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Notary Bulletin

The Wrong Reasons To Refuse A Notarization

New-refusal-resized.jpgUpdated 2-15-21. One of the toughest situations you can face is being asked to notarize a document that goes against your personal beliefs. While some Notaries may want to refuse requests they find objectionable, remember that you are acting as a public official when performing a notarization.

Many states specifically define a Notary’s role as acting as an impartial, third-party witness, and some, such as California, prohibit Notaries from refusing lawful requests. The Florida Department of State offers guidelines for when Florida Notaries can refuse services. Texas permits refusing if the Notary has reason to believe the signer is coerced or unaware, that the document will be used for illegal purposes, or if the Notary is unfamiliar with the requested act. None of these three states permits refusing a notarization simply because of the Notary's personal beliefs or preferences.

Pennsylvania permits Notaries to refuse a notarization if the Notary is not satisfied that the principal signer is competent or has the capacity to execute the record; if the Notary is not satisfied the individual’s signature is knowingly and voluntarily made; if the signature on the document does not substantially conform to the signature on the signer's ID or if the signer's appearance does not substantially conform to the photo on the signer's ID. Pennsylvania also allows its Notaries to refuse a notarization unless the reason for refusal is prohibited by state law. The Pennsylvania Department of State website instructs Notaries not to refuse services based on a customer’s race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity (including pregnancy), disability or marital status.

It’s important to avoid any practices that suggest bias or compromise your impartiality. While some might see refusing to notarize based on your personal principles as an appropriate gesture, it directly violates the principle of serving all members of the public equally.

Remember, your seal doesn’t equal personal endorsement or suggest that you agree with the content of a document. Your role is simply to verify the identity of a person signing a document.

As long as the document is lawful and there are no other factors — such as lack of satisfactory evidence of identification for the signer — you should perform the notarization. Like judges, impartiality is an integral part of the role of Notaries.

27 Comments

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Bob Ssekyanzi

18 Dec 2017

Is it admissible to notarize a document with some sections left blank?

National Notary Association

20 Dec 2017

Hello. Please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2017/01/notary-tip-deal-with-blank-spaces-documents

Matt

19 Dec 2017

Except in today's world, judges aren't impartial. Just take a look at the supreme court.

wluna@tirprime.com

15 Oct 2018

What about a foreign document that was supposed to be a power of attorney?

National Notary Association

17 Oct 2018

Hello. If you are asking if you may notarize a document from a foreign country, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2015/07/notarizing-documents-from-other-countries

Shelly

15 Oct 2018

excellent article, thank you

Blanca Thompson

15 Oct 2018

The father of a young girl, 15 years-old, wanted her daughter to marry her boyfriend because she got pregnant. In Marin County, State of California, he was told that he needed a Court Judgement approving the marriage of her underage daughter.

Judy Seki

18 Nov 2019

I had to notarize a couple’s authorization to have their embryos (created in vitro) destroyed. I believe this is murder, but nevertheless notarized the document as required by law. Then I went to my church, donated my fee, and had a Mass celebrated in prayer for the millions of babies whose lives are destroyed in the process of in vitro fertilization.

Betty Dedman

18 Nov 2019

I agree with these two points from your link: "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;" I reFUSE to complete POA's when a child of an ailing parent who is unaware of what he/she is signing. Usually the people asking for this are trying to do it in a BIG hurry. I did witness a POA recently where the neice flew in from out of town and wanted a POA for her uncle. While talking to the uncle is was clear that he had mobility problems, but was sharp as a tack and also wanted this POA. Do you Really want to cave and witness a POA where the principal doesn't know why you are there and doesn't know what he/she is signing? I don't want to be in civil court defending that I was simply "acting as a public official." I am married to an atty, who has practiced 44 years and I ask for advice in taking such witness signings. He has suggested caution. If I susPECT nefarious motives I am "not available."

Mike Holden

18 Nov 2019

A woman down the street produced a document allowing her under aged daughter to travel across country with her above aged boyfriend. She was giving them permission to do this. I did not refuse, but did explain that just because she allows this, does not make it legal. And, because it is notarized it might make it easier to prosecute. I told her to ask a lawyer, but that I would notarize it no matter what. Would I have done wrong if I had in fact notarized it?

National Notary Association

19 Nov 2019

Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

Maxine McNeill

20 Nov 2019

About 20 years ago I was in a small town. I had completed a signing and I saw a small shopping center. I was in a business looking around and I heard the word Notary. I heard someone say there is not a Notary in this store. I turned around an followed the voices. Two young ladies mentioned that there someone said a Notary was in the store. I said excuse me does someone need a Notary. I m a Notary. At that time my auto had a notary tag. I asked the Owner after I proved that I was a Notary if I could assist the ladies inside the store. They said yes. After I learned why they needed a notary I helped them. The ladies had court documents that one had to sign and other Notaries in the city refused to aid them. I did it free. No charge. The lady was crying tears of joy. The lady was freely giving her children to a family member. I did not ask any questions. True story.

Robert S Beck

22 Feb 2021

I once had a young couple come in with a ragady torn loose leaf paper hand written to give custody of their child to the "wife" ! So many things were wrong there. I suggested they get legal counsel to draw up a formal document! You can't making this stuff up!

Susan

22 Feb 2021

I work for a bank in NY and our lobbies are closed. What about non-customers who come to the front door asking for a notary? Are we obligated to let them enter a closed business?

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2021

Hello. During the pandemic, Notaries should follow all requirements set by local and state health agencies regarding COVID-19 safety, including business closures. You should not meet a signer for a notarization at a location if your local or state health agency prohibits public gatherings at that location. For more information, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2020/05/3-things-notaries-avoid-covid-19

Sandy Ricket

22 Feb 2021

I'm Catholic. In Florida notaries can perform marriages. If a devoutly religious person refuses this, is this a violation?

National Notary Association

10 Mar 2021

In Florida, a notary may refuse to perform a notarization; however, the situations in which a Notary must refuse a notarization do not specify anything about marriage ceremonies or issues regarding religion. The Florida Secretary of State does suggest the following: “If you are asked to provide notary services and would like to refuse, you may wish to consult with an attorney regarding any concerns you may have in providing the requested notary services”.

Lisa Liang

22 Feb 2021

Good Morning, I am a notary in California. My employer paid for my notary training and text, and now my supervisor asked me if I can perform RON for work documents. As I know that California is not authorize its Notaries to perform remote notarization at this time. Please let me know if I can refuse the following requests. 1. Swears in by video 2. Signs affidavit with serving as a remote witness Thank you, Lisa Liang

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2021

Hello Lisa. California Notaries are not authorized to perform the two remote notarization requests you describe. At this time, California Notaries are not permitted to perform any type of remote online notarization.

Lilyan Agee

22 Feb 2021

Florida notaries are allowed to refuse a notarization because the notary is not comfortable with the request. I would think this covers personal beliefs or preferences.

Patricia Schoo

23 Feb 2021

I was under the impression that when notarizing a signature, that is what we are doing....not the document but the signature. Am I incorrect in this thinking?

National Notary Association

25 Feb 2021

Hello. Yes, that is correct when performing a notarization such as an acknowledgment or a jurat. However, a notarial act such as certifying a copy of a document does not require notarizing a specific signature, since instead the Notary is certifying the accuracy of a document copy.

MJ

23 Feb 2021

I have clients that are sisters. One here in California, one in New York. They both had to sign a deed and have it notarized. The sister in NY called with her notary who didn't want to notarize for her because the document originated in CA. I had to explain to her that her job as a notary is to acknowledge this person's signature and make sure she had proper identification. It doesn't matter where the document originated. My client can't fly back to sign the document just because it originated in CA. This is so basic, This is so basic, I'm still shaking my head.

Jacinta

06 Apr 2021

My employer had me obtain notary certification.. One day at work I had a customer come in with a document and a section when I could fill in the affirmation.. he then produce another paper but this paper was blank and just had another affirmation to be filled and stamped. He stated it went along with his original document. While I am still fairly new.. what is the correct procedure when some one hands you a blank paper to notarize...

National Notary Association

08 Apr 2021

Hello. A Notary cannot notarize a blank or incomplete document. For more information, please see this article: https://www.nationalnotary.org/notary-bulletin/blog/2017/01/notary-tip-deal-with-blank-spaces-documents

Chris Brevig

13 Aug 2021

I posted this question on a separate page but I see this page is more appropriate. I was told more info is needed which I'm providing. I went to the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh to notarize an affidavit describing what happened to me during my previous visit to the same Embassy. The affidavit only described events, and made no allegations of misconduct, policies broken, etc., just a simple statement of events. They refused to notarize it saying it was a conflict of interests. Are they allowed to do that? Below is the document I tried to have notarized: https://imbra.us/images/affidavit.jpg The IMBRA pamphlet mentioned is required to be available at all consular posts (8 U.S. Code § 1375a(b)(1)), so basically I caught them with their pants down and wanted them to notarize it.

National Notary Association

13 Aug 2021

Hello. Please see our response to your question in your other post.

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