Correcting an Illegible Notary Stamp

correcting illegible notary stampCorrecting an Illegible Notary Stamp

Old Colorado notary law did not allow an illegible notary stamp. CRS 12-55-112(2) required that a notary shall “clearly and legiblystamp the notary seal, under or near the official notary signature.

New RULONA notary law, CRS 24-21-515(2), effective July 1, 2018, only states that an official stamp must be affixed to the notarial certificate. The words clear and legible are not used.  No notary stamp correction instructions are provided in the Colorado Notary Handbook or on the Secretary of State website.

What if the notary stamp impression is not clear and legible on the document?

Reasons for Illegible Notary Stamp

Colorado notary law does not specify the procedure for adding a clear and legible second stamp if the first stamp impression is illegible.  Problems may occur if the stamp is smeared, blurred or smudged due to movement, has unreadable portions caused by not stamping on a hard, flat surface, has missing or faint portions due to the inkpad drying out, has too much ink that obscures the stamp impression, or a stamp malfunction due to a mechanical problem.

Water-Based Ink versus Solvent Ink

Most self-inking stamps use water-based ink.  If the document is damp, or rain or water gets on the document, the ink may run and become blurry.  Also, water-based ink will smear if used on a plastic or Mylar document with a smooth surface.

For stamping on a smooth, non-porous surface, special industrial ink must be used.  One popular brand name, available at a hobby store or Walmart, is StazOn solvent ink.

Model Notary Act, Illegible Notary Stamp Correction Procedure

The 2010 Model Notary Act, published by the National Notary Association (NNA) describes a procedure for correcting an illegible stamp impression.  Section 8-3(b) states: Illegible information within a seal impression may be typed or printed legibly by the notary adjacent to, but not within, the impression or another impression may be legibly affixed nearby.

The Model Notary Act authorizes notaries to remedy unreadable portions of the stamp by typing or printing the needed wording legibly, adjacent to the seal image.

To avoid claims that the stamp impression was tampered with, notaries must not write over any portion of the stamp nor make any marks within the area circumscribed by the stamp border.

Notary Regulator FAQ Correction Procedure

Several states, including Massachusetts and Minnesota, include a correction procedure in the FAQ section of the notary regulator website.

If there is room, affix a second stamp impression nearby.  It is not necessary to cross out the original stamp impression or write an explanation on the document.  The reason for the second stamp will be obvious.

If there is no room for a second stamp, attach a separate notary certificate with the same wording, signature and a clear and legible stamp.  Line through the original notarial wording and draw a line specifically through your seal and signature.  Near the old certificate wording, write “See Attached Certificate”.

Stamp Correction Procedure from Notary Best Practices Handbook

Michael Closen, a notary law professor, speaker and author, states in his handbook, Professor Closen’s Notary Best Practices, section 8.5:
1. if possible, print another copy of the page, re-execute the page, and shred the defective copy, or
2. strike out the defective stamp impression with a line or an X through it, add the notary’s initials and date, then add a second legible stamp impression on the notarial certificate

The notary should not attempt to correct a faulty stamp impression by making a handwritten correction or modification of the existing faulty image.

The notary should make a note in the notary journal entry explaining how the defective seal impression was corrected.

Use a Small Size Notary Stamp

Colorado law does not specify the size or ink color for the notary stamp.  It must be rectangular.

Using a small size notary stamp will allow more room to stamp the document a second time if needed.  A large size notary stamp may use up all available space so there is no room to stamp a second time.

Stamping Skill Improves With Practice

With practice, a notary should be able to make a clear stamp impression on a regular basis.  It may be helpful to make a test stamp on a blank piece of paper before stamping the signed document.

A clipboard is useful to provide a flat surface for signing and stamping.  The rubber stamp may need occasional cleaning to remove ink residue.  When a stamp impression is illegible, be prepared to make a correction.

[Updated 2020-06-08] added Closen’s Best Practices

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