Notaries headed toward endangered list

July 30, 2010
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In the not-so-distant past, the stamp of the notary public was all but ubiquitous on important documents. But notaries are vanishing faster than an endangered species.

In 2007, the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office logged 22,840 expirations but only 17,636 renewals or new notaries—a 22-percent decline.

The nosedive accelerated to 30 percent last year, and so far this year it’s running at 41 percent.

Jerry Bonnett, chief legal counsel at the office, says the type of authentification notaries do is falling out of fashion. Many companies now accept photo ID or confirm over the telephone or Internet.

“Notary publics were more popular in the days when companies and people relied heavily on postal mail,” Bonnett says. He adds that there is no indication that constituents or businesses are having trouble finding notaries.

How do you feel? Is it too early to start feeling nostalgic?

  • Are difficult to find
    With certain government documents still requiring notorization, it's important that either government revises their requirements or that government offices provide a notary. I have had several frustrating days trying to seek out a notary public to sign and certify a document.
  • Whats the big deal?
    Never had a problem in the rare instance of needing a notary. My insurance agent and bank do it...
  • Notaries
    I recently had to get my father's signature on a financial document that had to be notarized. Fortunately there are still 2 notaries in his building. Look for the older girls if you need one.
  • Consider the market
    There was the promise of big money as a notary working with the ballooning real estate market from about 2003 to 2005. Since re-finances and purchases have fallen drastically, a lot of individuals who started only for the money are reconsidering this as work, and not renewing their commissions. As a notary myself, notaries are by no means endangered, just more diversified in the co-businesses they conduct along with their notary business and how they market themselves.
  • Electronic Notary
    One reason Indiana is seeing a decline, it's because it like many of the other states, it too has failed to join the electronic age. Thereby, forcing their notaries into extinction. I'm a commissioned notary, and my business is good. I get lots of requests because currently I am one of the few that does electronic notarizations in a state that allows them.

    It's time we all got on the electronic notary bandwagon, and made money in the process. I have used several different technologies including the MMA's version, but the one that I found to be the best is Their system is so easy to use, and everything that the MMA might have told you or promised they actually do. Very inexpensive too.
  • IN Notary Population is Stable
    Taken alone, the expirations-versus-new/renewing numbers paint a dire picture of notary population decline in Indiana. But an essential value was omitted from your calculations: the number of active notaries who, in the midst of their current eight-year commission terms, belonged in neither the "expirations" nor
    "new/renewing" categories.

    For example, the active notary population number at the beginning of 2007 was 124,053. Incorporating this starting point and recalculating the effect of commission expirations and new/renewing commissions issued in 2007, 2008 and 2009 produces a true read on year-end populations, and dramatically smaller population decline percentages for those same years: 4%, 10% and 6% respectively. (The Indiana Secretary of Stateâ??s Office advises that the current notary population is 100,141.)

    Such modest rates of population decline are easily explained by todayâ??s lean economy--a few more employers and individuals are electing to carve expenses such as the fees for a notary commission out of their budgets. More importantly, 2007â??s beginning notary population (124,053) was higher than the historical annual average of 100,000 due to prior statutory changes to notariesâ?? term of commission. Indianaâ??s four-year term was changed to ten years in 1998, then to eight years in 2000, resulting in staggered terms that influenced the ensuing yearsâ?? numbers for active notaries, expirations and new/renewing notaries.

    As for the ongoing value of notaries, one need only consider how extremely accessible they still are--just inquire at any bank, credit union or copy center, use an online locator tool, etc.--to conclude that demand for their services is intense. We also note that employee notaries, while fewer in number, are being better tended (valued) by their employers, who are implementing professional growth strategies such as internal notary education programs and access to professional associations such as ours for technical support and information.

    Far from "falling out of fashion," notaries public are and will remain in high demand and highly esteemed by all those who rely upon their services.

    Kathleen Butler
    Executive Director
    American Society of Notaries

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