Why Would I Say No?

Feb 18, 2020


Hi! This is Laura with coachmeLaura.com.

Once again, I'd like to share with you some responses for questions I have received about notarization work. And today I want to talk to you about some of the issues we face and when we should say no to a notarization.

As public servants we're commissioned to serve the public for all reasonable and legal requests that are made of us. So what would be the exception? Why would I need to refuse service?

There are some good reasons.

First of all, the request needs to be proper or legal, meaning they meet the requirements of the notarization that they're requesting, like personal appearance, satisfactory evidence of identity, or having a document to be notarized.

So what would cause me to say no? Well, either the signer, or the document, or the notary is being disqualified. Let's just take a look at each of these.

The Signer:

First of all, what if they don't have the ID to meet the identity requirements or personal knowledge in your state? And this doesn't just mean an ID on the list. Remember - some of these lists are detailed and they have additional conditions about what needs to be on the card in order to be usable. What if they can't appear physically before the notary for traditional or via real time audio visual technology for the RON notarizations where that's allowed. What if they want service outside of my posted or advertised business hours? Two in the morning? Just not my time of day. So that's something I'm going to refuse. If you're a 24/7 that's one thing. But if you're not, you may not want to take those appointments and you don't have to.

What about they don't want to pay for the service that I'm providing. They want a free notarization. So this really is more general work that I'm talking about. Sure, they could go to their bank, they might get it free there, but that's not my service. All right, so it would be okay for me to say no to free work.

Now what if they don't speak my language except in Arizona where they're allowed to use interpreters. The rest of us, we need to share a language with our signer. It doesn't mean I have to be able to read their document. They just need to be able to speak my language so that they can follow instructions. I can ask questions, I can administer an oath if it was necessary. What if it's the signers' not alert and aware? You know, they can't coherently respond to me. These are issues. What if they can't follow my instructions? They cannot accept those instructions or have somebody else respond for them. A third party? That's just not going to work. I need direct communication.

What if they're requiring witnesses but they don't have them and they can't get them right now? We need to reschedule that appointment for another time. What if you reasonably believe that the principal's is acting under a coercion or duress? Family drama! We've probably all seen that. Watch out for that. If you believe they're not signing of their own free will, it's up to you to say, no, I'm not going to be notarizing that document today. 

So those are signer related issues.

The Document:

What about document related issues? Let's talk about that as well. What if the document isn't complete, it doesn't have a signature for me to notarize. They want a copy certification, but they didn't present the original for the certification. There's no notary language and they don't know what they need and they don't even know where to go find out what they need. The document is just prohibited for notaries to handle.

For instance, in California, I9's? We are not allowed to handle those. What if they request a copy certification and you're allowed to do that. However, the request is for a publicly recorded document like vital records, right? Birth, marriage, death certificates, military discharge, or USCIS naturalization certificates. These requests must be redirected to the right agencies so that they can get an original certified copy. We are not allowed to certify those.

What if they don't even have a document and they're just asking me to prepare their statement or select the right document for them? You know, unless I'm an attorney or I'm a paralegal or I'm a specifically trained in that area of expertise, I am not going to be doing those things. That's the unauthorized practice of law for me! So that's a lot of document related issues. 

The Notary:

But what if that's not my issue? My issue is I'm the problem, I'm going to be disqualified. Well it might be because I'm being asked to certify statements directly to the document rather than the signer, and I'm just supposed to notarize or certify the signer's information, right? Who they are. So I'm not allowed to certify their document. That's an issue. What about if I'm a co-signer to the document? That's going to be a problem because now I have a conflict of interest. If I'm the principal signer, if I'm the beneficiary, if I have any direct interest - many states look to conflict of interest rules. So for instance, if a notary is going to receive something directly from that transaction other than the fees for that service that day.

What if it's for family members? For family members, you may or may not be able to do that. In California, we can, as long as we don't have a conflict of interest. However, we can not when, because we're a community property state, for our spouse when it comes to real estate documents. Other states, like Florida and Massachusetts, have named specific family members that you're NOT allowed to notarize for. It has nothing to do with the document. So you want to make sure you know what those rules are in your state as well.

And finally, what if I just don't feel competent to perform the type of notarization they're asking? Maybe they want a deposition, but I've never done that. I don't know how to do that. It's a little more complicated and perhaps I'm not the right person to be doing that for them. Now my job is a public servant and as a public servant, I'm providing access to notary services for all these legal and proper requests.

It's important to remember that if I don't follow all the rules and requirements, I cannot perform a valid notarization to help that signer. Remember that attorneys and title companies and even the public at large, they may not know the details of notary law that YOU are supposed to know. So it's up to you to ensure that everything has been performed correctly and that the requirements have been met. You will then instill trust in the signature of that document, which is our main goal and the integrity of that document by following all the rules of notarization.

I like to think of it this way. What would I say to Judge Judy if I was ever called into a court of law? I want to make sure I can say I followed all the requirements and I do that every time!

All right. I hope that was helpful for you and until the next time, make it a good one.

Until next time,




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