Prohibited Notarial Acts

All notaries must carefully and dutifully follow their state guidelines when executing notarial acts. Not only do state statutes and administrative rules define what notaries may legally do, they also define acts that notaries are prohibited from performing.

These prohibitions are designed to protect the public and help ensure the credibility and integrity of transactions involving notaries. All conscientious and law-abiding notaries will decline to proceed with a notarial act if asked or pressured to perform a prohibited act. While some customers view this as an inconvenience, they should instead appreciate the notary’s efforts to ensure a lawfully executed transaction. 

Following are some of the more common prohibited acts.

  A notary cannot officiate if the document signer is not physically present. (Currently, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Texas and Virginia allow remote notarization, please see their states' Notary Public Administrators website for more information.) 

 A notary cannot officiate if the document contains missing pages or blanks that should be complete at the time of notarization.

 The document cannot be dated later than the day of notarization.

 A notary cannot post-date a notarial certificate (his/her official statement at the end of the document), or date it earlier than the actual date of notarization.

  A notary cannot sign/seal a blank notarial certificate.

  A notary cannot proceed with notarization if the signer cannot be positively identified through personal knowledge or satisfactory evidence of identification. (At this writing, California prohibits relying solely on personal knowledge – satisfactory evidence of identification MUST always be presented.)

  A notary cannot proceed if the document is not “original,” bearing the signer’s original, wet-ink signature (not a photocopy or fax of a signed document).

•  A notary cannot proceed if the required notarial act is not indicated by the document, the signer or someone connected to the document.

  Notaries cannot authenticate or validate objects.

 Notaries cannot give advice or opinions that should be given by an attorney—this is unlicensed practice of law.

  A notary cannot advertise services in a foreign language without a disclaimer explaining that he/she is not an attorney.

  Notaries cannot translate the English words, “notary public” into any other language for purposes of advertising notarial services or for any other purpose.

 Notaries cannot sign with any name or initials other than the name or initials that appear on their official commission certificate issued by their state authority.

  A notary cannot proceed with notarization if the signer appears confused or mentally incapable of understanding the transaction.

•  A notary cannot proceed with notarization if he/she is a named party in the transaction, or if he/she will derive a financial or material benefit. (This does not apply to employee notaries earning their regular salary.)

  A notary may not alter a notarial certificate after the notarial act is complete. (Generally, the notarial act is complete when the signer takes the document and leaves the notary’s presence.)

•  A notary may not fill out a notarial certificate with information that the notary knows is false.

 A notary may not certify the accuracy of a translation. (The notary may take the oath of a person who swears the translation is accurate.)

  A notary may not proceed with notarization if he/she thinks or knows the transaction is illegal.

 A notary may not proceed with notarization in situations that may or will compromise the notary’s impartiality.

  The notary may not proceed with notarization when he/she is a signer of the document (notaries may not notarize their own signature).

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