Can a Family Member Act as a Witness?

There are several instances where a notary public will go out to notarize a document, and the signer will bring a family member to serve as a witness to the document. The question arises, can a family member serve as a witness? The following article talks about a family member serving as a witness.

Remember the role of the notary…

Notary2Pro expert faculty member Andrea Douling states, “A notary public must always serve as an impartial witness in their notarial services and never notarize any document if they hold a beneficial or financial interest in the transaction.” A notary public must maintain impartiality on documents with their official stamp and legal signature. A notary public seal indicates that a document was executed correctly under the law following state rules and regulations. Witnesses have the same restrictions placed upon them under the law. Therefore, a witness cannot benefit in any way from the transaction.

What is the purpose of a witness?

Some legal documents require the signer to have a witness observe the signature. Witnesses must sign the document indicating that they saw the signature occur. Witnesses help deter fraud by ensuring no forgery took place. If a signer ever disputes a document or contract, a witness is vital and can attest to the validity of the signature. 

What are witness requirements?

Witness requirements vary by state. Notary2Pro urges you to familiarize yourself with your state’s rules and regulations regarding witnesses. Typically, state law will specify when a document requires a witness for any given document. Please remember witness requirements may vary by the document at hand as well.

What are some examples of witness requirements?

(ALWAYS remember to check YOUR state’s rules and regulations)

  • Witnesses must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Close relatives may not serve as a witness.
  • More than one witness may be required.
  • The witness must be of sound mind.
  • The witness must not be named or benefit from the execution of the transaction.

Who Can Be a Witness?

Some states do not allow family members to serve as witnesses. In this instance, neighbors or co-workers make good witnesses. However, strangers will also do the job sufficiently. Always remember that a witness should not benefit or have a vested interest in the document’s transaction. To clarify, the witness or witnesses should not receive any benefits or financial gain from the transaction. Although this may be difficult for the notary public to identify, the notary must execute the transaction correctly and honestly. Accurately completing the signing eliminates any chance for future liability or legal challenges from the signing parties.

Who Cannot Be a Witness?

Notary2Pro encourages you to check state rules and regulations regarding who cannot be a witness. However, unless your state’s notary laws clearly state otherwise, close family members should not serve as witnesses to any legal document, even if the family member’s name does not appear in said documents. 

It is essential to find an impartial witness because of the likelihood that immediate family members, including spouses, siblings, and in-laws, will presumably have some interest in any legal document. 

Although not mandated in every state, Notary2Pro advises all notary publics to record the names of all witnesses in their notary journals and require them to leave their legal signatures. Notary2Pro expert faculty member Stephanie Rowland urges notary publics and loan signing agents to place Identifying credible witnesses under oath and take note of the oath in their notary public journal. The notary public’s essential duty is to maintain the integrity of any legal transaction. If a court examines documents in a legal proceeding, the notary public’s attention to detail and records will protect them and the principal signer in question.

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