The Notary’s job doesn’t begin and end with simply verifying a signer’s identity; another key responsibility of the Notary is to ensure that the signer is willingly signing the documents that are being notarized and is not being pressured to do so by other individuals. If it is later discovered that the signer was being coerced the document could be challenged in court, placing the Notary at legal risk. Therefore, the NNA’s Recommended Notary Practices encourages all Notaries to:
Always confirm that the signer is not being coerced and is willingly signing the documents you notarize.
Determining whether or not a signer is being coerced can be challenging, but the key is to be vigilant and evaluate the situation as best you can. If, through this close observation, you feel that a signer is possibly being coerced, halt the proceedings and refuse the notarization. If, however, you have reason to believe that the signer — or yourself — is being threatened by violence, complete the notarization, and then contact the police or local authorities.
Editor’s Note: Throughout 2011, the Notary Bulletin will focus on one of the NNA’s Recommended Notary Practices each month. The complete list of Recommended Notary Practices is available online.