Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

21 March 2013

Proposed Law Would Mandate Education for Texas Notary Public Applicants

San Antonio Texas  Attorney Trey Wilson wrote:
**Disclosure: Lest this post be construed as a dig at notaries, I hereby disclose that, in addition to being a lawyer, I am a Texas Notary Public.**

As a Texas lawyer with an active real estate practice, I daily encounter deeds, powers of attorney and other documents that are notarized.  I have also handled several real estate lawsuits where it is alleged that conveyance instruments are improperly notarized, or are outright forgeries.  
Frequently, the Notary Public will become a central witness in the case, with his or her act of notarization being central to the validity of a disputed document.  I have been amazed at how clueless some Notaries have proven to be.  In addition to not sufficiently maintaining records, there seems to be a trend of notaries neither reading nor understanding what they have notarized. Unfortunately, this can be fertile ground for litigation, and can make or break a case.
Obviously, this problem is widesperead.  Thus, two companinon pieces of legislation have been introduced this legislative session. They are SB 1037 and HB 1954.  Their iedntical language provides for an addition to Section 406.005 of the Texas Government Code (which governs the qualifications for notary public qualifications in Texas) to read as follows:

(c)  The applicant shall provide satisfactory proof to the secretary of state that the applicant has completed a course of study of not less that three hours on notary laws, procedures, and ethics. 
Another section of the bills seeks to require the Texas Secretary of State to "establish the standards of, and procedures for approving" the required course of study. 
While this requirement is undeniably vague, I believe that the bills are a good idea, and will improve the quality and reliability of notarized documents.  But my opinion is not global. 
The American Association of Notaries (a group of which I am a member as a Texas Notary Public) has opposed the bills on grounds that they are "vague" and "leave too many unanswered questions about the requirements that notaries will have to fulfill to be commisioned."
In an email that was presumably sent to all members, the AAN  raises another concern, which I believe is valid, but easily solved:

What we do not want to happen is that notaries in rural Texas will be required to drive to a larger city to sit in a classroom for a course of study that costs them $100-$200. If education laws are passed, we want them to be the right ones!   We want the requirements to include courses that are affordable and accessible for all Texas notaries.

 It will be interesting to track the outcome of these bills, and the position of the various interests weighing-in on them.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers