There has been a new development in Texas law regarding notary seals and this development affects any document in Texas that has to be notarized. This includes deeds, wills, trusts, oil and gas leases and many other kinds of documents. In fact, any document that must be filed in the deed records is required to be notarized.
Earlier this year, Texas House Bill 1683 went into effect and required the Texas Secretary of State to assign a notary identification number for all notaries and required notaries’ seals to include that number. Unfortunately, the statute was unclear on whether the law only applied to notaries who were commissioned or recommissioned after January 1, 2016 or to all notaries. The Secretary of State took the position that the law only applied to notaries who were commissioned or recommissioned on or after January 1, 2016, and that existing notaries did not have to get new seals under the new rules but would have to obtain a new seal that is compliance with the new rules once their current commission expires. This meant that under the law some notaries would have seals that include their notary identification number while others would not until their commission expired and they request renewal of their commission.
There is case law in Texas that suggests that a notary seal that is not in compliance with the notary seal rules is not a valid seal, and that an invalid seal when contested or challenged is considered to be no seal at all. This could raise serious legal issues concerning wills, trusts, oil and gas leases and any real estate document where the notary used a seal without their identification number on it.
The Texas State Bar Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section for made a special announcement about the potential problems with the new statute: notaries who handle wills and real estate deeds could face problems under the old case law if someone were to challenge the validity of the notary’s seal since there were no official official rules by the Texas Secretary of State concerning when the identification number requirement on notary seals takes effect.
Due to the confusion about the law the Secretary of State published revised rules. As of February 10, 2016, the revised rules require that new notary seals must include the notary’s identification number in the seal itself. The rules also require that all notaries commissioned after January 1, 2016 must use a seal that includes the notary’s identification number.
Existing notaries do not have to get a new seal under the new rules, but will have to obtain a new seal that complies with the new rules once their current commission expires. The safest route for a notary is to go ahead and order a new seal now with their Texas notary identification number on it. Obtaining a replacement seal is a cheap way to avoid the uncertainty associated with the new seal rules. Careful Texas real estate lawyers will insist that any document that is notarized under their direction will be notarized with a seal that complies with the new rules.