Dominic Mestas on the set of "What is a notary public"
Filming of "On location with Fabie Combs" What is a notary public? on July 23, 2011

Fabie Combs:                  Hello, and welcome to On Location. This edition, what is a notary public? We’ll be discussing the many facets of a notary, their longevity, interesting background and tidbits, as well as actually speak to working notaries with their hands-on experience. I’m your host, Fabie Combs.

A notary is otherwise known as a notary public. They’re public servants with proven integrity officially commissioned under a state government in the USA, and under the Church in England. But do we really know what they do? Everyone undoubtedly some time in their life will need the services of a notary public.

Generally speaking, a notary is an official appointed to serve the public as an impartial witness. They have the authority to acknowledge and identify signers and their signatures, and administer oaths and other affirmations. Notaries represent one of the oldest and smallest continuing branch of the legal profession worldwide. They trace back to the ancient Roman republic, before Cicero, the Roman philosopher, and approximately a hundred years before Christ. In England and in Wales, it was the pope who appointed notaries until 1532. Since England broke with Rome, the notarial authority is under the archbishop of Canterbury, under the jurisdiction of the crown.

Some interesting notaries you may not be aware of. A renowned notary from Florence, Italy was the father of Leonardo da Vinci, the famous artist and scientist. A colorful figure, Judge Roy Bean, also known as “The Law West of the Pecos,” in the mid 1800s, was a notary. Samuel Clemens, otherwise known by his pen name, Mark Twain, was a notary. Renowned Montreal notary Lionel Segal drew up the marriage contract for Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s first wedding in 1964 in Canada. More recently, today multifaceted celebrity Jennifer Lopez was also a notary.

Joining me now is Sheryl of Sheryl’s Mobile Notary Service here in Orange County, California. Hi, Sheryl.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Hi.

Fabie Combs:                  Thanks for being with us.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Thank you.

Fabie Combs:                  Can you tell us a little bit about how you became a notary?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes. I actually lived in Nevada. I worked for a timeshare company, and they required us to become a notary so that we could notarize the mortgage documents for the new owners.

Fabie Combs:                  Okay.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah.

Fabie Combs:                  Then you moved back here and became a notary in California.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes. I worked for a bank in Sacramento, where I got my commission at the capitol.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, the state capitol. You actually did your swearing in at the state capitol.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes, I did. It was great.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, that’s kind of unusual.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah.

Fabie Combs:                  To actually have qualifications to be a notary here in California, what would those be?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   You need to be 18 years or older. You need to be a legal California resident. And you need to be able to read, write, and understand English.

Fabie Combs:                  That’s helpful.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah.

Fabie Combs:                  Now, if someone wanted to become a notary, what are the steps involved? Can you go through those briefly?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah. You need to take a six-hour course that varies in cost depending on where you go. Then you’ll take an exam, which is provided by the CPS. It’s about 30 questions or so. You have to pass with 70% or better.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, wait a minute, now. What happens if you don’t pass?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Then you have to take it again, and you can’t do that for 30 days. It’s one testing every 30 days.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, I see.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   But you probably will pass. Then after that, you send in your application and your paperwork to the secretary of state. They approve it. You’ll have your background check and your fingerprints, and then you’ll be able to purchase your notary supplies.

Fabie Combs:                  Well, on getting your fingerprints and background, how does one do that?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Wherever you go to take your testing, they have that available to you there.

Fabie Combs:                  I see.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   You can do your live scan, and the background check is done by the secretary of state. They do that for you on your application.

Fabie Combs:                  Once that is all done and it is submitted to the secretary of state, how long does it take before you actually get your commission in the mail?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Six to eight weeks.

Fabie Combs:                  What follows taking the oath from the county recorder?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   You have to purchase your bond, which, that protects the people, and your errors and omissions, which, that protects me.

Fabie Combs:                  Ah, I see.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah.

Fabie Combs:                  Then you purchase your supplies?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes, then you purchase the supplies, and you start marketing yourself.

Fabie Combs:                  Can you briefly go over them with us?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Sure. I have my journal here, which is where I record all the notaries that I do. This has the information and fingerprints, depending on whether it’s a mortgage document or not.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, so this has to do with property only, with the fingerprints?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  I see.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Then I have my inkless fingerprint pad, which is what I use in there, and my stamp, which has my name, my commission number, the county that I was commissioned, and the expiration date.

Fabie Combs:                  Okay. Now let’s say, a commission lasts for how many years?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Four years.

Fabie Combs:                  Four years, okay. In some states, I guess it’s five, I understand.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Fabie Combs:                  When you’re finished with your first commission, to renew, what do you have to do to renew?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   It’s practically the same. The only difference is, it’s a three-hour refresher course, versus a six. That is only if your commission does not expire before your new commission is accepted.

Fabie Combs:                  Ah, I see.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   If it is a lapse in time, then it’s a six-hour refresher course.

Fabie Combs:                  Oh, I see. That’s what the difference is.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yeah.

Fabie Combs:                  Now, when you’re a notary in a state, in this case California, how far can you travel?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Anywhere in the State of California. Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  Okay, so it’s not broken down to counties.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   No.

Fabie Combs:                  It has to do with the notary, how far they want to drive.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Right, absolutely.

Fabie Combs:                  Okay. As far as fees go, I know there’s a set fee in each state. California is what?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   $10 per signature. Now, a notary can vary with their other charges that they charge, whether those could be mobile fee, printing fee, faxing fee, things of that sort.

Fabie Combs:                  I see. How much is a jurat?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Those are $5.

Fabie Combs:                  That’s saying an oath?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Yes.

Fabie Combs:                  Can you give us some examples of where a mobile notary might go?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Sure. An office. I’ve gone to homes before. Nursing homes, hospitals. Coffee shops, restaurants. I’ve even met people in parking lots before. Yeah, it’s whatever’s convenient, whatever works out the best.

Fabie Combs:                  If you were going to give some advice to someone out there that maybe at this point in their life have never been to a notary, what would you tell them?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Number one thing is proper identification. A driver’s license, identification card, a military ID, a passport, an inmate card, those types of things.

Fabie Combs:                  I see. What if they’re expired?

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Within five years is okay.

Fabie Combs:                  Great.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   In addition to that, I would advise them to look on the secretary of state website and make sure that the notary that they’re going to use is currently active. Be up-front with the notary as to what fees they’re going to charge, so that you’re not going in blindfolded. Lastly, I would say feel comfortable with the notary that you’re working with, because that’s your personal documents that you’re having witnessed, and you want to feel comfortable with who you’re working with.

Fabie Combs:                  Well, Sheryl, I’m comfortable with you.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Thank you.

Fabie Combs:                  Thank you for being here.

Sheryl Cavlo:                   Thank you for having me.

Fabie Combs:                  Next we’ll be talking to Dominic Mestas, another working notary, with further information.

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