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Florida Notaries- When to Refuse a Notarization

As a public officer, a notary must be prepared and willing to carry out his or her duties for a client who requests a notarial act that is both lawful and authorized. By acting as an impartial witness to the execution of documents, notaries help to deter fraud and promote the integrity of document transactions. There exist however, certain conditions and situations when a Florida notary is bound by law to refuse notary services.

Signer Issues
There are multiple signer-related issues that may compel a notary to refuse to perform a notarial act. For example, if a document signer does not physically appear before the notary, or cannot be identified by the notary through personal knowledge, satisfactory evidence of identification or a credible witness, then the notary must refuse to provide service. Florida statute also states that a notary may not take the acknowledgment of a signer who does not speak or understand the English language, unless the nature and effect of the document to be notarized is translated into a language the person does understand. Nor should the notary officiate if the notary and signer cannot communicate in a shared language. Other circumstances under which the notary should refuse to notarize include:

  • The signer refuses to sign the document when the notarial act requires it to be signed in the notary’s presence (oath, affirmation).
  • The signer asks the notary to perform an unauthorized act such as certifying a copy of a vital record.
  • The signer appears to be confused, or clearly does not understand the contents of the document.
  • The signer appears to be mentally incapacitated.
  • The signer appears to be intoxicated, sedated, or disoriented.
  • It is apparent that the signer is being coerced, or there is someone else present who appears to have control over the signer.

Prohibition Against Conflicts of Interest
Florida notary laws also provide certain prohibitions when the notarization presents a conflict of interest for the notary. For instance, a notary public may not notarize a signature on a document if the notary public has a financial interest in or is a party to the underlying transaction. A notary may not notarize if he or she is a signer of the document. A notary must also refuse service if the signer is the notary’s spouse, parent, or child. Remaining an unbiased, disinterested party is one of a notary’s primary responsibilities, in order to promote the integrity of document transactions.

Document Issues
If a document does not meet the requirements of notarization, then the notary cannot proceed. Common situations that make a document ineligible for notarization include:

  • The document appears to be missing pages, or the notary did not receive all the pages.
  • The document does not contain a notarial certificate, and the signer is unable to instruct the notary which type of notarial certificate is required.
  • There are blank spaces in the document that appear to be critical to the signer’s understanding of the document, and the signer does not know what information belongs in these spaces.

Every notary must have a thorough understanding of his or her state’s notary laws in order to exercise the best judgement possible when servicing clients, and when making decisions about whether to refuse notarization.

Category: Notary Blog