Montana’s notary laws are found in Title 1, Chapter 5, Part 6 of the Montana Code Annotated. (MCA) There were significant changes made to this Part by the 2019 Legislature., including the full enactment of technology based notarization and a clarification of many of the terms and practices of notarial officers.
The Rules governing notaries public are found in Title 44, Chapter 15, Subchapter 1 of the Administrative Rule of Montana (A.R.M.)
The Montana Secretary of State expects all Montana notaries public to always uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity in the performance of their official duties. While the state has not formally adopted a Code of Ethics for Montana notaries, we look to the American Society of Notaries’ Code of Ethics, the National Notary Association’s Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility , and the Signing Professionals Workgroup’s Notary Signing Agent Code of Conduct as authoritative guidelines for the ethical behavior and practices that are the intended hallmark of a practicing Montana Notary Public.
HIGHLIGHTS OF 2019 CHANGES TO MONTANA’S NOTARY LAWS
This is not a comprehensive list of the changes made by HB 370. Notaries are advised to thoroughly read and understand all laws and Administrative Rules, both new and those previously enacted, before performing notarial duties.
Effective October 1, 2019:
- All notaries – new and renewing – must pass the Montana Notary Public Exam as a prerequisite for applying for a notary commission. You must submit the certificate showing you passed the exam with your application, bond, and filing fee.
- 1-5-620. Examination and education of notary public — fee. (1) An applicant for a new or renewed commission as a notary public in this state shall pass an examination administered by the secretary of state or by an entity approved by the secretary of state…
- The new bond amount for Montana notaries is $25,000. The Secretary of State has specified a new bond form which must be used for all commissions with an effective date of October 1, 2019 or later. The new bond form includes the Statement and Oath of Office that must be completed and notarized. Your bonding company should have the new bond form and be aware of this change. If you are applying for a notary commission on or after October 1, and receive a bond for $10,000 or one on a form that does not have the Statement and Oath of Office on the bottom half of the bond face page, please contact your bonding agent.
- The legislature enacted full Remote Online Notarization (RON), remote notarization on tangible records, as well as In-Person Electronic Notarization (IPEN). Notaries who are interested in providing technology-based notarial services can find more information in the Montana Notary Public Handbook.
- In concert with the enactment of technology-based notarizations, there are statutorily defined methods for identifying a signer (principal) who is appearing to the notary by means of communication technology such as Dynamic Knowledge-based Authentication (DKBA), Credential Analysis, Public Key Certificate or other approved methods. This information can also be found in the Handbook.
- There are three new notarial acts allowed in Title 1, Chapter 5, Part 6 of the MCA: ) Certification of Fact; b.) Certification of Life, and; Certification of a Photograph. More information about how to perform these acts can be found in the Montana Notary Public Handbook.
- There are new requirements and instructions regarding notary journals.
- What may not be recorded in a notary’s journal:
1-5-618 (4)… A notary public may not record in the journal a social security number, passport number, driver’s license number, birth date, or any other information prohibited by the secretary of state. A notary public may include other information descriptive of the record, including the number of pages in a document, whether the document was written in a foreign language, or other information pertaining to the record that is not otherwise prohibited by law or rule.
- Requests for copies of journal entries:
1-5-618 (6)… (a) Any person may inspect or obtain a copy of an entry in a notary public’s journal if: (i) the person specifies in a signed tangible or electronic request the month, year, type of record, and name of the principal; (ii) the notary public does not surrender possession or control of the journal;(iii) the person is shown or given a copy of only the entry specified; and (iv) the notary is satisfied that a person requesting the inspection or copy does not have a criminal or other illegal purpose for inspecting the entry or obtaining the copy. (b) A journal may be examined and copied without restriction: (i) by a law enforcement officer in the course of an official investigation; (ii) if subpoenaed by court order; or (iii) at the direction of the secretary of state.
- Retention of journals:
1-5-618 (9) (a) Except as provided in subsection (9)(b), a notary public shall retain a journal for 10 years after the performance of the last notarial act chronicled in the journal. (b) A former notary public may transmit the journal to a repository approved by the secretary of state.
(10) On the death or adjudication of incompetency of a current or former notary public, the notary public’s personal representative or guardian or any other person knowingly in possession of the notary public’s journal or audiovisual recordings shall transmit all journals and recordings to a repository approved by the secretary of state.(11) Upon revocation of a notary public’s commission, the notary shall transmit the notary’s journal and audiovisual recordings to a repository approved by the secretary of state.
- The secretary of state has created a form that must be submitted when a notary wishes to surrender custody of the journal to another person or entity.
- What may not be recorded in a notary’s journal:
- Short-form certificates for all notarial acts authorized in this Part can be found in 1-5-610, MCA.
- Notaries are specifically prohibited from affixing their official signature and stamp to a document without completing a full notarial certificate.
- 1-5-625(1) A notary public may not… (d) affix the notary public’s official signature or stamp to any record that does not contain the notary public’s completed notarial certificate, unless otherwise directed by statute or rule…
- Notaries public are now authorized to solemnize marriages in the state of Montana.
- It is a criminal offense, punishable by a fine up to $2,500 or 1 year in jail, to intentionally withhold a notary’s journal, stamp, or certificate of commission or to fraudulently use, alter, deface, or take other unlawful actions regarding a notarial certificate.
- 1-5-632. Unlawful acts — penalties. (1) It is unlawful to: (a) intentionally withhold from a notary public the notary public’s official stamp, journal, or certificate of commission of a notary public; (b) attach, photocopy, alter, or otherwise reproduce a notary public’s signature, stamp, or completed notarial certificate for use on a record other than the original record for which it was intended; (c) knowingly destroy, deface, or conceal a notarial record; (d) change, modify, correct, or in any other way amend a notarial certificate, except as provided in 1-5-609(5).(2) A person convicted of an offense under this section is subject to a fine not to exceed $2,500, incarceration for a period not to exceed 1 year, or both, for each offense.
Effective July 1, 2020
All notaries will be required to complete certified training approved by the secretary of state as a prerequisite for obtaining a commission.
- 1-5-620. Examination and education of notary public… (3) On and after July 1, 2020, in addition to passing the examination: (a) for a new commission, the applicant must have completed within the previous 12 months at least 4 hours of notary public education approved by the secretary of state or by the commission of continuing legal education; (b) to renew a commission, an applicant must have completed: (i) within the previous 12 months, at least 4 hours of notary public continuing education approved by the secretary of state or by the commission of continuing legal education; or (ii) in each of the previous 3 years, at least 2 hours of notary public continuing education approved by the secretary of state or by the commission of continuing legal education.