Some professional notaries may find themselves in a position where they need a document notarized. For instance, a notary public may create an advance directive (living will), stating his or her preferences regarding medical care in the event they are unable to make them. Since they are already commissioned as a notary public by their respective state, the notary may assume that’s it’s okay to notarize the advance directive themselves. This would obviously save both time and money, which is why so many notaries bring up this question. So, can a notary public notarize his or her own document?
Notaries Can Not Notarize Their Own Documents
The short answer is no, a notary public cannot legally notarize his or her own document. Most states specifically ban notaries from notarizing their their own signatures and documents – and for good reason: it creates a direct conflict of interest, because the fundamental purpose of notarization is to prevent fraud by adding another layer of security to the document.
Notaries typically perform a few different steps when notarizing a document. They verify the signer’s identity, watch as the signer signs the document, and lastly the notary places his or her official seal on the document (note: some states do not require seals). The final seal placed on the document verifies that the notary checked the signer’s identify and watched as he or she signed the document. Although not foil-proof, these simple steps significantly help to prevent fraud.
If a notary were to notarize his or her own document, it would essentially negate the purpose of having a document notarized. The notary could notarize his or her document without going through the normal steps of identification verification. This is why most states explicitly ban this activity.
Notaries Signing as Witnesses
While notaries are typically prohibited from notarizing their own documents, there are cases in which they may sign as both the notary and a witness. Certain documents require the signatures of one or more witnesses in addition to notarization. Assuming the document only requires a single witness, the signer may take the document to a notary to have it notarized and witnessed by the notary public.
It’s important to note, however, that notaries may only sign as a witness if the witness’s signature does not require notarization. Laws regarding the notarization of witness signatures vary from state to state, so notaries should check with their respective state’s rules before agreeing to act as a witness for a client. The notary may still act and sign as a witness, while also notarizing the original signer’s signature, but the notary may not notarize their own signature (the witness’s).