• Hugo Enriquez

When To Say 'No' … And When Refusing A Notarization Is Not Allowed

Updated 5-30-19. Many Notaries have been asked to perform an illegal or improper notarization by a customer, boss or co-worker. It’s critical for every Notary to know when you may — and may not — refuse a notarization. 

When To Refuse A Notarization

Many states have specific statutes or regulations which explain when exactly a Notary is permitted or required to refuse service.

For example, California Notaries must refuse a notarization if the document is incomplete. Florida Notaries must refuse if the signer appears mentally incapable of understanding the document. Texas authorizes Notaries to refuse a request if the signer appears coerced; if the Notary has reason to believe the document will be used for illegal purposes or the signer lacks capacity to understand the document; or if the request is for a notarization the Notary does not recognize. 

You can generally refer to your state’s Notary website, Notary handbook, or one of the NNA’sNotary Law Primers for the requirements you need to follow.

Below are some of the main reasons to refuse a notarization. Keep in mind that they do not all apply in every state.

1. Signer Disqualifications

This occurs when the signer does not meet certain qualifications for the notarization. These may include:

The signer is not physically presentThe signer cannot be properly identifiedThe signer does not speak the same language as the NotaryThe signer is unwilling to swear or affirm the contents of the document for notarizations that require an oath or affirmationYou have reason to believe the signer appears to be confused, disoriented or lacks the mental capacity to sign documents​You have reason to believe that the signer is being coerced to sign, rather than signing of his or her own free will

2. Document Disqualifications

This occurs when the document doesn’t meet certain requirements. Situations may include: 

The document contains blank spaces or missing pages The document does not contain a notarial certificate, and the signer cannot or will not instruct the Notary which type of notarial certificate is requiredThe signer wants you to certify a copy of a vital record, such as a birth certificate, which you are not permitted to do

3. Notary Disqualifications

There are times when the notarization presents a conflict of interest that impairs the Notary’s impartiality. These may include:

You are a signer of the documentYou are named as a party to the underlying transaction or have a financial or beneficial interest in the transactionThe signer is your spouse, parent or child

4. Other Disqualifying Situations

Here are several other potential situations when you should refuse the request:

You know or suspect the transaction is false, illegal or deceptiveThe act being requested is not an authorized notarial actThe signer is unable or unwilling to pay the required feeThe request is made outside of your regular office hoursThe request violates your workplace guidelines

When You Shouldn’t Say ‘No’

Generally, if a requested notarial act is lawful, the Notary should not refuse to perform it. Here are inappropriate reasons to refuse a notarization:

1. Refusals Based On Personal Bias Or Beliefs

Signer Bias: As a public official, you should not refuse a notarization based on personal feelings you may have about the signer’s nationality, religion, race, age, lifestyle, gender or disabilities. Controversial Documents: You should not refuse to notarize documents that contain content related to controversial issues, such as same-sex unions, assisted suicide, use of medical marijuana, or abortion you disagree with. Article I-A-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility states that 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.” Even if the contents of a document violate your personal beliefs, this is not reason enough to refuse a notarization. Remember: notarizing a document does not mean you are personally endorsing or agreeing with its contents. You are simply acting as an impartial, third-party witness and verifying the identity of the signer. 

2. Legal Requirements Vs. Best Practices

It’s important to remember the difference between a legal requirement and best practice. For example, when it comes to taking signer’s thumbprints, you must not refuse a notarization based solely on the signer’s refusal to leave a thumbprint — unless you are commissioned in a state that requires collecting journal thumbprints for certain transactions (California). The same would apply to signers who are opposed to signing a journal in a state where a journal signature is not required.


https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/when--no-and-when-refusing-not-allowed?utm_campaign=bulletin20190603&utm_medium=email&utm_source=nnabulletin&utm_content=BodyTitleWhenToSayNoCA&content_type=1&position=1&NNAID=160358450


































































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