Sometimes Notaries Say “No”

notary saying no, refusing notarization, refuse to notarize


Did you ever wonder about how notarization works? Do notaries just notarize something because you paid them to? They do not. Notaries will only notarize documents that meet strict standards, for people whose identification has met strict standards. A professional notary public will have to know when to refuse performing notarization.  

Different states have different regulations. For example, in California, a notary must refuse to provide service if the customer cannot provide the complete necessary documents. In Florida and Texas, notaries refuse if the signer is incapable of understanding the document. Texas permits notaries to refuse if they suspect that the document is intended for illegal purposes, or if the notarization is of a document they don’t recognize as official.


Signer Disqualifications

There are multiple “signer disqualifications” or situations where a document cannot be notaries because of an issue with the signer. For example, if the signer is not physically present to consult for a service, they can’t provide proper identification, they don’t speak enough common language with the notary for effective communication, or they refuse to swear or affirm the document’s contents. In those cases, a public notary cannot notarize.

A notary must also be able to spot signs of confusion, disorientation, or the lack of mental capacity to sign the documents, as well as coercion or deprivation of the signer’s own free will to sign the document. Under these conditions, they must refuse the notarization.


Document Disqualifications

If a signer only provides a partial document, with missing pages or blank spaces, or if the signer requests for you to certify a copy of prohibited documents (like a birth certificate) then as the notary must object. In California, a handwritten last will and testament that has been notarized is void, and so a notary should refuse to notarize it.


Notary Disqualifications

Disqualification may apply to a notary if they are risking a chance of a conflict of interest. This can compromise the notary’s impartiality. A notary cannot perform notarization if they are the signer of the document, a party to the transaction, or have a financial interest in it. Or if the signer is a relative such as a spouse, parent, or child.


Other Disqualifications

A notary should refuse the request if there is suspicion of false, illegal, or deceptive transaction, or if the signer doesn’t pay the service fee, or if the request occurs outside of the regular working hours or they are not on duty.


When Can a Notary Not Refuse?

When other requirements are met, a notary cannot refuse a notarization because of a bias against a protected class. These include the nationality, religion, age, gender, lifestyle, or disability status of a signer. They also cannot refuse notarization of documents because of personal objection to the content. Such as documents with content related to same-sex unions, assisted suicide, the use of marijuana, or abortion care. As stated in Article I-A-3 of The Notary Public Code of Professional Responsibility, a notary cannot refuse to provide notary service based on their personal views or beliefs when the documents are lawful.

They also can not insist on following the best notary practice if it’s not legally required. Examples include the provision of thumbprint by the signer, extra forms of ID, or journal signing. This depends on the state where the notarization is happening.