In the April Bar Journal, I wrote about changes that are coming to Ohio’s notary business. Ready or not, those changes are kicking in on September 20 as the Ohio Notary Modernization Act becomes fully effective.
You may recall that the overarching goals of the Modernization Act are to standardize the notary public commission process and to permit both online and electronic notarization. In order to achieve these goals, however, the existing rules and process governing notary had to evolve. From the application and educational requirements to the cost of being a notary, lawyers and non-lawyers alike have to play by a new set of rules. These changes will impact all first time applicants — lawyer and non-lawyer — as well as non-lawyer notaries who want to renew their existing commissions.
The good news is that if you are an attorney who already has a notary commission, you need not do anything extra or different to keep your commission active. For everyone else, here’s a glimpse into some of the changes.
Changes for Lawyers: Under the old law, attorneys simply had to complete an application to receive their commission. The Modernization Act now requires attorneys to take a three-hour long notary class before applying for a notary commission with the Ohio Secretary of State. Fortunately, once an attorney receives her/his notary commission, it will still be a lifelong commission, with no need for renewals. Attorneys will have to pay a $15 application fee and $75 to attend the notary class.
Changes for Non-Lawyers: For the non-lawyers wishing to become notaries, they too will be required to take a three-hour educational course before submitting an application to the Ohio Secretary of State. Non-lawyers will also be required to pass a test before receiving their commission. In addition, non-lawyers will have a continuing education requirement and be required to obtain a criminal background check every five years. The costs for non-lawyers include: $15 notary application fee, $130 combined fee for the three-hour notary class and the test, and up to $75 for a BCI background check.
Addition of eNotary: The addition of electronic notary is another big change in Ohio. The Modernization Act authorizes any commissioned notary to also apply for authorization to perform online notarizations. To become an eNotary, notaries will need to attend a two-hour class and pass a test devoted entirely to electronic notarizations. Applicants will also be required to submit additional information regarding the type of technology they will use to perform online notarizations.
> We invite you to Meet us at the Bar at noon sharp on September 18 for a closer look at all the changes coming to notaryland. Brian Cook, Executive Secretary of Notary for Cuyahoga County, and C. Allen Nichols, Executive Director of the Akron Bar Association will be leading the discussion and will be able to answer all of your questions.
In anticipation of the statewide move toward a standardized, more technology-driven process, the CMBA has joined forces with the Cuyahoga County Notary Public Office to help with the offering of notary services going forward. This partnership was made possible by the leadership and vision of Common Pleas Administrative & Presiding Judge John J. Russo, Brian Cook and the CMBA Board of Directors. While some of the changes are still being worked out, the Notary Office will continue to be located at the County Courthouse on Lakeside through the end of 2019.
In addition, the CMBA is partnering with four other metropolitan bar associations — Akron, Cincinnati, Dayton and Toledo — plus the Ohio State Bar Associations to create a new entity called Ohio Notary Services, LLC (ONS). This unique partnership of local and state bar associations will make the new notary process as accessible and easy as possible, from the required educational training and testing, to notary accessory sales and more. By working together, our organizations will be able to extend our reach to better serve notaries throughout northeast Ohio and beyond.
ONS is also the only organization in Ohio authorized by the Secretary of State to provide education and testing for those notaries who wish to become electronic notaries. This is new territory in Ohio — although at least nine other states have been in the eNotary business for some time. In the coming months, we’ll continue to share updates on the rollout of all these changes.
So as we move forward toward September 20, if you are seeking to renew your notary commission, apply to become a new notary, or if you just have questions about all these changes, you’ve got four options for help:
- Attend our notary program on September 18 at noon
- Visit the Cuyahoga County Notary Office located at 1 W. Lakeside Avenue, Suite 101 or give them a call at (216) 443-8626
- Call or visit the CMBA
- Starting September 20, visit the ONS’s website – www.becomeanohionotary.com
We will continue to offer updates during the coming weeks and months, so stay tuned for more to come!
Rebecca Ruppert McMahon is the CEO of the CMBA. She has been a CMBA member since 1995. She can be reached at (216) 696-3525 or firstname.lastname@example.org.