A Texas notary is a person or proven integrity appointed by the Secretary of State for a four-year term to serve the public as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents. The notary’s seal and official signature on a document proves that the notary is commissioned by the Secretary of State to perform such notarial acts and has identified the signers properly, that the signer was personally present at the time the notarial act was performed, and that the notary ensured the signer was aware of the consequences of signing the document. If you wish to become a Texas notary, it is vital to familiarize yourself with a notary’s authorized duties to avoid exceeding the scope of your notarial authority and incurring penalties or liabilities.
Under Texas Government Code 406.106, there are five duties a Texas notary is authorized to perform with statewide jurisdiction:
1- Taking Acknowledgments
Taking an acknowledgment is one of the most common notarial acts. In an acknowledgment, the signer, whose identity has been verified, declares to a Texas notary that he or she has willingly signed the document. The following steps are required when taking an acknowledgment:
- The signer must physically appear before the notary or, in case of online notarization, must appear by interactive two-way audio and video communication.
- The notary must positively identify the signer.
- The signer may either sign the document in the notary’s presence or prior to appearing before the notary.
- The signer must acknowledge signing the document for its intended purpose
2- Administering Oaths and Affirmations
Affidavits need to be verified by oath or by solemn affirmation. An oath is a solemn statement pledging to God or a higher power, while an affirmation is a pledge made on a person's own honor and does not mention a deity. Both are formalized vows.
When administering an oath or affirmation, make sure the individual swears or affirms the truthfulness of his or her statement. The individual must appear before the notary, either physically or online by interactive two-way audio and video communication.
This notarial act involves a bodily act in which the oath taker raises his or her right hand in a pledging gesture. Alternatively, an oath taker may place a hand over his or her heart.
Before an applicant becomes a Texas notary and begins performing his or her official duties, he or she must take an oath of office. In this oath, the notary promises to obey the laws of Texas and to faithfully carry out the duties of a Texas notary public.
3- Protesting Instruments
The Texas notary public may protest instruments only when they are permitted by law to be protested. Primarily, protests involve negotiable instruments, bills, and notes. When protesting instruments, the “protestor” makes a formal declaration expressing his or her personal objection or disapproval of an act. Thereafter, a notary makes a written statement at the request of the protestor who is the holder of a negotiable instrument, in which the notary describes the instrument and declares that it was dishonored by nonacceptance or non-payment. The document also states the reasons for the refusal.
The protestor must appear personally before the Texas notary public or, in the case of an online notarization, must appear by interactive two-way audio and video communication. Then the Texas notary needs to have personal knowledge of the protestor or other satisfactory evidence of his or her identity.
4- Taking Depositions
Texas law authorizes Texas notaries to take a written deposition in Texas. A deposition is a method of taking the testimony, under oath, of witnesses before a court proceeding. The deposition may be admitted into evidence at trial. The Texas notary public must affix his certificate and signature to the deposition under his official seal. The certificate must state the following:
- The witness took an oath.
- The deposition was reduced to writing.
- The deposition was written and signed in the notary's presence.
- The deposition was taken at the time and place provided therein.
6- Certifying Copies
Texas notaries are allowed to certify copies of original documents as true copies. The duty of a notary in this instance is to personally make a photocopy of an original unaltered document and certify that the copy is a true copy. A Texas notary CANNOT certify a copy of a public record or a publicly recorded document. That is, a Texas notary cannot certify a copy of an original if certified copies can be requested from a government agency or other institution that issues certified copies of official documents. For example, a notary can never certify copies of birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce records, school transcripts, tax returns, deeds, mortgages, or any other document that is in government custody or that has been recorded in the public records.
A Texas notary public can perform these five authorized duties through both traditional notarizations and online notarizations. However, a Texas notary is prohibited from:
- Issuing an identification card
- Helping to prepare legal documents
- Advertising as a “notario publico”
- Assisting with immigration matters
- Giving legal advice or accepting fees for legal advice if not licensed to practice law in Texas
- Signing documents using a name other than the name in which he or she was commissioned
The American Association of Notaries has been helping Texans become notaries since 1994. We are a one-stop-shop for all your notary needs. Click here to learn how to become a notary in Texas.