John P. McDonough, Secretary of State    

Notary Division


Frequently Asked Questions


Who may apply for appointment as a notary public?

Any person who is

  • At least 18 years of age,
  • Of known good character, integrity and abilities, and
  • Living or working in the State of Maryland.

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To whom is application made?

An application is submitted to the Secretary of State with a non-refundable $20.00 processing fee. It then goes to the State Senator of the applicant's senatorial district. If the Senator approves the application, it is returned to the Secretary of State, and appointment will be made upon approval of the Governor.

Applications submitted to the Secretary of State by out-of-state persons are transmitted to a State Senator chosen by the applicant. Usually, the Senator chosen is the one where the applicant works or the one whose jurisdiction is closest to the applicant's residence.

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How is an applicant notified of an appointment?

After appointment by the Governor, a commission (the written statement of the appointment) is prepared. The commission is sealed with the Great Seal of the State and is signed by the Governor and Secretary of State. The applicant is then notified to appear before the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County, or Baltimore City, in which the applicant resides.

Out-of-state applicants appear before the Clerk of the Circuit of the County, or Baltimore City, in which the endorsing Senator has jurisdiction.

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What proceedings take place before the Clerk of the Circuit Court?

The appointee must pay a fee of $10.00 for the commission and $1.00 registration fee to the Clerk and take the oath of office. The appointee then receives the commission and is qualified to act as a notary public.

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How long is a notary public commission valid?

A notary public commission is valid from the time the person qualified before the Clerk of the Circuit Court until four years from the date the commission was issued. The expiration date is shown on each commission.

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How can a notary public commission be renewed?

The Secretary of State will send a renewal application at or before the expiration of the commission term. The notary public should submit the completed application to the Secretary of State with the required processing fee. Upon approval, the notary public will be issued a notice of renewal. It is the duty of the notary public to appear, pay the fees and qualify before the Clerk of the Court within 30 days after issuance of notice of renewal. Failure to qualify within 30 days after notice constitutes a revocation of the appointment and commission.

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What action should a notary take when a name or address is changed?

Whenever the name of a notary is changed, the notary may continue to perform official acts under the name in which the notary was commissioned, until the expiration of commission. However, it is preferable to use the form New Name, commissioned as Prior Name. The notary shall, within 30 days after a change of name or address notify the Secretary of State and the Clerk of the Circuit Court of the County, or Baltimore City, depending upon where the notary received the commission.

A notary who wishes to obtain a commission in a new name may do so by requesting a name change application from the Secretary of State, which is to be completed and returned, along with the old commission. The notary must appear before the Clerk to be sworn in and pay an administrative fee of $8.00. When a new commission is issued because of a change of name, the previous commission held in the old name is canceled.

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May a married woman who is a notary public use her maiden name on her seal?

The Attorney General has given an opinion that a married woman may use her maiden or married name on her notary commission and seal. The name chosen must agree, on the commission, on the seal, and as she signs her name on the certification. She may choose either name, but whichever she chooses, the use must be consistent. That is, her name as used as a notary public, should be the same one used for other purposes: business, professional, or personal. Based upon an earlier court case, the opinion stated that a married female may retain her given birth name by using it exclusively, consistently, and non-fraudulently.

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May a notary public notarize a document which does not contain a notarial certificate after the signature line?

Yes, a recent change in Maryland law does permit a Maryland notary to act as a witness in his or her official capacity, even if the document does not contain a notarial certificate after the signature line. Please remember a notary should not affix certificate wording to a document if it does not already exist. Adding certificate wording could change the legal meaning of your notarization.

A notary public acting as a witness in the notary's official capacity is required to follow this procedure:

  1. Obtain satisfactory proof of the identity of the person signing the document.
  2. Observe the signing of the document.
  3. Date and Sign the document.
  4. Apply the notary's embossing seal or stamp to the document.
  5. Apply the notary's commission expiration date to the document.
  6. Record the notarization in the notary's Register of Official Acts.

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May a notary public act as a notary in another state?

A notary public commission issued by the State of Maryland does not authorize the holder to act as a notary public in another state or the District of Columbia. Similarly, a notary public of another state may not act as a notary public in Maryland, unless the person also holds a commission issued by Maryland.

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May a notary public perform official duties in a situation with which the notary is personally involved?

As a general rule, a notary public should not do any official act with regard to any matter in which the notary is personally involved, whether that involvement is direct or indirect. To minimize personal involvement, notaries should refrain from performing official acts for members of their immediate families, even though not ordinarily under a legal duty to refrain.

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Under what circumstances may a notary refuse to notarize a document?

As a public officer, a notary should perform any notarial power to any individual who makes a reasonable and lawful request for notarization. A notary may, however, refuse to notarize a document if the notarization would result in an illegal or improper act or the notary knows that the transaction is fraudulent.

Generally, a notary should not refuse to notarize a document solely because the individual requesting notarization is not a client or customer of the notary or the notary's employer. Because the notary is a public official, a notary public should be available to perform notarial services for the public at large.

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What records must a notary keep?

Each notary public is required by law to keep a fair register of all official acts performed. A fair register would include at least:

  • The name and address of each person coming before the notary;
  • The date when they appeared;
  • The method by which each person was identified to the notary;
  • The type of official act (oath or affirmation, acknowledgment, protest);
  • The type of document involved (deed, mortgage, lease, motor vehicle form, deposition, etc.);
  • The fee charged; and
  • Signature(s) of person(s) signing document.

A notary can purchase a fair register or journal from most office supply stores.

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What is the certificate which is completed by a notary public?

The certificate of the notary public is a form of receipt which the notary completes to show that an acknowledgment has been taken or oath administered. The certificate of a notary public is the act of an officer of the State, and, therefore, carries great legal weight. Please remember a notary should not affix this certificate wording to a document themselves.

Because the certificate is so important, severe criminal penalties are imposed by law for the making of a false certificate. Therefore, a notary must possess a clear under- standing of notarial duties, and ensure that they are performed accurately.

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Who furnishes the seal of office?

Each notary public must furnish, at his or her own expense, a seal of office. It is a public seal, even though the notary public purchased it. The notary public should use great care to see that it is not lost, stolen, or misused. A notary can purchase a fair register or journal from most office supply stores.

What must the seal contain?

The seal must be either an embosser which makes a raised impression in the paper or a rubber stamp which makes an ink impression upon the paper. Both are in general use throughout the State. Either type must contain the following:

  • The name of the notary public as it appears on the notary's commission;
  • The words Notary Public;
  • The County (or the City of Baltimore) for which the notary was appointed. The seal may also contain a symbol or device chosen by the notary public, but a symbol or device is not required and is not normally used.

Please note the seal contains the above information and should not include certificate wording which adds an oath, affirmation, or acknowledgement to the document.

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May a notary public certify a copy of a public record?

A notary public has no authority to certify a copy of a public record, a publicly recorded document, a school record or diploma, a professional license, or any other public or private document or record which does not pertain to the notary public's official acts.

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What charges and fees may a notary public make?

In accordance with State Government Article ยง18-112 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, the Secretary of State is authorized to issue regulations regarding notarial fees. Regulations were issued and became effective on November, 2000, outlined as follows:

  • A notary public may demand and receive a fee of not more than $2.00 for the performance of an original notarial act
  • When a notary public is requested to notarize more than one copy of the same document, where the copy or copies have been signed at the same time by the person or persons, the notary may demand and receive not more than $2.00 for notarizing each signature on the original or first copy of the document, and may demand and receive not more than $1.00 for each signature on each additional copy of the same document
  • When a notary public is requested to make reproductions of a notarized document by photocopying or other means, the notary may demand and receive not more than $1.00 for each copy furnished
  • A notary public may charge up to 31¢ per mile and a fee not to exceed $5, as compensation for travel required for the performance of a notarial act.

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Can a notary public be removed from office?

A notary public, like other civil officers of the State, may be removed from office by the Governor for incompetency or misconduct.

Are there any criminal penalties imposed for wrongful conduct by a notary public?

The criminal law of Maryland imposes fines and terms of imprisonment for the following wrongful conduct of any person, including a notary public. These criminal penalties are in addition to any action for removal by the Governor. Among the offenses particularly significant to notaries public are those which pertain to:

  • Unlawfully, falsely and corruptly affixing a public seal, such as a notarial seal, to any deed, warrant, or other writing
  • Misconduct (malfeasance, misfeasance, nonfeasance) in office by improperly performing duties imposed by law.
  • Practice of law by one who is not an attorney admitted to practice by the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

Of course, improper conduct by notaries public may involve violations of other laws. The three examples set forth above are mentioned to illustrate the care with which notaries public must perform their duties.

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