WINSTON COUNTY - A new law regarding procedures that notaries must follow, whether they are applying for or renewing their licenses went into effect Sept. 1.
Act # 20230548, which was signed June 24, by Governor Kay Ivey, contains several changes to the current law, according to Winston County Probate Judge Sheila Moore.
The reason for the new law is due to improper procedures sometimes followed by notaries, Moore explained.
“We have had notaries who notarized something after their commission expired,” Moore cited. “You can’t notarize your own signature. We’ve had that happen.
“The person whom you are notarizing their signature, you have to see them sign it,” Moore emphasized.
“If you have Power of Attorney over somebody and you want us to notarize your signature for whomever your power of attorney is, who you are over, then you’ve got to come and (your person for whom the power of attorney is being sought),” Moore continued.
“The person who you are signing for has to be present,” she further emphasized.
Under the now-former law, a person desiring to become a notary, must be a resident of the county for which they are seeking to be a notary, as well as competent, not being convicted of any moral turpitude, Moore stated.
“I require you to be a registered voter and not be guilty of any moral turpitude crimes that would prevent you from voting,” Moore added.
Under the former law, the person seeking to be a notary must have a $25,000 corporate notary bond from an insurance company or bonding company. That has now been increased to $50,000 under the new law.
Another major change in the law is in the application process.
“You have to fill out an application,” Moore said. “It’s a two-page application.”
This application can be obtained online at the Alabama Probate Judge’s Association’s website www.alpja.org or at a probate judge’s office and must be turned in to the probate office of the applicant's county of residence, Moore further explained.
The application fee is $10, and the application will be reviewed to make sure the applicant does not have any felonies or anything pending regarding moral turpitude, she continued.
Accompanying the application must be a copy of the applicant’s current unexpired driver’s license.
“If applying in Winston County, you will need a copy of your voter registration card, not required by law but required by the office and some other probate offices across the state,” Moore indicated.
The probate office will also check to make sure the applicant is not a debtor in a bankruptcy.
Before the new law, probate judge’s offices were not required to check the application, but based their decision mainly on the word of the applicant, officials said.
The new law requires the probate office to check the Alacourt website to make sure the applicant has not been convicted of any felonies or any crimes of moral turpitude, Moore explained.
The probate office will also be required to check Pacer, a federal website, in order to verify that the applicant is not a party to any bankruptcy proceedings.
Once the application, supporting documents and required $10 fee have been received by the probate office, the office will process the application within 10 days and a notification will be made that the application has been either approved or denied.
Once the applicant receives an approval letter, that person has 30 days to present the probate judge a bond and certificate that notary training has been received on the Alabama Probate Judge’s Association website at www.alpja.org, where each step of training must be followed.
The certificate of completion must be printed and submitted with the bond or application, according to Moore.
At this point, the person seeking to be a notary will be required to have a notary bond from a bonding or insurance company payable to the state of Alabama at $50,000 and be good for four years, according to the terms of the new law.
If the applicant fails to do the above within the 30-day window, the process will be voided and the applicant must start over again, according to Moore.
The filing fee for approving and filing a bond and appointing the person as a commissioned notary public will be $53, plus any local fees that would be attached by the county, the new law indicated.
“In Winston County, you will pay $53,” stated Moore. “Those fees come from the revised law under the Code of Alabama 36-20-70 and current law of the Code of Alabama, 12-19-90 (b) (13), (39), (19) and (20).”
Under the former law, a notary public can be entitled to a reasonable fee of $5, but, under the new law, it will permit a reasonable fee not to exceed $10.
A notary public authorizes signatures on various documents such as wills, deeds, power of attorney, mortgages and other important documents, according to Moore.
It is also suggested, but not required, that a notary public keep a notary journal for verification if needed that includes each notary act the notary performs, in case testimony is needed in a court proceeding, Moore concluded.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.