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Can a Witness to a Notarization Have a Financial Interest in the Notarized Document?


The role of the notary public in society is of vital importance. When a notary places his or her stamp and signature on a document, the document recipient or the receiving institution automatically assumes that the notary has executed his or her responsibility correctly. This means that the notary has maintained impartiality, has performed notarial duties according to state law, and has acted with the utmost integrity.


As such, all notaries understand that they are prohibited from notarizing any document in which they have an interest, financial or beneficial. Accordingly, when a document requires the signature of a witness (this may occur, for instance, with real estate documents being executed for recording in a state that requires witnesses or when the principal signer of a document does not have any form of acceptable identification), the same restrictions must be placed upon the witness as are placed upon the notary.

Witnesses should not have any type of vested interest in the transaction. Therefore, the witness(es) must not be able to enjoy any present or future benefit or financial gain arising from the transaction. While notary laws do not necessarily directly address this issue, the notary must assure, to the best of his or her ability, that the transaction has been executed correctly and with integrity, leaving no room for future liability or legal challenge. Accordingly, family relations of the principal signer should not be selected to act as witnesses to transactions as there may be a future benefit or financial gain that is not obvious. Neighbors and co-workers make good witnesses, and, when it is not a question of verifying identity, a stranger will actually suffice. In that case, the witness is just declaring by his or her signature that he or she has witnessed the principal signer sign the document. Notaries are well advised to have witnesses sign their journals or notary record books along with the principal signer. In every way, effort should be made to maintain the integrity of the transaction. This is the type of reasonable care that will provide protection for the notary - and the principal signer - if the transaction is ever questioned or examined in a legal proceeding.

Legal disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries seeks to provide timely articles for notaries to assist them with information for managing their notary businesses, enhancing their notary education, and securing their notary stamp and notary supplies. Every effort is made to provide accurate and complete information in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. However, we make no warrant, expressed or implied, and we do not represent, undertake, or guarantee that the information in the newsletter is correct, accurate, complete, or non-misleading. Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. We are not attorneys. We do not pretend to be attorneys. Though we will sometimes provide information regarding notaries' best practices, federal laws and statutes, and the laws and statutes of each state, we have gathered this information from a variety of sources and do not warrant its accuracy. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, loss, damage, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss or consequential loss out of or in connection with the use of the information contained in the American Association of Notaries newsletters. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their states' notary authorities or attorneys in their state if they have legal questions. If a section of this disclaimer is determined by any court or other competent authority to be unlawful and/or unenforceable, the other sections of this disclaimer continue in effect.

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