Drafting Documents and Notarization

Many notaries are confused as to whether or not they can notarize documents that  they have drafted. In most cases, a notary cannot draft documents. To do so might be considered unauthorized practice of law. This does not, however, apply to notaries who are attorneys or who draft documents during the course of their employment.

Typically, non-lawyer notaries cannot draft documents. In some states, the law allows non-lawyers to act as typists and fill in approved governmental forms with information provided by their clients. They can also notarize those documents. However, a non-lawyer cannot advise a client on how to complete a document and in most states cannot tell the client which type of notarial certificate is necessary.

Notaries who are employed as paralegals, for example, frequently draft legal documents under the supervision of an attorney. In such cases, a notary can notarize these documents as long as the paralegal/notary is not receiving any additional compensation for this beyond their regular salary and the fee collected for the notarial service.

For attorneys, state laws differ. In general, attorneys may notarize documents they draft for their clients. However, attorneys must be cautious not to notarize any document in which they may have a financial interest. For example, it would be inappropriate for an attorney/notary to notarize an agreement with a client regarding payment of attorney fees because the attorney is financially benefiting from the execution of the document. Like paralegals, attorneys should not be receiving any compensation for notarizing documents beyond their normal compensation as attorneys and the statutory notarization fee.

Similar ethical rules apply to notaries who work in the real estate field. Such notaries may draft deeds, mortgages, or other documents relating to a real estate conveyance. If the notary benefits financially from the sale of the property, it would be unethical for him or her to notarize any documents related to the sale.

Remember to always consult your own state's laws, as state laws can differ on this subject.

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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