Notary Impartiality: Avoiding Conflicts of Interests as a Notary
Does a notary need to be impartial? Absolutely.
As a trusted public official, a notary public needs to be completely honest in his or her dealings. There are no grey areas. Notaries ought to be impartial in every notarial act they witness, perform and/ or administer.
But what happens when there is a conflict of interest during a notarization?
What Type of Conflicts of Interest Can Arise for a Notary?
If a notary public has additional interests— if they stand to gain financial or material benefits— in the transaction taking place or legal undertaking, it renders his or his impartiality null and void. Disqualifying interests for a notary can be of the following types:
If the notary is named in the document, they cannot notarize it as it would constitute a serious conflict of interest. Furthermore, if the notary will gain any personal, monetary or material benefits from the document being notarized, they cannot carry out notarization.
California’s Laws Regarding Self-Interest in Notarization
The state of California permits a notary public who is an agent, employee, insurer, attorney or lender for someone with a financial or beneficial interest in a document to complete the notarization.
Relational Conflicts of Interest
If the notary has to notarize a document for someone he or she is related to, it constitutes a notary-family conflict of interest. Oftentimes it is not clear when a notary cannot notarize for a family member. For instance, if the document in question has nothing to do with the notary, neither do they or their family member(s) benefit from the aforementioned document.
However, it is still not permissible for them to notarize in this scenario because:
It is Not Impartial
No matter what the personal relation may be, a notary cannot be considered to act impartially towards a family member. The notary might be acting under duress or in a manner that benefits their relative.
It May Render the Document Invalid
A time might arise in the future when the document that was notarized by a family member needs to be produced in court. It will not be admissible in a court of law, nor would any other authority entertain it.
If you are a notary and a family member asks you to notarize a document for them, the law requires that you refuse to do so. Should they persist, you can provide them with a list of reliable notaries who can render their services. It’s best to have such a list handy beforehand.
It is better to avoid messy scenarios in the future with family members, relatives and legal bodies with some careful preplanning.
A notary public is expected to be honest and impartial in their line of work. Always avoid notarization if there are conflicts of interest such as material or personal gain for you or for a family member.
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