Following the implementation of the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) on October 26, 2017:
As public officials who are appointed and commissioned by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, notaries public are held to the highest standards of integrity, honesty and trust. Notaries public play a vital role in commerce and are on the front lines of deterring document fraud, particularly in light of heightened security concerns and the increased threat of identity theft.
In Pennsylvania, a notary public has the power to perform six distinct notarial acts:
1. Taking an acknowledgment (whether in an individual capacity or in a representative capacity);
2. Administering an oath or affirmation
3. Taking a verification on oath or affirmation (otherwise known as an affidavit);
4. Witnessing or attesting a signature;
5. Certifying a copy of a record or deposition; and
6. Noting a protest of a negotiable instrument.
Notaries public commissioned in Pennsylvania are authorized to notarize documents in any county in Pennsylvania.
The office of notary public is an important position of public trust that has experienced many changes since its inception in ancient Rome. At that time, notaries public served as public scribes, writing for those who did not know how and acting as document authenticators. In Pennsylvania, notaries are attested back to the time of William Penn. Pennsylvania first enacted a law governing notaries public in 1791. Under that first law, the Governor had the authority to appoint six notaries public for Philadelphia and three for the remaining counties.
The Notary Public Law of 1953 introduced several changes—including transferring responsibility for appointment of notaries from the Governor to the Secretary of the Commonwealth. This law, amended in 2002, was in effect through October 25, 2017. The 2002 amendments permitted the appointment of notaries who were employed in Pennsylvania, but resided in another state, and required all applicants for appointment as a notary public to receive three hours of professional education. (This education requirement was the subject of a successful court challenge in Tritt v. Cortés, 851 A.2d 903 (Pa. 2004), which exempted (“grandfathered”) certain notaries from this education requirement.) The 2002 law also permitted electronic notarization.
The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (“RULONA”) was enacted on October 9, 2013, but did not come into effect until October 26, 2017 as the Department of State prepared for the changes contemplated in RULONA. The new statute is based on the work of the Uniform Law Commission, and retains many of the provisions of the former law, including education and electronic notarization. RULONA does include new provisions on eligibility to become a notary, training and testing requirements, identification of a notary’s clients, recordkeeping, and increases the available penalties for misconduct by notaries. RULONA is designed to modernize and clarify the law governing notaries public, their responsibilities and duties, and harmonizes treatment of notarization of all records, whether on paper or electronic.