Updated: Feb 25, 2020
All notaries must carefully and dutifully follow their state guidelines when executing notarial acts. Not only do state statutes and administrative rules define what notaries may legally do, they also define acts that notaries are prohibited from performing.
These prohibitions are designed to protect the public and help ensure the credibility and integrity of transactions involving notaries. All conscientious and law-abiding notaries will decline to proceed with a notarial act if asked or pressured to perform a prohibited act. While some customers view this as an inconvenience, they should instead appreciate the notary’s efforts to ensure a lawfully executed transaction.
Following are some of the more common prohibited acts.
A notary cannot perform the notarization if the document signer is not physically present
A notary cannot perform the notarization if the document contains missing pages or blanks that should be completed at the time of notarization
The document cannot be dated later than the notarization
A notary cannot post-date a notarial certificate or date it earlier than the actual date of notarization
A notary cannot sign/seal a blank notarial certificate
A notary is unable to send an orphan certificate...it is illegal to notarize anything that is not attached to something
A notary cannot proceed with notarization if the signer cannot be positively identified through satisfactory evidence of identification
A notary cannot proceed if the document is not "original" bearing the signer's original, wet-ink signature
A notary cannot proceed if the required notarial act is not indicated by the document, the signer or someone connected to the document
Notaries cannot authenticate or validate objects
Notaries cannot give advice or opinions that should be given by an attorney - this is unlicensed practice of law
A notary cannot advertise services in a foreign language without a disclaimer explaining that they are not an attorney.
Notaries cannot translate the English words, "notary public" into any other language for purposes of advertising notarial services or for any other purposes.
Notaries cannot sign with any name or initials other than the name or initials that appear on their official commission certificate issued by a state authority (for California, it is the Secretary of State).
A notary cannot proceed with notarization if the signer appears confused or mentally incapable of understanding the transaction.
A notary cannot proceed with the notarization if they are unable to communicate in the same language as the signer. A translator is prohibited as this would hinder the notary from confirming the signer's willingness to sign the document.
A notary cannot proceed with notarization if they are a named party in the transaction, or if they will receive a financial or material benefit (this does not apply to employee notaries earning their regular salary).
A notary may not alter a notarial certificate after the notarial act is complete. Generally, the notarial act is complete when the signer takes the document and leaves the notary's presence.
A notary may not fill out a notarial certificate with information that the notary knows is false.
A notary may not certify the accuracy of a translation. The notary may take the oath of a person who swears the translation is accurate.
A notary may not proceed with notarization if they think or know the transaction is illegal.
A notary may not proceed with notarization in situations that may or will compromise the notary's impartiality.
The notary may not proceed with notarization when they are a signer of the document. A notary may not notarize their own signature.
A notary is unable to fill out a NOTARY IDENTITY CERTIFICATION form. By law, we cannot acknowledge our own identify and will direct you to the Secretary of State.
A notary should not present the Tax Information Sheet if it is included in a loan package.
A notary is unable to fill out a Positive Identification and Notary Signature Affidavit; a notary will instead write "by law, I am unable to fulfill this request" and initial it.