As sworn public officials, notaries public serve an important role in the prevention of fraud and protection of the
parties involved by acting as an official, unbiased witness for certain documents. Because of this
important role, all notaries should understand the duties and responsibilities of notaries public and
properly perform requested notarial acts.
Prior to performing an official act as a notary public, notaries should obtain a Notary Public Handbook
which outlines the proper procedures for notarizing a document, and use the handbook as
a reference. This handbook is available from our office. Please click here to download.
As a notary, you should be aware of some of the legal responsibilities of notaries public in the State of Maryland.
Once commissioned as a notary public, a notary may notarize documents anywhere in the State
of Maryland for four years.
It is your responsibility to determine the identity of the person requesting a notarial act. You
may not notarize a signature of a person who has not appeared before you.
A notary in the State of Maryland does not have the power to certify the authenticity of any
document – official or unofficial – other than the notary’s registry. For example, a notary
cannot notarize a passport, birth certificate, school transcript, or other document.
Notaries (other than those who are also lawyers) may not prepare legal documents, including
notarial certificates. A notary may only complete a notarial certificate which has been
A notary must include on each document the notary’s printed name, signature, date of
notarization, and expiration date of his or her commission. In addition, the notary must affix his
or her notary seal or stamp to the document.
The notary seal must contain the name of the notary as shown on the commission, the county
where commissioned, and the words "Notary Public." The notary seal ensures the integrity
and authenticity of the document.
A notary can purchase a notary seal or stamp and a registry from most office supply stores.
You may not purchase a notary seal or stamp until you have been commissioned.
A notary must maintain a registry of all notarial acts performed. Registries should
be retained for at least five years. This requirement serves to protect the notary public and as
a record of the notary's official acts. Please note that Maryland law requires that you record
every official act you perform as a notary public in your registry.
Notaries should refrain from performing any official acts for members of their immediate
family or any acts where the notary is personally involved or may benefit from the outcome of
As a notary, you can be asked to serve as an official witness, administer an oath or
affirmation, and take an acknowledgement. You must read the notarial certificate on each
document being notarized in order to know whether you are serving as an official witness,
administering an oath or affirmation, or taking an acknowledgement. If there is not a notarial
certification on the document, the only act you can perform is to serve as an official
Oaths & Affirmations: If you are asked to administer an oath or affirmation or take an acknowledgment,
you must ask the individual requesting the notarization certain questions. For an oath or affirmation,
you ask: "Do you solemnly affirm under the penalties of perjury and upon personal knowledge
that the contents of the document are true?" (Additional information about oaths and affirmations is
available on pages 9-13 of the Notary Public Handbook.)
Acknowledgments: If asked to take an acknowledgement, you must ask: "Does this document constitute your
own act and deed?" or "Are you signing this document of your own free will?" (Additional information about acknowledgments is
available on pages 13-16 of the Notary Public Handbook
Please notify the Notary Division of the Office of the Secretary of State of any name or address changes. If you have changed your name
or address since you were last commissioned, please complete the Change of Name and/or Address Form
and forward to the Notary Division.