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As notary public, upholding integrity and ethics is everything. You are entrusted with a significant responsibility. Your role in verifying the authenticity and legality of various documents is crucial to maintaining the trust and integrity of legal transactions. To guide you through this intricate terrain, there exists a set of ethical guidelines known as the Notary Public Code of Ethics. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the importance of these ethical principles in your profession and how they shape your practice.

The Foundation of Trust
Impartiality: The Cornerstone of the Notary Profession
At the core of the Notary Public Code of Ethics lies the principle of impartiality. When you notarize a document, you act as an impartial witness, affirming its validity. This impartiality is the bedrock of the notary profession. It means you must remain unbiased and objective, regardless of personal feelings or interests, ensuring that all parties involved can trust your judgment.

Balancing Ethics and Professional Duties
Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
While impartiality is paramount, situations may arise where personal interests or relationships conflict with your professional obligations. The code of ethics addresses this challenge by emphasizing the importance of integrity and the avoidance of conflicts of interest. As a notary, you must prioritize your role over personal gains, ensuring your actions are beyond reproach. Notarizing for a family member is one example of possible conflict of interest. Some States prohibit notarizing for certain family members while other states do not. As with all circumstances, it is critical you check your State-specific notary laws.

Securing Sensitive Information
Discretion and Confidentiality
Many documents you handle contain sensitive and confidential information. The Notary Public Code of Ethics mandates that you respect the privacy of all parties involved. This means not disclosing any confidential details without proper authorization. Discretion and confidentiality are essential aspects of your ethical responsibilities, ensuring the trust and confidence of those who rely on your services.

Continuous Learning and Competency
Staying Current in a Changing Legal Landscape
The legal landscape is ever-evolving, and it’s your duty to stay informed. The code of ethics encourages ongoing education and professional development. By continuously improving your knowledge and skills, you ensure you can perform your duties accurately and ethically, meeting the demands of a dynamic legal environment.

Meticulous Record-Keeping
The Importance of Documentation
Every notarial act must be meticulously documented. The Notary Public Code of Ethics emphasizes this requirement as both an ethical duty and a legal one. Proper record-keeping serves as a safeguard against potential disputes and helps track any irregularities in your practice, demonstrating the practicality of the code. Maintaining a legal Notary Record Book is essential, one such journal can be found here:

Respecting Legal Boundaries
Knowing Your Role
While you play a critical role in the document-signing process, you must be cautious not to overstep your boundaries. The code of ethics reminds notaries to stay within the limits of their authority. This ensures you avoid any potential legal complications that may arise from offering legal advice or engaging in activities beyond your scope.

Treating All Parties Equitably
Fairness and Impartiality
Regardless of personal characteristics, such as race, gender, or religion, the code of ethics requires that you treat all individuals fairly. This commitment to fairness ensures that your notarial acts are conducted impartially and without prejudice, fostering trust among diverse groups of clients.

Exercising Discretion in Notarial Acts
The Power to Decline
There may be occasions where you must exercise discretion and refuse your services. If you suspect a document is fraudulent or that a signer is not acting willingly or knowingly, it’s your ethical duty to decline notarization. This act of discretion is vital in upholding the integrity of notarial acts. Let’s face it, we often times do not want to say NO. As notaries, we don’t want to deny services but a client who is requesting questionable actions could be erasing your ability to serve your community and placing you in legal jeopardy.

Protecting Notarial Instruments
Safeguarding the Tools of Your Trade
As a notary, you are entrusted with notarial seals and journals that can be used to verify the authenticity of documents. It is imperative that you keep these instruments secure and prevent unauthorized use. By doing so, you reinforce the code’s commitment to integrity and prevent potential misuse of your notarial tools. Many Notaries opt to keep their supplies in a locked, large Notary Supply Bag, with a notary lock,

A Commitment to Professionalism and Ethical Conduct
In conclusion, the Notary Public Code of Ethics is not just a set of rules; it’s a commitment to professionalism and ethical conduct that underpins the essential work of notaries in our society. Upholding these principles, from impartiality to confidentiality, from continuous learning to record-keeping, is not only your ethical duty but also crucial in ensuring the trust and confidence that individuals and businesses place in your vital services. As a notary, you play a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of legal transactions. By embracing and embodying the principles outlined in the Notary Public Code of Ethics, you not only honor your ethical obligations but also contribute to a more trustworthy and reliable legal system for all.

About the Author: Thomas McTague is the owner of Anchor Rubber Stamp Co. Inc. and with nearly 30 years of experience in the Notary Industry.