FAQ: Who owns a notary public’s records?

By Angela Ossar, Government Information Analyst

notary book

Notary Book

A local government was doing a records inventory recently and emailed me about notary public books. The question was: “We have a notary on staff. We pay for the notary fee (new and renewal) because it is essential to the employee’s duties. Will the notary’s records be considered part of the company or are they the personal property of the notary?”

I assume that the answer is screamingly obvious to any notaries public reading this. For one thing, the Secretary of State publishes a comprehensive FAQ for notaries public.  However, it might not be so obvious to records managers who want to make sure that they are inventorying and scheduling all of their agency’s records.

Answer

The notary book belongs to the notary public.  The Secretary of State says it best:

The employer is not the owner of a notary’s record book or seal, even if the employer paid for the materials.  Tex. Atty. Gen. Op. GA-0723.  A Texas notary public is required by law to maintain a record book containing information on every notarization performed and is required to authenticate every official act with the seal of office. The record book is public information and a notary is required to produce copies of the book upon request. Therefore, the book and seal should remain in the possession of the notary at all times.

The Attorney General Opinion cited above may be found on the Attorney General’s website here. For more information on the records of notaries public, consult the Secretary of State. As their FAQ says, “Texas notaries public are governed by Chapter 406 of the Government Code, Chapter 121 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code and the secretary of state’s administrative rules found in 1 Texas Administrative Code Chapter 87, as well as any other applicable state or federal law.”

The retention period for the notary book (Acknowledgement Record) is 10 years according to Local Schedules CC and DC.

3 thoughts on “FAQ: Who owns a notary public’s records?

  1. We received a number of interesting responses to this post via email, so I’m posting a few of them below.

    Comment 1: What do you do with old notary stamps and books in a local government office other than County Clerk’s Office? RESPONSE: According to the Secretary of State’s Notary Public Unit, the local government should dispose of the seals and transfer the books to the County Clerk’s office in the county where the notary resided. See Government Code §406.022.

    Comment 2: Notary books should be listed on Local Schedule GR, since they are found in many offices other than those of the County Clerk and District Clerk. RESPONSE: Notary books are not local government records. We are not statutorily authorized to set retention periods for non-government records. However, we will take the suggestion under advisement when we work on the next edition of Local Schedule GR.

    Comment 3: One small correction for notaries for state agencies [notaries without bond]. It’s true that the notary keeps the book, but per 28 TAC 252.507(c) [an administrative rule of the State Office of Risk Management], the seal remains with the agency. RESPONSE: True! The text of that rule reads, in part: “…The stamp shall remain with the agency upon termination of state employment as state property. The original of the notary record book shall remain with the employee unless the employee resigns the commission, in which case the employee shall comply with Government Code §406.022.”

    Thanks to all our commenters for your interesting feedback! Keep the comments coming!

  2. Where do I send my notary seal, etc.? I was a notary in Bastrop County, Texas, and have moved to Fort Worth.

  3. Hi Mary, Please contact the Texas Secretary of State for official guidance on notary procedures. Notaries have statewide jurisdiction. You can update your address here.

    The SOS FAQ states: “When the commission of a notary public expires, or the individual otherwise ceases to be a notary public, the notary seal should be destroyed to prevent possible misuse by another individual.”

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