Notary Journal Thumbprint Requirement

Notary Journal Thumbprint Requirement

© 2013 Kim Giancaterino. All Rights Reserved.

Notary Journal Thumbprint Requirement

In all my years as a California notary, only one person has adamantly refused to provide a fingerprint for my journal. And did I ever get an earful about “Homeland Security” and “Big Brother.” The document in question was a grant deed, so I had no choice in the matter.

California law requires that a thumbprint be provided in a notary journal for the following types of documents:

  1. Deeds, including grant deed, quitclaim deed, or any other document affecting real property, and
  2. Power of attorney documents, including general power of attorney, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, limited power of attorney, etc.

The notary journal thumbprint requirement isn’t always strictly observed. Many notaries prefer to obtain a fingerprint for each journal entry. After all, it’s the best way to prove a signer appeared in person at the moment of signing. More importantly, it might just scare off a bad guy trying to impersonate someone else.

Fingerprints May Help Solve Crimes

In September 2012 two men were convicted in the stabbing death of 74-year-old retiree Clifford Lambert of Palm Springs. The case involved a plot to access Mr. Lambert’s estate. In a shocking turn of events, a San Francisco attorney impersonated the victim on two occasions while having power of attorney documents notarized.

Fortunately, the notary adhered to California law and obtained fingerprints to accompany the journal entries. One of the thumbprints proved instrumental in solving the case. The attorney will be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

Some poorly trained California notaries are under the impression that a thumbprint is required for all journal entries. Others take advantage of the fact that most citizens assume it’s required in all cases.

I think it’s wise to let signers know when the fingerprint is an option, albeit one that’s designed to offer them an extra level of protection. Most signers are happy to comply, and many express appreciation that they were given a choice.

A thumbprint, like DNA and face recognition, is a biometric identifier. Thumbprints are useful in many situations where identity needs to be ascertained quickly and efficiently. Even Disney World takes biometric measurements from the fingers of guests to be sure a ticket is used by one person exclusively.

Still, not everyone wants their biometric information out there when it doesn’t have to be. Notary journals are public records. Any member of the public may, with a few caveats, request copies of notary journal entries.

Notary Journal Thumbprint Requirement

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2021 Notary Public Handbook (Secretary of State)

Fingerprint photograph by stux

Fingerprint photograph by 422737

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