounts vary from $500 - $25,000, with an average of $8,950.
The price of notary bonds are based on the risk of each bond in the state as determined by individual insurance companies. As a result of this, difference insurance companies may price a bond differently for the same state. We work with multiple insurance companies to ensure that we can get the lowest price for our customers. If you find a lower price elsewhere, let us know and we’ll do our best to match it.
A rider to a notary bond is a document utilized for modifying an already existing bond. The most common modifications involve updating the principal's name, county, or bond dates. Not every state mandates a rider for effecting such modifications. If you need to make a modification to your bond, shoot us and email or give us a call and we’ll take care of the paperwork.
The surety company's claims department will conduct an investigation into the claim and reach out to you to gather information. They will likely request a copy of the Notary journal record for the notarization, as well as other relevant details to assist in their assessment of the claim. A pending claim does not necessarily mean a financial loss will occur, as the claim may prove to be unfounded or denied by the surety. If the surety company determines that the claim has merit, they will either negotiate a settlement with the claimant or pay up to full bond amount. It's also likely that the surety will require you to reimburse them for any payments they make to resolve the claim.
As a notary, you should conduct your business in an honest and transparent manner to minimize claims. Specifically, here are a few rules of thumbs you should always aim to follow when processing notary requests:
Require signers to be present in person: Notaries should always only notarize documents where all signers are present. Failure to require personal appearance is the number one notary violation and the most common reason why notaries get sued.
Identify your signer: Notaries should always aim to identify all signers before notarizing documents. Asking for a state approved ID is the most common method of verifying a person’s identity. In certain cases, personally knowing the signer or having a sworn verification from an identifying witness can also serve as identification.
Don’t notarize documents with blank spaces: This is an absolute no brainer, as documents with blank lines leave room for modification and fraud. Several states even have laws that prohibit the notarization of documents with blank spaces. Always checking that blanks are filled before notarizing is a must have practice for notaries.
Be impartial to the transaction: A notary is meant to be an unbiased witness who is personally and professionally unaffected by the document. There have been cases where notarized documents are discredited on the grounds that the notary has a financial interest in the transaction. Avoid notarizing anything with your name on it, and also avoid notarizing for friends and family.
Don’t advise and don’t pressure: A notary should never give advice regarding the transaction or pressure the signers in any way. All signatures before the notary must be a voluntary act uninfluenced by the notary. This is especially important when it comes to legal advice. A notary is not a lawyer and should never give legal advice, as doing so opens up the notary to the possibility of future lawsuits if the signer is financially harmed by it.
Keep a journal: Recording notary acts in a journal is an important protection against liability. It acts as a record of entry for notarization and comes in handy if a notary is asked about a notary act in the event of a claim. Notaries that don’t keep a journal would be unlikely to remember details that occurred months ago. A best practice we recommend is to ask a document signer to leave a signature or even a thumbprint in the journal. This can significantly deter fraud and can be a useful record if the notary ever needs to testify in court.
This question is meant more for the general public than for notaries. If you need to make a claim on a notary bond, you can do so by contacting the relevant state government official with which the bond is filed. If the bond was filed in a specific county, then you’ll need to find the name of the county where the bond was filed and contact them to request a copy of the bond to make a claim. The bond is a publicly available document and can be obtained for a fee. The bond paper will list the surety company that the notary is bonded with. You can then contact the surety company to make a claim. Each surety company has their own claim process.