On July 23, 2021, Governor Pritzker signed Public Act 102-0160, amending the Illinois Notary Public Act. Subsequently, on June 5, 2023, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office (IL SOS) adopted administrative rules to implement Public Act 102-0160 and provide comprehensive guidance to Illinois notaries moving forward. The Amendments to the Illinois Notary Public Act, along with the accompanying Rules, have changed the way notary publics acquire or renew their commissions, conduct notarizations, and maintain records.

The key points of the update include:

I.      Acquiring or Renewing a Notary Public Commission: To become a notary public or renew their commission, individuals are required to select the specific categories of notarizations they intend to perform. There are three types available for consideration: traditional in-person notarizations, remote notarizations, and electronic notarizations. Each type has specific requirements for obtaining a commission, including completing a course of study, obtaining a bond, and submitting an application. 14 Ill. Admin. Code 176.100. Traditional in-person notarizations refer to the traditional method of notarizing documents where the notary public and the signer are physically present in the same location. Remote notarizations involve the use of audio-video communication technology to perform notarial acts when the notary public and the signer are not physically present in the same location. Electronic notarizations are performed using an IL SOS-approved electronic notary platform.

II.     Applicants: Applicants for a Notary or Electronic Notary commission must indicate whether they will perform traditional in-person notarizations or remote notarizations at the time of application. A separate application form is provided for nonresident applicants seeking a commission. The application for a notary public commission must be completed and submitted to the IL SOS on their website, which provides the application forms. Traditional and remote notarization application requirements can be found in 5 ILCS 312/2-102(a). Electronic Notary application requirements are described in 5 ILCS 312/2-102(b). Electronic Notary publics must specify the IL SOS-approved electronic notary platform they will use. The following platforms are approved: BlueNotary, Clear Sign, DocVerify, eNotaryLog, Pavaso, and SIGNiX.

III.    Notary Course of Study and Examination: Starting from January 1, 2024, individuals applying for a Notary, Remote Notary, or an Electronic Notary commission must complete a mandatory course of study and pass an examination, as required by 5 ILCS 312/2-101.5. Applicants must complete a 3-hour course of study and pass a 50-question final exam with at least 85% on the exam to pass. The course of study may be taken online or in person. 14 Ill. Admin. Code 176.235(a). Successful completion of the course and exam results in a valid certificate for the Notary’s four-year commission. If a student fails the exam three times, they must retake the course. The statute does not explicitly mention whether the examination needs to be retaken after the four-year appointment period. However, the IL SOS may “adopt administrative rules mandating a course of study and examination.” 5 ILCS 312/2-101.5(b). It can be inferred that the IL SOS may expand the course-of-study requirement to existing notary publics through its rulemaking process.

IV.     Bond: Every notary public applicant must obtain a bond, with the amount varying based on the type of notarizations they perform. For traditional in-person notarizations, a $5,000 bond is required, while remote or electronic notarizations require a $30,000 bond. Both Traditional Notaries and Electronic Notaries must file an oath of office with the Secretary of State. A copy of the Notary’s $5,000 bond, Electronic Notary’s $25,000 bond, or a combined bond of $30,000 must be submitted to the Secretary of State. Notaries can opt out of performing electronic or remote notarizations and only notarize in person.

V.    Recordkeeping:

a.  Journal Requirements: The amendments to the Illinois Notary Public Act introduced a journal requirement for notary publics. However, there is an exemption for attorneys and law firms. The rules specify that if an attorney or law firm maintains a copy of the notarized documents, a notary employed by them is not obligated to keep a journal of notarizations performed during their employment. 14 Ill. Admin. Code 176.900. This exemption is in place to avoid violating attorney-client privilege by allowing inspection of notarizations recorded in a notary’s journal. However, for notary publics who are not attorneys or employed by law firms, Section 176.900 establishes that they must maintain a journal to record each notarial act at the time of notarization. Required entries include information such as the principal’s name, credible witness names, document description, notarization date, notarization method, fees charged, and physical location of the notary and principal.

b.  Traditional In-Person Notarial Acts: The amendments to the Notary Public Act have not altered the process of traditional in-person notarial acts. However, they have clarified that a notary public has the right to decline performing a notarial act if they choose to do so.

c.  Electronic Notarization Recording: Electronic Notaries must maintain an accurate and reliable journal record of each electronic notarial act performed, which should be kept for at least 7 years. 14 Ill. Admin. Code 176.840. The recording of electronic notarial acts using audio-video communication must be protected from unauthorized access. The Electronic Notary can use a registered system provider to store the electronic journal and recording, but they must have sole control over it. Unlike remote notarial acts, only the notary public must be in Illinois at the time of the electronic notarization. 5 ILCS 312/3-105.

d.  Remote Notarization Recording: Similar to electronic notarization, remote notarial acts performed using audio-video communication must be recorded. The recording must be made available to various authorized parties, including the remotely located principal, the Secretary of State, law enforcement or governmental agencies, and others authorized by the principal. The entire process for remote notarizations is described in 5 ILCS 312/6-102.5, and 14 Ill. Admin. Code 176.700 – 176.710.

In conclusion, the amendments to the Illinois Notary Public Act through Public Act 102-0160, along with the accompanying administrative rules, have brought significant changes for notary publics in Illinois. In light of these significant changes, attorneys at Gensburg Calandriello & Kanter, P.C. are well-equipped to assist you and your business with any aspect related to the amended Notary Public Act, as well as any other business-related legal needs. For comprehensive support and guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us for expert guidance and support.

Sandra Mertens
[email protected]