Saturday, December 9, 2017

Alabama SB 54 - More than just a Senate Bill for Notaries

It's been nearly six years since Senate Bill 54 became law in January 2012, affecting thousands of notaries throughout Alabama.   So why blog about it now?  Well, it isn't the first time and it won't be the last because there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of notaries who never heard of it.

SB 54 is important because it is the only document that outlines Alabama's current Notary Public duties and requirements.  Everything else that existed previously was replaced by SB 54.  If a notary still relies on instructions and handbooks dated prior to 2012, she's using outdated information which could pose problems down the line.

Most notaries will have tons of questions after reading the law. It is silent about the use of notary journals, credible witnesses, and copy certifications.  It does address the notary fee increasing to $5.00; but says nothing about the types of ID notaries should accept to identify signers, and if we can notarize for family members.

As someone who notarizes 10-20 signatures a week, and trains other notaries, I find the lack of a true handbook to be frustrating and challenging.  If I teach class strictly by what's outlined in SB 54, it would take less than thirty minutes, and notaries still wouldn't know the difference between an Acknowledgement, Jurat and Copy Certification (the three most common notarial acts).  So instead, I combine Alabama Notary Law (SB 54) with nationally-accepted, notary best practice.  I am careful to explain the difference to students and let them decide how to proceed.  For now, it's the best I can do.

A copy of SB 54 in its entirety is found on our website (Notaries for Alabama).  For more information about notary classes and other events, call our office or join us on Facebook where we have a private group, and where all commissioned Alabama notaries are welcome.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Importance of Networking for Professional Notaries

I was reminded earlier this month of the importance and benefits of networking with others.  Our office at Notaries for Alabama receives about ten calls every week from people looking for a notary public.  Since I no longer reside in Jefferson County, Alabama I've been referring those requests to notaries in that area. I have a list of men and women who provide traveling notary services in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville.

Last week a call came in from an attorney who was in a bind. He needed an experienced notary to meet with him, nurses, doctors and other professionals for 1 1/2 days screening potential clients for a case.  The notary would notarize signatures on Affidavits.  He was offering $25 per hour.

I thought about accepting the assignment myself. I didn't have any appointments scheduled for those days and the work sounded interesting.  The problem, however, was that it would take me 1 1/2 hours to drive from my home to Jefferson County one-way. When I calculated the gas and time on the road for the trip there and back just didn't make sense.  So I sent a text to the list of notaries I knew who covered that area.  Everyone on the list is affiliated with Notaries for Alabama in some form or fashion. Some are paid members of the group and have been for 2-3 years.  Others, are former students of Notary Basics - a 4 1/2 hour training class sponsored by Notaries for Alabama.  Everyone on my list had asked me to send work their way when requests came in  Thankfully, a guy who had attended a recent Notary Basics training class was interested in the assignment.  He was also a notary signing agent  I gave him the attorney's name and number and told him the fee the attorney offered and then explained it was up to him to accept the attorney's fee or set his own fee.  Later that night I received a text from the attorney thanking me for locating the notary.

Fast forward to three days ago.  I was back in Birmingham for our notary group's final membership meeting for the year.  Notaries for Alabama has been holding meetings in Birmingham since 2013. The notary who took the assignment was there. It was his first member meeting.   I hadn't talk to him since I referred that job to him.  During a break he thanked me again for the work.  I asked him to tell the group about it and he did.  He said once he had a better understanding of what was required of him and the scope of the project he asked the attorney for more money. When he left the assignment he had earned just a little more than $1,000.00 - for 1 1/2 days of notary work.  Not bad, right?

Notaries for Alabama has been in existence since 2013. Its main objective was and continues to be to provide training, mentoring and networking opportunities to Alabama's notaries.  We've accomplished that and more.  If you are a notary or are interested in becoming one, make sure we have your name and email address so that we can make you aware of training and networking events around the state. If you aren't connected to other notaries, or to a notary group or association you're missing out.

Make sure you're connected in 2017.  You can reach us at

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I'm like an onion. What are you?

I’m like an onion.

As far as vegetables are concerned, something tells me that the onion would be the last item a woman would use to describe herself.  Short, round and prone to making folks cry is less than desirable in most circles. However, the onion seems appropriate because the longer I live more I learn about myself.  There's a lot more to me than I'd previously thought.

This week I learned that I don’t like surprises.

I like structure. While I’m not an extreme planner I have a To-Do List on my iPhone.  There’s a whiteboard on the wall of my home office with major projects that must get done by yearend, or there’s hell to pay (so to speak).

This week I conducted a Notary Clinic for a new client - thirty notaries.  I had weeks to prepare and was pleased with the way everything turned out. All but three notaries showed up.  The PowerPoint presentation worked flawlessly and there was plenty of time for questions.  The applause at the end of the Clinic seemed sincere.  I was able to offer the right information, at the right time, for the right audience.

Before I could leave, the regional director pulled me aside and asked if I’d be willing to conduct the same training for another region’s meeting.  I answered, “Sure. When is it?“  He replied, “The day after tomorrow”.


I was shocked. The proverbial “cat had my tongue”.  I had other deadlines and meetings on my calendar. To top it off, the location of this second training was about 300 miles away.  I wanted more time to prepare. I wanted to “plan”.  But part of me knew that this was an awesome opportunity - one that I'd been hoping and praying for, for a very long time.  But why now?!

Thankfully, the director gave me time to “check my calendar” and when I replied two hours later I accepted his offer.

So what did I learn?  That at times I can be inflexible and single-minded when a situation calls for me to be spontaneous and amenable. Fact is, if I’m not careful I might miss out on future great opportunities (miss my blessing).

So, back to that onion analogy.  There's more layers to an onion than you think. I had no idea that I have these personality traits or habits  But now, after peeling back each layer I see more of me. Will I do better now that I know this about myself?  I hope so.  I realize that my plans are not always the BEST plans.

Should any tears get shed along the way, let’s hope it'll be tears of joy, not from pain.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Just Vote!

I called my 87 year old mother this evening and the first thing she asked was, “Did you vote?”  

Voting for me started long before I turned 18.   I was four years old when my parents took me to the polls and explained what they were doing and why.  It seemed important to them, so it became important to me.

When I moved from California to Upstate New York, my maternal grandmother made me to accompany her to the polls.  I have to admit. I was impressed that “the old lady” walked several blocks to her polling place even when there was snow on the ground.

Auntie, mom’s sister, worked at the polls for years.  Earlier today, I watched as my Newsfeed on Facebook filled up with posts from siblings, cousins and friends with selfies of them returning from the polls with their 'I voted" sticker.  I am surrounded by men and women who take voting seriously.

It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican, Independent, Democrat, Green, or something else (is there anything else?).  I hope you voted your conscious today. If you did, I believe we’ll be better off in the long run.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Notaries are "kind, smart, and important".

Last year at this time a small group of Birmingham Notaries were gearing up for a big celebratory event - National Notary Public Day, on November 7th.

Perhaps you saw us - racing through town to pick up our newly designed tee-shirts.  We may have passed you on Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd as we hurried downtown to the Birmingham Library to decorate.  Or, maybe you were one of the lucky ones who stopped by the Library on November 7th to take advantage of our free notary services.  It was a big deal. Elected Officials stopped by.  Proclamations were read. Speeches were made.  Signatures were notarized.

This year, our notary group, Notaries for Alabama, is gearing up once again to bring attention to the important role notaries play, not only in Birmingham, but all across Alabama.  It's a role that carries a lot of responsibility but rarely gets much recognition.

On Tuesday, November 4th, we will host a "Notary Clinic" for 25-30 small business owners, who are notaries or employ notaries. On Saturday, November 15th, Notaries for Alabama will provide a delicious lunch to the women and children of a local shelter. We want them to know that Alabama Notaries care about them.

Are there Notaries in your office?  If so, stop by their desk or office this week and let them know you appreciate them.  A "thank you" will suffice, but if you really want to make an impression, take a few minutes and ask them how they use their Notary Commission at work.  You just might be surprised by what you learn.

Are you a Notary?  Whether you reside in Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, New York, or somewhere else, there's a good chance there are events planned for you this week.  Just check with your local notary association, or Secretary of State office.

It isn't a Holiday.  There are no gifts to unwrap or turkey to carve.  But it is an important day that recognizes important men and women, who perform a very important role in our communities.  Tell a Notary that you care.

National Notary Public Day will be recognized across America on Friday, November 7, 2014.  Events will be held beginning today through the end of the month.

*Note:  In the above photo taken 7-November 2013 (from left to right): Michelle Riley, Founder, Notaries for Alabama; The Honorable Jim Bennett, Alabama Secretary of State; Willie Osborne, Notaries for Alabama; Mr. Charles Long, Birmingham Mayor's Office, State Representative Rod Scott (55th District); and Harriette Littleton, Charter Member, Notaries for Alabama. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Daylight Savings - Is There Something Magical About That Extra Hour?

How did you spend your extra hour?

Last night (or early this morning), due to Daylight Savings, many Americans set their clocks back by one hour.  So what did you do with that extra sixty minutes?

Did you party longer Saturday night?  Did you sleep for an extra hour on Sunday morning?

I chose to use my extra hour finishing a project that had been lingering for weeks.  I don't know why it took so long, but it did.  You know what?  There might be something magical about this extra hour we lose in spring and recover in fall.  The editing changes that I'd been struggling to finish over the last six weeks came easily to me this morning.  I knew immediately what to cut and what to add.  There was no agonizing or second guessing on my part. The final document looks so much better now.  I guess I just needed that extra hour to figure it out.

Whatever you did with your extra hour, I hope it was performing an activity that mattered to you.  And yes, sleeping matters!

Enjoy your day - all 25 hours of it!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Got A Complaint? Take A Message!

Last week, I received a call from a Notary wanting to file a formal complaint.  Not against me, or the notary group I founded nearly two years ago, Notaries for Alabama.  Someone who I'll call "Nancy" (not her real name) said she wanted to file a complaint against a fellow notary.  According to Nancy, she needed her signature notarized on one form and a notary wanted $15 to do it.

           Nancy:   "Michelle, isn't the notary fee in Alabama just $5?"

           Me:        "Yes, the fee increased to $5 in January 2012."

           Nancy:   "Well, I want someone to know that this notary is overcharging people."

I couldn't help but smile as I explained to Nancy, who by the way is also a notary,  that my organization is powerless in this situation.  I went on to tell her that it wasn't the first time a notary had overcharged someone.
In 2005, a state representative contacted then Alabama Attorney General, Troy King, and asked for an official Opinion in a matter concerning a notary who charged more than the state allowed.  In short, AG Troy King concluded:

                              "There are no criminal penalties in the [Alabama] Code for a                                notary who charges fees in excess of the statutory limitation".
                                "There are no procedures in the Code of Alabama for filing a                                  complaint against a notary for charging excessive fees".

Here's a link to that entire Opinion.  It can be found on the Alabama Secretary of State website, under the Notary Section.  I should add that the Opinion suggests that a person could take civil action against the notary.

Why the notary charged more than $5.00 is unclear.  Perhaps she included a travel fee.  Traveling, or mobile, notaries can legally charge for this added service, and to my knowledge, Alabama does not set limits on travel fees, although some states do (Maryland, for one).

Nancy didn't say whether or not she paid the $15 or found a different notary, but I'm glad she called. I added her to our mailing list when she said she'd like to become affiliated with our group.

As we near the end of another year, it's nice to know that word is getting out about Notaries for Alabama; and that notaries around the state can call us with their concerns.  Perhaps one day something can be done when a complaint about a notary is filed - assuming the complaint is legitimate.

If you're an Alabama Notary (or would like to become one), and are interested in learning more about Notaries for Alabama, visit our website.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  To learn about our training classes, go to our meeting site at Meetup.