Laws governing the notary public profession vary from state to state, which is why it’s important for notaries to familiarize themselves with their respective state’s laws. In Louisiana, for instance, a notary’s commission lasts for life, whereas a notary in Montana will lose his or her commission on January 31 of the fifth year unless they apply for a renewal beforehand. Some states issue commissions for state at large – a term that confuses both notaries and clients seeking notarial services. To learn more about this term and what it means, keep reading.
In order to legally notarize documents within the United Stated, a person must first obtain a commission (usually done through the Secretary of State’s office or governor). Again, the requirements vary depending on the state, but most places require the individual to pay a fee at the very minimum, while some states also require the individual to pass a test.
A notary who’s given a “commission at large” by his or her respective state simply means they are allowed to perform notarial acts within the entire geographical boundaries of the state. Most states allow notary publics to perform notarial acts throughout the entire state. However, there are some states which limit the services of appointed notaries to various counties. In this instance, the notary’s seal will indicate the county or counties in which he or she has the legal authority to conduct a notarial act.
A notary public for state at large may also use a seal/stamp when performing a notarial act. Rather than depicting a county, however, the notary’s seal may state something along the lines of “Notary For State at Large.” This means there’s no indication of which county issues the notary’s commission. With that said, there are some states which still require the notary to include his or her county of commission on either the jurat or within the seal/stamp. Failure to include this information could result in the notarial act being voided and/or rejected by the receiving party.
It’s important to note that some states, such as Montana and North Dakota, allow notary publics to perform notarial acts within bordering states. For instance, a notary who’s commissioned in Montana can travel to Wyoming or North Dakota to perform a notarial act for a client.
To recap, a notary public for state at large is used to indicate the notary has legal authority to perform notarial acts throughout the entire state. However, just because a notary’s seal/stamp doesn’t include this annotation doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is unable to perform state-wide acts. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of the term and the context in which it used.