Notary Question: Can a Notary Notarize for Family Members?

Can a Notary Notarize for Family Members?

A Notary serves as an impartial witness to the signing of important documents.  Their primary function is to verify the identity of the signers in an effort to prevent fraud.  If a Notary is asked to notarize for a family member such as a spouse, daughter, mother or father, the question becomes whether a Notary can serve without bias.

Not all States Permit Notarizing For a Family Member

Many states do allow notaries to notarize for family members, but the safest and most practical decision may be to avoid this situation. Notaries are expected to remain impartial when performing their duties and having a relationship with the person being affixed with a signature can make it difficult to remain unbiased and objective.

This can lead to accusations that the notarization was done in an improper or fraudulent way. Additionally, it can be a conflict of interest for the notary since their family member may benefit from a document being properly notarized. 

If asked to notarize for an immediate family member, or any family member for that matter, the first thing you should do is check your state notary laws. Notarizing a document for a family member can create suspicion of bias, as well as potentially lead to accusations of conflict of interest or fraud. For example, Florida and Massachusetts are two of the states that prohibit Notaries from performing notary acts for family members such as spouses, parents, or children.

On the other hand, there are states, such as Texas that don’t specifically outline any restrictions for family members at all, but many states do caution Notaries against notarizing for family members even though they are not restricted to do so.  New York is one of those states that does not specifically prohibit Notaries to notarize for family members, however, if possible, they should decline if asked to do so.

Happy female soldier with her family at home just before a notary family member helps her with her documents and discusses how to proceed to notarize for Family Members she  ships off overseas

It is wise to avoid notarizing documents for family members if possible, as accepting such requests can lead to confusion and potential legal issues. This is because of the close relationship between the signer and the Notary, which can create a conflict of interest.

The best advice for New York Notaries is to use their judgment when considering whether or not to notarize for family members. They should always keep in mind that although there are no specific restrictions in place, it may be wise to decline due to the potential legal risks. In] addition, New York Notaries should also familiarize themselves with their state’s laws and regulations regarding notarization to ensure compliance with all guidelines.

By properly assessing each situation that arises, New York Notaries can create a successful practice while preserving the integrity of the office of Notary Public.

Direct Benefit

When a notary is asked to notarize for family members, there’s a high probability that there may be a direct financial (or other) benefit to the notary as a result of the transaction.  Documents such as the power of attorneys or wills to name a few, may not name the notary as a beneficiary or recipient of any financial gains, however, if a Notary is related to the husband who is named in the document, this is what is referred to as an indirect benefit.  This could present a conflict of interest and should be avoided at all costs.

Notaries have a responsibility to uphold their oath and be ethical in all services they provide. When asked by family members for a service, careful consideration must be taken to ensure there is no conflict of interest and that the best practice standards of objectivity and fairness are followed.  This is especially true when it comes to documents involving wills, powers of attorney and any other document in which an indirect benefit may be present.  By doing so, notaries can ensure their service is up to the highest standards.

When To Refuse a Notarization for a family member?

A Notary Public should comply with every request to notarize a document, but there may be times when the request is unreasonable or unlawful.  It is unlawful for a Notary to notarize their own signature and it is also unlawful for a Notary to notarize a document for a family member or friend who names the Notary in the document.  Notarizing these documents renders them invalid and could cause repercussions for the notary.

Notaries are also prohibited from notarizing documents when there are vested benefits.  Vested benefits are interests that contain a promise of present or future enjoyment.  A good example of where a notary might experience a vested interest is with a mortgage or deed on a home or with a transfer of ownership.  For example, if a notary is asked to notarize a document for her husband that involves the sale and transfer of ownership of her mother-in-law’s property, although the Notary is not named, there will be an indirect benefit to the notary in the future.

There are other transactions in which a notary may obtain a beneficial interest. This may occur with transactions where the notary is named as a trust or beneficiary on a pension.  Even though the notary is not the owner of the fund, he/she may have the potential of receiving benefits from the fund based on certain conditions.

a man has dinner with his family outdoors at a picnic table and preparing to notarize for Family Members

The above two examples are what we called conflicts of interest.  The conflict exists between the notary and the constituent and not between two constituents. A notary must remain an impartial witness at all times as a disinterested party in all notary transactions.

When there is a beneficial or vested interest, notaries should make every effort to redirect the constituent to another notary.  These hidden benefits might also present themselves when providing notary services for friends.  It is the Notary’s job to be vigilant of recognizing when there may be some sort of personal benefit in the event that the notarization ever was to be challenged in a court proceeding.  The best and safest option is to simply not notarize for family members and close friends to avoid any possible conflicts.

Kim Jones Notary

Kim Jones

Notary Roc City Notary Services

Kim Jones is a veteran mobile Notary and Notary Signing Agent with over 15 years of experience. Kim is the Owner and Operator of Roc City Notary Services in upstate NY.

Notary Jane: Kim Jones
Instagram: @roccitynotary

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