One of the most common questions our notaries get is whether or not a family member can help them notarize their document.
It’s a natural – and often innocently posed – question.
Nothing is more convenient than having a qualified and capable family member when it comes to the aspects of life we consider “mundane.” Tasks like notarizing documents can certainly fall into that category.
And what’s better, family members often get a nice discount – hard to complain about that.
But convenience and discounts aren’t always the determining factor in whether or not you can use that family member’s notary status to help you.
This is a nuanced and often complicated and touchy matter, and it leaves some grey areas that you need to be aware of before signing the dotted line.
Let’s explore these nuances – and hopefully you’ll think twice about engaging in this activity with your own family.
Should Notary Publics Notarize For Family Members?
In general, the answer is a resounding no.
When a notary validates a document for a family member, there’s a high possibility that they stand to benefit financially in some way. This presents a conflict of interest and may result in unethically validated signatures that another notary should be present for.
For instance, if you notarize a property deed for your parents, you have a financial interest in the action by default. The same holds true when notarizing wills for family members.
Of course, these are just a few examples of how a public notary could develop a financial interest from performing notarial services for a family member. But more exist – and it’s why the practice is frowned upon by most notaries.
However, it bears mentioning that the legal side of the issue is a bit more complicated.
The Legality of Notarizing For Family Members
Ethics aside – is it even legal for a notary to help a family member with their document?
Here in the U.S., state officials appoint public notaries. This could be the governor, lieutenant governor, or state secretary. That means that the laws governing what’s allowed for notaries and what’s not vary from state to state.
Let’s look at a few cases from both sides.
In California, public notaries are NOT prohibited from notarizing for relatives unless it provides a direct financial or beneficial interest. This includes any document where the notary public is named – especially if they’re a beneficiary.
Here’s the quote from the California Government Code, section 8224:
Direct beneficial interest may include notarizing a financial document of which the public notary is named, or performing any notarial service of which the public notary is a beneficiary.
“In California, a notary public is not prohibited from notarizing for relatives or others, unless doing so would provide a direct financial or beneficial interest to the notary public. With California’s community property law, care should be exercised if notarizing for a spouse or a domestic partner.”
So if you need a document notarized in California, it’s possible to contact your family member.
Florida, on the other hand, prohibits public notaries from performing notarial services to immediate family members (sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, etc.).
“A notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the person whose signature is to be notarized is the spouse, son, daughter, mother, or father of the notary public.”
That’s pretty clear. If you were to get a document notarized by family in Florida, you’d be on the wrong side of the law – and they could lose their status as a notary public.
So the ultimate takeaway is to check your state laws before allowing a family member to notarize a document to ensure that it’s legal. That is, if you decide to take this route.
So, all things considered, should you have a family member notarize your document?
Our answer is no – but we recognize that the grey area does exist when it comes to the law. Some states allow it, and others don’t.
Despite that, most notaries discourage the practice, and the risk isn’t worth saving a few bucks on a notary. There are plenty of great options in your area for notaries – and they won’t be that much more inconvenient than your family member.
Contact us today for all of your notary needs!