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Avoiding Notary conflicts of interest in the workplace

Avoiding Notary conflicts of interest in the workplace article

Updated 1-16-23. Most Notaries learn early on that notarizing their own signature is a conflict of interest. So is notarizing someone else’s signature on a document that names you or gives you a financial or beneficial interest.

But what about notarizing on the job? What if your boss, who pays your salary, is named in the document? Is the signer a client that your company represents in legal or business matters? Can you notarize signatures on ballot petitions if you work for the political action committee that advocates for the issue at hand?

The National Notary Association took a close look at five specific work scenarios Notaries often ask about, and our experts provided the following guidance:

Is notarizing for my employer a conflict of interest?

Notaries call the NNA® Notary Hotline every week asking if notarizing for their employers is a conflict of interest. As the scenario above describes, callers are concerned that they might be receiving a financial or beneficial interest because they are notarizing signatures on business deals for their bosses, staff members or clients and, as a result, they receive a paycheck for their work.

While their concerns are valid, the risks are minimal when notarizing documents for your employer if you take the right precautions. You should not notarize signatures on work-related documents if you are named individually or as a company officer, or for which you receive a commission. These situations are ripe for court challenges, but they can easily be remedied by using another, impartial Notary.

The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility posits the following standard: “The Notary who is an employee shall not accept a commission, bonus, or other consideration from the Notary’s employer as a result of performing a notarial act other than the Notary’s regular salary or hourly wage, the notarial fee, and any charge associated with the fee.”

Several states specifically permit employees to notarize work-related documents with certain restrictions:

Pennsylvania — An employee can notarize signatures on company documents unless they have a direct interest in the notarized transaction, directly benefit from the transaction or receive a fee that is contingent on the completion of the transaction.

• Florida — An employee can notarize for their company provided that the Notary receives no benefits other than his or her salary and the statutory notarization fee.

• Hawaii — An employee working for a corporation or trust company may notarize for any party to any written instrument executed to or by the corporation or trust company.

• Texas allows employees to notarize an acknowledgment or proof on a document in which the employee's company has an interest. Texas also permits a corporation shareholder to notarize corporate documents unless the corporation has 1,000 or fewer shareholders or if the Notary owns more than one-tenth of one percent of the corporation's issued and outstanding stock. 

• West Virginia — According to the state’s Notary Handbook, an employee can notarize signatures on documents prepared by an employer as long as it is part of the Notary’s regular job duties and the Notary receives no extra compensation. 

Notaries working in specific industries or performing certain types of work need to pay special attention to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Notarizing if you are a bank or financial employee

Banks and financial institutions across the country employ hundreds of thousands of Notaries to handle millions of notarizations annually.

Conflict of interest issues in banks generally revolve around loans and investments, which account for trillions of dollars in transactions each year. And while these notarizations are mostly legitimate, they can be easily questioned if you don’t take precautions

Many bank executives and loan officers have Notary commissions. And due to lack of training and/or a desire to perform quick, efficient customer service they commonly notarize for their clients. But bank loan officers are often named in these documents, and they receive commissions for their transactions, making these risky transactions a big no-no.

“I had a bank executive call recently asking about this conflict of interest issue, and he said they had been doing it this way for 30 years,” said Lori Hamm, Notary Program Specialist for the Montana Secretary of State’s office. “A bank loan officer with a Notary commission will notarize the customer’s signature, and then the Notary will have their own signature on the document notarized by another person. We told him, and we tell everybody, that you can’t be the loan officer and Notary on the same transaction — end of story.”

Even if the notarization is performed properly, the mere appearance of a conflict can send the transaction into a tailspin and, ultimately, make it voidable. The simple solution in these cases: Don’t act as the Notary if you are named in the document or receive a benefit from the transaction. Just find another Notary in the office.

A couple of states — California and Kansas, for example — allow some professionals such as insurers, lenders or escrow agents who have a direct interest in the transaction to also act as the Notary for the transaction. But even here, it is still a recommended standard of practice to have another Notary step in.

Health care Notaries face unique issues

So far, we’ve focused on potential conflicts solely involving financial transactions and interests. When it comes to the health care industry, for example, financial matters intersect with decisions about a person’s health, well-being and quality of life. Potential conflicts of interest revolve around powers of attorney, advance directives, consents for treatment and asset transfers.

Whether you’re dealing with end-of-life situations, long-term care or routine medical treatment, people are signing documents revolving around their care, wishes, ability to make decisions and the financing of all of it. They can involve entire families in which loved ones often disagree over a host of issues. It gets even more complicated if some family members are cut out of the decision-making. And the patient’s age, illness, mental state or medication can affect their ability to communicate or understand documents. These matters alone make health-related notarizations more vulnerable, so avoiding conflicts of interest is vital.

It’s fairly common, for example, for seniors moving into a nursing home or managed care facility to sign over assets to buy their space and pay for their care. It’s also common for residents of these facilities to sign health care directives, medical powers of attorney and other documents related to their well-being.

A notarization that even hints at the possibility of a conflict of interest could be challenged. If you are a Notary working in a hospital or medical office, your best bet would be to call a mobile Notary to handle these types of transactions instead of someone on staff.

Many states also have laws or elder abuse regulations concerning health care documents — and these rules aren’t always explicit. For example, California Probate Code stipulates that if a patient in a skilled nursing facility executes a written health care directive, the document isn’t valid unless a patient advocate or ombudsman is present as a witness in addition to the Notary.

San Diego attorney and Notary Mike Phillips, who serves as a patient advocate for residents of mental health facilities, recommends that Notaries working in the health care field be vigilant for signs of conflict of interest when a patient’s document involves a large financial transaction.

“The general public assumes that health care providers are all about the best interests of the patient, and they often are, but the patient has the right to push back if they disagree regarding care,” he said. “A Notary is not expected to be an advocate, but one more check and balance certainly doesn’t hurt.”

The conundrum of attorneys notarizing for clients

Attorneys handle a wide variety of legal issues and, of course, act as their client’s advocates. In fact, they often handle their clients’ most important affairs, such as estate planning, wills, trusts, powers of attorney, prenuptial agreements, contracts, affidavits and plea forms, just to name a few. But is it a conflict for an attorney to notarize their clients’ signatures on documents they've prepared?

As trained and licensed legal professionals, attorneys are often granted notarial powers or can apply to become a Notary. But the rules for them may be different. Many states exempt lawyers and certain other professional agents from Notary related conflict of interest rules. For example, in California, a Notary who is an attorney may notarize for a client if they have no direct financial or beneficial interest in the client’s transaction. But those rules are not absolute in every state, and there could be serious legal ramifications if an attorney notarizes the signature on a document in which they are named — even if no impropriety was intended.

According to attorney and Notary law scholar Michael Closen, Notary lawyers rarely undergo in-depth training in Notary rules and procedures. That makes it easy for them to make mistakes. One alternative to help avoid problems is having a legal secretary or paralegal notarize signatures for clients instead of the attorney. For attorneys who are practicing on their own or in small firms without a staff, it’s a good idea to keep the contact information of several mobile Notaries.

May a worker for a political advocacy group notarize campaign documents?

Few lines of work are fraught with more challenges to notarizations than politics. Faulty notarizations on election forms and petitions can, and often do, lead to election results being challenged in court.

If you notarize for a political organization, even the appearance of bias can pose a problem. A politically active Notary might want to sign a ballot petition for a cause they strongly support. However, the petition with the Notary’s signature could be rejected if the Notary also notarizes the signature of the person circulating the petition. Maine prohibits any Notary employed for other non-Notary tasks by petition organizations from notarizing signatures on or certifying election petitions.

Although each of these fields poses distinct challenges for Notaries, the common rule to follow is to obey your state’s Notary laws regarding conflict of interest. And if you aren’t sure if there’s a conflict, stop the notarization until you can get help from a qualified source like your state Notary office or the NNA Hotline.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor at the National Notary Association.

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Add your comment

Cheryl Kaser

07 Jan 2019

Since when does notarization assure anyone that the transaction is LEGAL?

Mister J

07 Feb 2019

Thanks for this article. I once worked at a place where the employee notary for contracts was also one of the people who received commission on the signed contract deal. I always wondered about that. It was an extremely small staff, and this person was the only one who was suited to being a notary.

Jessica O.

26 Feb 2020

Would someone be so kind at to cite to the code section in the CA Probate Code regarding execution of an AHCD in a skilled nursing facility? Thank you.


26 Feb 2020

Very helpful.

Duane A. Thompson

30 Jan 2021

Thank you for the article, a third party wants me to notarize the paperwork of passing ownership of his vehicle to my son. I have no financial gain in the transaction. However, the receiving party is a direct family member. Would this be a conflict of interest.

National Notary Association

01 Feb 2021

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Duane A. Thompson

01 Feb 2021

I am commissioned in Washington State.

National Notary Association

02 Feb 2021

“(a) A notarial officer may not perform a notarial act with respect to a record to which the officer or the officer’s spouse or domestic partner is a party, or in which any of the above have a direct beneficial interest. “(b) A notarial officer may not notarize the notarial officer’s own signature. “(c) A notarial act performed in violation of this subsection (2) is voidable” (RCW 42.45.020[2]). “While not expressly prohibited by chapter 42.45 RCW, it is also generally inadvisable for a notary to notarize a document for extended family members. A notary that performs a notarial act for a family member may be seen as having a conflict of interest in the transaction, which could call the notarial act into question” (WA State Notary Public Guide).

Michael Rollins

07 Dec 2021

Is it a conflict of interest in a church. When the notary for the contract for pastor is being witnessed by the same person who is the chair of the HR and a Trustee of said church and formulated the document that he is presenting on behalf of the church to elected pastor to be notarized.

National Notary Association

07 Dec 2021

Hello. To help us answer your question, can you please tell us the state the Notary is commissioned in?


31 Jan 2022

If you are the leasing agent on a lease, can you notarize the renters signatures in order that they can apply for utilities. Water Dept requires notarized doc. GA

National Notary Association

31 Jan 2022

Hello. Georgia law says: “No notary shall be obligated to perform a notarial act if he feels such act is … [i]n situations which impugn and compromise the notary’s impartiality …” (OCGA 45-17-8[b]). In situations where you are not sure whether you have an improper interest or not, the safest course would be to find a different Notary uninvolved with the transaction to perform the notarization.

31 Jan 2022

Can an Advocate with Wills Writing Certificate, notarize the will of person whom they assisted in drafting a will in Alaska?

National Notary Association

31 Jan 2022

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.


12 Dec 2022

Is it a conflict of interest to be a signing agent and work for a bank in NY? Let’s say for cases when documents have your employer as the lender but you are a freelancer signing agent.

National Notary Association

11 Jan 2023

Notary law in New York does not have a law that addresses conflict of interest as it relates to the Notary’s employer. However, it is possible that your employer may consider it a conflict of interest or a violation of other internal policies. Please check with your employer.

Chetina Harris

04 Jan 2023

This is absolutely ridiculous. A job of a notary public is to make sure fraud does not occur on legal documents. That is all. This should not be a question of conflict of interest, this should only be questioned if the notary public does not notarize correctly. However, if a family member, boss, or friend needs something notarized, they should be able to do so. As long as they follow the law and are not frauds themselves. Comment if you agree with this statement.

Deirdre Martin

23 Jan 2023

To The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Notary Public, I appreciate the time you spent with me by phone. All my questions have been answered, and I have gained more knowledge regarding the legal aspects which notaries are to follow the laws. I examined the notarized stamps, commission numbers, that show different signatures I looked up the names on my official documents. I learned, there is a great deal of Fake Notary Stamps. I found several notaries that do not exist. I was able to dig further, what I've noticed "AKA, DBA, LLC using the NMLS system. There is an overwhelming amount of Lenders Fraudulent mortgage companies. Forged Mishandled Funds leading to foreclosures. I have emailed the Fake Notary's. Unfortunately, there is no justice by ordering Notary Stamps. My question, if a person is committing Notary Fraud, Is there a way to FIND or FINE these ongoing crimes? At this time, I would suggest the public be aware by exposing and educating the public. This can only be done by the professionals who are / will look into the seriousness of these ongoing issues. Much appreciated, D. Martin

Travis Bruce Yarbrough

23 Jan 2023

Cheryl that makes YOU legally part of it ...... No wonder so many folks are decommissioned every year ..... Since you asked .....

Raychel Borquez

23 Jan 2023

In California real estate can you be the transaction coordinator and notary on the same file?

National Notary Association

24 Jan 2023

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.

Steven Ransom

24 Jan 2023

@Derdre Martin, How do you know if a stamp is fake? Counterfeit stamps are often sold in bulk quantities at a significant discount–anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their face value. That’s a tell-tale sign they’re bogus. Purchasing stamps from a third-party wholesaler or online websites can be unpredictable. You have no way to verify whether they are genuine or not.

24 Jan 2023

Deirdre Martin, There are many types of notary stamps, therefore it can be difficult to determine exactly what kind of stamp is being used and if it is legal. Even though there are various types of notary stamps, the actual notary stamper itself is required to be issued only to a certified notary. How do you know if a stamp is fake when you really have no way to verify whether they are genuine or not?

Jenni Barrett

25 Jan 2023

PLEASE can anyone tell me if the lady that gave my grandparents a mortgage loan can also be the notary on the mortgage loan?? If a notary is for protection for either side than how would it make sense for the same person to notarize the mortgage that gives the loan?? Its not protecting anyone? I dont understand this

National Notary Association

26 Jan 2023

Hello. In order for us to see if we can provide an answer for your question, can you please tell us what state the Notary was commissioned in?

Jenni barrett

26 Jan 2023

In Minnesota .. im not sure where to answer this question so im commenting but in Minnesota..the loan officer and the notary was the same person. And also I noticed all the paperwork copies of the mortgages there all say docusign on the bottom.. If these are saying their docusign mortgages THAN I KNOW THERES ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THEY ARE LEGIT !what year did they start DocuSigning mortgages if tou know this please answer.

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2023

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.

Jenni Barrett

26 Jan 2023

I have so many questions but id also like to understand if a notary has to be present when two people sign a home equity agreement? My dad was scammed into signing one but the same bank that noterized a mortgage i dont Trust is legit also the notary for this equity agreement my dad signed.does s notary have to be there to notarize an equity agreement to makesure its legit because it was a scam..

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2023

Hello. We're sorry, but we can't answer questions about the legality of the transaction. If you have reason to suspect the transaction may have been fraudulent, you should report it to local law enforcement or speak to an attorney to ask what your legal options are.

27 Jan 2023

The Notary’s Dilemma: Can the notary proceed with notarization involving a document that he will also sign as a named party? It is also a conflict of interest to notarize a document you are named in or signing in an individual capacity. Be careful if the affidavit asks you to sign using your title “ Notary Public .” Your state may not allow you to do that. That means, when performing a notarial act, you cannot have any conflict of interest, including being a party to the transaction or gaining financially or materially from the transaction. (1) A notary public may not perform a notarial act if the notary is a signer of or named in the document that is to be notarized.

Torie Hastillo

27 Mar 2023

Hello, I'm in Florida. I am co-owner of a small construction business. Am I allowed to notarize a customer's signature on paperwork such as a Notice of Commencement for the construction permit? It's a document that notifies the county that the work is starting and doesn't have anything to do with payment.

National Notary Association

28 Mar 2023

Hello. No, in this situation you would not be able to notarize. “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction; however, a notary public who is an employee may notarize a signature for his or her employer, and this employment does not constitute a financial interest in the transaction nor make the notary a party to the transaction under this subsection as long as he or she does not receive a benefit other than his or her salary and the fee for services as a notary public authorized by law” (FS 117.107[12]).

USB Missouri

05 Aug 2023

The loan officer notarized the deed of trust and was not a signing agent so could not explain legality of documents - security instrument. Equilines are exceedingly deceptive and incentivized for bank employees to solicit potential victims whom have equity and CDs on deposit for like amount of equity, but secretly put homes of family members at risk.


24 Oct 2023

Office manager here. (Ohio) Can I notarize a document for my boss who is going thru a divorce where (marital assets) property is at stake? I am also a tenant of his. I've rented from them for years.

National Notary Association

25 Oct 2023

Hello. In Ohio, “A notary public shall not do any of the following: “(1) Perform a notarial act with regard to a record or document executed by the notary; “(2) Notarize the notary’s own signature; “(3) Take the notary’s own deposition; “(4) Perform a notarial act if the notary has a conflict of interest with regard to the transaction in question” (ORC 147.141[A]). “As used in this section, ‘conflict of interest’ means either of the following: “(1) The notary has a direct financial or other interest in the transaction in question, excluding the fees authorized under this chapter. “(2) The notary is named, individually or as a grantor, grantee, mortgagor, mortgagee, trustor, trustee, beneficiary, vendor, lessor, or lessee, or as a party in some other capacity to the transaction” (ORC 147.141[C]). If you are uncertain whether or not your connection to the signer may be a conflict of interest, the safest course is always to have a different, uninvolved Notary perform the notarization instead.

Dennis Roach

03 Nov 2023

i have a Florida condo association question. we have non paid, vice president of the board of a not for profit condo association (condos), responsible for funding and collecting fees for payments of a sub association for boat slips.(docks) the docks have its own association but the funding falls under the condos. the president of the docks have signed a contract for work and was notarized by the vice president of the condos who is responsible for assessing funding for the work. is this a conflict?

National Notary Association

06 Nov 2023

Hello. In Florida, “A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction; however, a notary public who is an employee may notarize a signature for his or her employer, and this employment does not constitute a financial interest in the transaction nor make the notary a party to the transaction under this subsection as long as he or she does not receive a benefit other than his or her salary and the fee for services as a notary public authorized by law” (FS 117.107[12]).

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