Our readers have undoubtedly heard the legendary story about President Calvin Coolidge being sworn into the office of President of the United States of America by his father in 1923.
Afterwards, it became apparent that President Calvin Coolidge’s father’s act of administering the oath of office to his son implied a conflict of interest. It is hard to imagine how this notarial act performed by a proud father could have created concerns about a conflict of interest, but it did. President Coolidge was required to take a second oath of office from a U.S. Supreme Court judge who wasn’t related to him. History books tell us that the oath of office was administered a second time just to ensure that President Coolidge held his new office legitimately.
Notarizing for family members – Where conflict of interest is concerned with regard to a notary notarizing for a member of his or her family, notary laws vary in specificity from state to state. Your job is to make sure you know what your notary laws (or notary public administrator) considers crossing the line.
In Arizona, for instance, notary laws forbid notaries from notarizing for anyone related to them by marriage or adoption, while Indiana notary laws clearly allow notaries to notarize for their spouses, children, parents, or other relatives.
If your state notary laws do not give you clear guidance on how to proceed when notarizing for family members, the best practice is to avoid doing so. President Coolidge’s issue with the oath of office administered by his father indicates that even the most innocent of intra-family notarial acts can be put under a microscope.
Notarizing for family businesses – Another confusing issue involving conflict of interest is whether or not a notary may notarize documents pertaining to his or her own business or a business owned by a close family member. Many individuals become notaries in order to notarize documents for their own businesses. For instance, a married couple may run a car dealership that requires documents to be notarized in the course of business. Notary laws aren’t usually clear on this issue.
The best practice is for notaries in these type of situations is to consult an attorney to learn what types of notary acts would be considered a conflict of interest for a notary involved in a family business.