When to refuse a Notarization

From time to time, whether on purpose or otherwise, Notaries can be asked to perform an illegal or improper notarization. This would normally come from someone close to them or someone they know like a customer, boss, co-worker, or friend. So it’s important to know the boundaries – when you should refuse a notarization. 

If a signer appears to be forced into the deal or if the Notary has been given a reason to believe the document will be used for illegal purposes they have the right to refuse a notarization if they live in Texas State. If a signer fails to understand the ramifications of signing a document; or if the request is for a notarization that doesn’t match up with what the Notary was expecting they can also refuse.

Notaries should refuse a notarization if the document is incomplete. If a signer appears mentally incapable of understanding the document, notaries must refuse the service.

It’s important you understand the reasons for which you can and cannot refuse a notarization. It’s crucial you remember not all reasons apply to each state.

1. Signer Disqualifications

The signer must meet certain qualifications and standards for the notarization.

Reasons to refuse a notarization could include:

  • The signer is not physically present
  • The signer cannot be properly identified
  • The signer does not speak English and no one is there to translate the document
  • The signer will not swear or affirm the contents of the document for notarizations that require an oath or affirmation
  • You have a reason to believe the signer appears to be confused, disoriented or lacks the mental capacity to sign documents

2. Document Disqualifications

Documents must meet certain requirements, otherwise, disqualification can occur.

These could include: 

  • Components, pages or information is missing from the document

3. Disqualifications

You will need to be aware of the times a conflict of interest could arise.
Including:

  • You are the signer of the document i.e.: the document is for your own purposes
  • You are a party to the transaction or have the opportunity to benefit from the transaction
  • The signer is a family member of yours

4. Other Disqualifying Situations

It is important to be across of the below situations:

  • If you suspect or know the transaction has aspects to it that are false, illegal or deceptive
  • What is requested is not an authorized notarial act
  • The signer cannot pay the required fee
  • The request for your service is made outside of your regular office hours, and you are not a mobile Notary
  • It violates your workplace guidelines

When You Shouldn’t Say ‘No’

If a requested notarial act is lawful, then the Notary should not refuse to perform it. 

1. Refusals Based On Personal Bias Or Beliefs

Signer Bias: Your personal feelings about the signer’s nationality, religion, race, age, lifestyle, gender, or disabilities should not form the basis of your reasons to refuse. A notary cannot refuse a request based on their difference of opinion. This is based on laws and regulations.

Controversial Documents: From time to time you might be required to notarize documents that contain controversial issues. These could include topics like assisted suicide, use of medical marijuana, or same-sex marriage. You may disagree with these issues but you cannot refuse to notarize on these grounds. 

According to the Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, a Notary should not refuse to perform a lawful and proper notarial act “because of disagreement with the statements or purpose of a lawful document.” Notarizing a document doesn’t mean you are personally endorsing or agreeing with its contents. You are in no way stating you support the content related to controversial issues. As a notary, you must act as an impartial, third-party witness.

2. Legal Requirements Vs. Best Practices

You must keep the difference between a legal requirement and best practice in front of the mind. If you work in a state that requires collecting journal thumbprints for certain transactions and a signer refuses to adhere you can refuse notarization. However, if thumbprints aren’t required by law in your state then you cannot refuse notarization.

What if things go wrong?

Many states require you to hold notary bonds, but they are used to protect the public, not the notaries. You should consider a Notary errors and omissions insurance policy because it protects you against claims relating to any errors you make.

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