When should you refuse to notarize a document?


A notary, also known as a notary public, holds the role of a public officer appointed by the state government, typically through the secretary of state. Their primary function is to serve the public as an unbiased witness when taking acknowledgments, administering oaths and affirmations, and carrying out other actions authorized by law. In most cases, a notary is obligated to perform notarial services, provided all legal prerequisites are met.


Nevertheless, there are instances where it's reasonable to decline a notarization. Here are four prevalent reasons for rejecting a notarization request:


Non-compliance with notarization criteria


As a notary, it's crucial to decline notarization if the stipulated conditions are not fulfilled. These include situations such as:


  • The signer failing to appear in person before you.
  • Inadequate presentation of proper identification.
  • Insufficient confidence in the signer's identity matching the identification.
  • The signer being a close relative, like a spouse or parent.
  • Personal involvement or financial interest in the transaction.
  • Absence of a notarial certificate in the document, and the signer being unable to select one.
  • Requests to certify publicly recorded documents or vital records.


Notarization requested beyond business hours:


A notary isn't obligated to provide services around the clock. You can define specific business hours during which you conduct notarial acts and decline requests outside those hours.


Furthermore, your employer might restrict notarizations to working hours or limit you to notarizing work-related documents only. Such restrictions are reasonable, as public notarizations during work could interfere with your job responsibilities.


Notary discomfort with the transaction:


Certain situations might leave you uneasy about proceeding with a notarization, like:


Suspicions of fraudulent or false transactions.

Documents drafted in an unfamiliar foreign language.

Inability to communicate with the signer due to language barriers.

Concerns about coercion influencing the signer's consent.

Signer's state of intoxication, confusion, or lack of comprehension regarding the document's content and implications.


Signer's inability to cover notary fees:


If the signer can't afford or declines to pay your notarial fee, you have the right to decline the notarization.


Instances when you should avoid declining:


A notary must exercise caution to avoid refusal based on potentially discriminatory grounds, including race, age, gender, nationality, lifestyle, sexual orientation, and disability. Discrimination against signers on these bases is unlawful.


Moreover, a notary cannot reject a notarization merely due to disagreement with the document's content based on political, religious, or personal reasons.


Given the significant variations in state laws, it's advisable to consult your state's regulations before declining a notarization. If you decide to decline, it's important to transparently communicate the reasons to the signer.


Legal Disclaimer: The Spokane Notary Group endeavors to furnish accurate and current information within our blog postings. However, it is imperative to recognize that the content provided in our blogs are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We do not hold ourselves out as attorneys, and we make no warranties regarding the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information presented. It is strongly advised that you seek the counsel of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. Under no circumstances shall the Spokane Notary Group, its employees, or contractors be held liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, or expenses arising in connection with the use of the information contained in our blogs. This includes, but is not limited to, direct or indirect losses, as well as consequential losses. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with the applicable notary laws governing your state. Notaries are encouraged to consult with their state's notary authorities or legal professionals if they have inquiries of a legal nature. In the event that any portion of this disclaimer is deemed unlawful or unenforceable by a court or other competent authority, the remaining sections of this disclaimer shall remain in full force and effect.