We often get asked whether or not notaries can provide notary services for their family members. Can a notary notarize for family? The answer is a little complicated and depends on the specific situation.
In general, we recommend that you avoid performing notary services for anyone with whom you have a close personal relationship, such as a spouse, parents, mother, father, child, or close friends, because of the appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
Additionally, it is important to note that certain states have laws prohibiting or limiting notarizations for some family members.
A Notary Public is an Impartial Witness
Notaries are impartial witnesses to legal documents. When notarizing, a notary validates the identity of the person signing the written instrument as a notarial officer who is an impartial witness to the document.
Notarizing a document for a family member or close friend can create a conflict of interest that could be seen as unethical. The notary laws of most states require notaries to avoid notarizing for close family members. Sometimes, it may even be illegal for a notary to notarize for family members.
A Notary Public is a Disinterested Party to the Documents Notarized
When notary publics notarize, it’s essential to always maintain the status of a disinterested party without a vested interest in the document notarized. That’s why state law also does not permit a notary to notarize his or her own signature. In many cases, a notarized document for a family member appears shady, even if there are no shenanigans in the underlying transaction.
Not all States Permit Performing Notarial Services For a Family Member
It’s important to note that not all states permit notaries to perform their duties for a family member. The specifics vary from state to state, and we recommend consulting with your state’s notary law if you have any questions or concerns about notarizing for a family member. Many states do not allow a notary to perform notarial services for immediate family members, but some state statutes prohibit notaries from performing notarial acts for a broader range of relatives.
Generally speaking, those states that allow notaries to notarize for family members usually limit the services to notarized documents in which the notary public does not have a financial interest or another conflict of interest.
Notarizing Documents Involving a Financial Interest is Generally Prohibited
In general, most notaries are prohibited from notarizing a document in which they have a direct financial interest. This means they cannot notarize documents like deeds transferring title to property or documents related to loans or other contractual agreements involving money if the money or property is going to the notary public. This prohibition also usually applies if the money or property is going to the notary public’s family members.
Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest is a situation in which a person’s personal interests may interfere with their professional obligations. In the context of notaries public, you should not perform the notarization if you have a financial or personal interest in the transaction. This includes when your family member is involved in the transaction, which could be seen as a conflict of interest.
Direct Beneficial Interest
Direct beneficial interest is a legal term for a situation in which a person has an economic or personal stake in an outcome. It is usually defined as having the right to receive direct ownership or benefit from something, such as property, money, goods, services, or some other form of advantage. This can be contrasted with indirect beneficial interest, which is when a person has an interest in something but does not have the right to direct ownership or benefit from it. In the context of Notary Publics, this usually means that if you are the beneficiary of a transaction, you should not perform the notarization. This includes when your family member is involved in the transaction as well. However, this usually doesn’t apply if the notary notarizes for his or her employer.
Appearance Matters when You Perform a Notarial Act
With conflicts of interest, appearances matter. Even if a notary is permitted by their state government to perform the notarization, it may still be seen as unethical, or there might be a hidden conflict of interest unknown to the notary public at the time of the notarial act.
The best action is to avoid notarizing for family members whenever possible. Instead of notarizing for family members, you can suggest an impartial notary who can notarize the document. This will help protect you from any potential ethical dilemmas or conflicts of interest.
It is always wise to err on the side of caution when notarizing documents involving a family member.
The bottom line is that if you are a Notary Public, notarizing documents for family members is generally not recommended. There may be some exceptions depending on the state and the situation, but it is best to avoid these types of transactions in most cases. It is always best to consult with your local government office if you have any questions or concerns. By doing so, you can ensure that all notarizations follow state laws and regulations.