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Reasons Why A Notary Can Refuse To Notarize A Document

As a notary public, you may wonder about your obligations and responsibilities when it comes to notarizing a document.

While it's true that notaries are expected to be reasonably available to the public, there are certain situations where you may refuse to notarize a document.

In this blog, we will discuss the reasons why a notary can refuse and the ethical and legal considerations they must take into account when doing so.

A notary refusing to notarize based on her judgment.

Common Reasons to Refuse a Notarization

There are several reasons why a notary may refuse to notarize a document. Here are some of the most common reasons:

  • The signer is not physically present (remote online notarization excluded)

  • The document is incomplete or blank

  • The notary is the signer

  • The signer is the notary's spouse, parent, or child

  • The signer has been adjudicated mentally incapacitated and has not been restored to capacity as a matter of record

  • The notary does not personally know the signer, and the signer cannot provide satisfactory evidence of identification

  • The notary is a party to the underlying transaction or has a financial interest in it

  • The signer does not speak English, and there is no one available to translate the document into a language the signer understands

  • The document does not have a prepared notary certificate, and the signer cannot tell the notary what notarial act is required

  • The notary believes that the signer is being coerced or does not understand the consequences of signing the document

  • The signer appears to be drunk, sedated, or disoriented

  • The notary knows or suspects that the transaction is illegal, false, or deceptive

  • If the document is not "original," bearing the signer's original, wet-ink signature

Situations that Require the Notary's Judgment

There are situations where a notary must exercise their judgment when deciding whether to perform a notarization.

These include assessing the signer's understanding and willingness to sign the document.

In such cases, the notary should refuse if they suspect that the signer is being coerced or does not understand the consequences of signing the document.

Guidelines for Refusing to Notarize a Document Professionally

If you decide to refuse a notarization, it is important to do so professionally and in accordance with ethical and legal guidelines. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Explain the Refusal: If you refuse to notarize a document, you should explain your reasons to the signer in a clear and concise manner. This will help the signer understand why the notarization is being refused and avoid any confusion or frustration.

2. Document the Incident: It is important to document the incident in your notary journal, including the date, time, and reason for the refusal. This documentation will help protect you in case of any legal disputes or inquiries.

Other Reasons to Refuse a Notarization

Apart from the situations mentioned above, a notary may refuse to perform a notarization in several other circumstances. These include when:

  • The date of the document is later than the day of notarization

  • The signer cannot pay the notary's fee for services

  • It is before or after the notary's regular office hours, or it is a holiday

  • The notary is busy with other work or activities

  • The notary would be inconvenienced

  • The notary is sick

  • The notary is not comfortable with the request

  • The signer is a minor, or

  • The notary is requested to travel to another location.

It is important to understand why you may refuse to notarize a document. By doing so, you can ensure that you are upholding your ethical and legal obligations and protecting yourself from potential legal and financial liabilities.

Remember to refer to your state's specific notary regulations for more detailed guidance.

If you need more support and guidance in your notary practice, we invite you to join the Signature Success Community. Here, you can connect with other notaries, access training and resources, and get expert advice to take your notary practice to the next level.

A mentorship for notaries to start and grow their business.

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