Notary bonds are a subset of the broader license bond category that must be filed with the government agency (city, county, state) responsible for regulating notary activity in the notary’s jurisdiction as a condition of licensure for most notary publics or signing agents. Most states handle notary licensing directly, while a handful of local municipalities regulate and license notaries.
Notary bonds must be issued by insurance carriers admitted in the state where the government agency requiring the bond resides. The insurance carrier issuing any surety bond, such as a notary bond, will also be referred to as the “surety company” or the “bond company”. Notary bonds refer to the licensed notary as the Principal, the surety bond company as the Obligor and the government agency as the Obligee.
Notaries are required to purchase license bonds by state and local statutes to protect a government agency by transferring to a surety bond company the cost of ensuring the public is compensated for damages resulting from a notary breaking notary license law. The surety company provides the government a guarantee (the surety bond) that the customers of a licensed notary will receive payment for financial damages due to a violation of the statutes and regulations pertaining to the notary license up to a limit specified in the bond (“penal sum” or “bond amount”). The bond company also directly receives claims from the public and determines the validity of claims. Ultimately, notaries are responsible for their actions and required by law to reimburse the surety company for any payments made under the bond or face indefinite license suspension. Notaries may carry errors and omissions coverage in addition to their bond to protect themselves against errors or omissions in the normal course of business.
Notary bond violations triggering a bond payout may include a notary failing to safeguard their seal, fraudulently or negligently notarizing signatures, or notarizing signatures that were not actually signed in front of the notary.
Notary bonds generally cost between $40 - $50.
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Credit checks are not required for notary bonds.
The bond form is a tri-party agreement which defines the rights and obligations of the government agency (obligee), surety company (obligor) and notary (principal). While many bond forms use similar language, each bond form can be customized by the government agency requiring the specific bond and may contain provisions that increase potential costs for the surety company, which will ultimately be passed on to the notary via higher bond premiums, stricter underwriting or collateral. The primary text to consider in a notary bond surrounds (1) aggregate limits, (2) cancellation provisions and (3) forfeiture clauses.
Bond forms always specify the penal sum defined as the maximum amount of financial damages any single party can recover from the bond related to a single claim occurrence. Most bond forms also contain a clause which limits the amount of financial damages from all parties and all claims to a specific amount (“aggregate limit”), usually the same amount as the penal sum. For example, a $15,000 notary bond with an aggregate limit of $15,000 will pay out no more than $15,000, regardless of the number of damaged parties or claim occurrences. Notary bonds without an aggregate limit will be more expensive than a bond with similar coverage containing an aggregate limit.
Most bonds contain a provision allowing for the surety company to cancel the bond (“Cancellation Provision”) by providing a notice to the notary and government agency requiring the bond with the cancellation taking effect within a set period of time, usually 30 days (“Cancellation Period”). Cancellation provisions allow the surety company to cancel the bond for any reason, but most often due to the notary failing to pay premiums due or claim payouts. Notary bonds with no cancellation provision or cancellation periods greater than 30 days will be more expensive than a bond with similar coverage containing a standard cancellation provision.
Surety bond claims are paid by surety companies to damaged parties to reimburse that party for the financial loss incurred up to the bond penalty amount. Certain bonds contain a clause which requires the surety company to pay the full bond penalty to the damaged party, regardless of the actual damages incurred (“Forfeiture Clause”). Notary bonds with forfeiture clauses will be more expensive than a bond with similar coverage that does not contain the clause.
To find information on specific notary bonds, select the state and use our search function to find any requirement across the country.