Duties & Responsibilities of a Notary Public in Maryland

As sworn public officials, notaries public serve an important role in the prevention of fraud and protection of the parties involved by acting as an official, unbiased witness for certain documents.  Because of this important role, all notaries should understand the duties and responsibilities of notaries public and properly perform requested notarial acts.

Prior to performing an official act as a notary public, notaries should obtain a Notary Public Handbookwhich outlines the proper procedures for notarizing a document, and use the handbook as a reference.  This handbook is available from our office. Please click here to download handbook.​

As a notary, you should be aware of some of the legal responsibilities of notaries public in the State of Maryland.​
  1. Once commissioned as a notary public, a notary may notarize documents anywhere in the State of Maryland for four years.
  2. It is your responsibility to determine the identity of the person requesting a notarial act.  You maynot notarize a signature of a person who has not appeared before you.
  3. A notary in the State of Maryland does not have the power to certify the authenticity of any document – official or unofficial – other than the notary’s registry.   For example, a notary cannot notarize a passport, birth certificate, school transcript, or other document.
  4. Notaries (other than those who are also lawyers) may not prepare legal documents, including notarial certificates.  A notary may only complete a notarial certificate which has been lawfully prepared.
  5. A notary must include on each document the notary’s printed name, signature, date of notarization, and expiration date of his or her commission.  In addition, the notary must affix his or her notary seal or stamp to the document.
  6. The notary seal must contain the name of the notary as shown on the commission, the county where commissioned, and the words "Notary Public." The notary seal ensures the integrity and authenticity of the document. 
  7. A notary can purchase a notary seal or stamp and a registry from most office supply stores.  You may not purchase a notary seal or stamp until you have been commissioned.
  8. A notary must maintain a registry of all notarial acts performed. Registries should be retained for at least five years.  This requirement serves to protect the notary public and as a record of the notary's official acts. Please note that Maryland law requires that you record every official act you perform as a notary public in your registry.
  9. Notaries should refrain from performing any official acts for members of their immediate family or any acts where the notary is personally involved or may benefit from the outcome of the document.
  10. As a notary, you can be asked to serve as an official witness, administer an oath or affirmation, and take an acknowledgement.  You must read the notarial certificate on each document being notarized in order to know whether you are serving as an official witness, administering an oath or affirmation, or taking an acknowledgement.  If there is not a notarial certification on the document, the only act you can perform is to serve as an official witness.
    • Oaths & Affirmations: If you are asked to administer an oath or affirmation or take an acknowledgment, you must ask the individual requesting the notarization certain questions.  For an oath or affirmation, you ask: "Do you solemnly affirm under the penalties of perjury and upon personal knowledge that the contents of the document are true?"  (Additional information about oaths and affirmations is available on pages 9-13 of the Notary Public Handbook.)
    • Acknowledgments: If asked to take an acknowledgement, you must ask: "Does this document constitute your own act and deed?" or "Are you signing this document of your own free will?" (Additional information about acknowledgments is available on pages 13-16 of theNotary Public Handbook
  11. Please notify the Notary Division of the Office of the Secretary of State of any name or address changes.  If you have changed your name or address since you were last commissioned, please complete the Change of Name and/or Address Form and forward to the Notary Division.