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Issues That Prevent Notarizations

If it appears that the signer is being coerced into signing a document, what are my duties as a notary public?

Your responsibility as a notary public is to stop performing the notarial act immediately.

How do I know if the signature is being made willingly?

There are no statutes in the United States that define or provide criteria for assessing or evaluating competence or willingness. With just a few questions, a notary may be able to assess whether the signer understands the nature and effect of the signing and notarization of the document. The notary should engage in normal conversation with the document signer, and, in a matter of a few minutes, the notary can determine whether the execution of the document was made freely and voluntarily without duress, undue emotional pressure, or intoxicating influences. If coercion seems evident and the signer appears frightened or forced, the notary must decline to notarize the transaction.

May I notarize for a signer who is in the hospital?

Notarizing for someone in a hospital setting requires the notary to exercise a high degree of care in the execution of proper notarial procedures, especially if the signer is taking medication that may alter the signer’s ability to understand the nature and effect of the signing and notarization of the document. Before the notary starts the official act, the notary should ask the signer a variety of questions, and the signer should answer coherently and appropriately with noticeable competence.