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Keeping up Pt IV. - Conducting Your Notary Business Ethically

Whether you are an experienced Notary, a first time commission holder, or simply serve as the Notary for your workplace, you can expect your signers and coworkers to see you as the go-to expert on notarization. Therefore you have an obligation to conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the office you hold. Upholding your state’s notary laws and conforming to professional notary standards will help you remain an ethical and responsible notary throughout your career.

 

Act With Total Impartiality

Notary laws provide certain prohibitions against conflicts of interest. The aim of these laws is to protect the public by ensuring the Notary remains an unbiased, disinterested party who stands between the signer and anyone who would defraud that signer. Best practices for remaining neutral and avoiding conflicts of interest include the following:

  • Never notarize for a family member- While some states specify that you may not notarize for a relative, or any person related by blood or marriage, select others are silent on this issue. Generally, a notary should refrain from notarizing for family members, to avoid any questions about impartiality.
  • Don’t notarize if you’re a party to the transaction- If you are connected to the transaction, or if you stand to gain from the transaction, you cannot be neutral.
  • Don’t notarize if you have a financial interest-Financial interest” is present when the notary will receive any financial benefit that is contingent upon completion of the transaction. This benefit does not include the fee for notarial service or your salary as an employee. 

 

Ethical Conduct

Most business professionals and public officers have codes of conduct that they must adhere to. This is no different for notaries. Here are three fundamental principles of ethical Notary Conduct:

1. Observe Client Confidentiality.

By observing client confidentiality, a Notary will never divulge the contents of any document nor the facts of any transaction. They will not use the information for their own benefit or as a source of gossip.

2. Avoid discrimination among customers.

Ethical notaries treat each individual fairly and equally, with kindness and respect. The United States Constitution strictly prohibits discrimination of any kind. It goes without saying that you may not discriminate in performing notarizations for your customers

3. Advertise your notary services properly.

Advertising is an active way to increase your business. Be aware, however, that many states have specific restrictions on advertising Notary services. You must never translate the words, “Notary Public,” from English into any other language. The term, “Notario Publico,” may be very misleading to persons from foreign countries where “notarios” have considerably more powers that U.S. Notaries Public. Additionally, if you are not an attorney and you advertise in another language, you should specify that you are not an attorney, cannot give legal advice nor can you charge fees for legal services. Producing misleading advertisements or violating these restrictions could lead to sanctions such as the loss of your notary commission.