Mass. General Laws c.222 § 16

Notarial acts that should not be performed; prohibited actions by notary public

This is an unofficial version of a Massachusetts General Law. For more information on this topic, please see law about notaries public.

Table of Contents


Section 16

(a) A notary public shall not perform a notarial act if:

(i) the principal is not in the notary public's presence at the time of notarization, except as specifically provided in this chapter;

(ii) the principal is not identified by the notary public through satisfactory evidence of identity;

(iii) the principal has a demeanor that causes the notary public to have a compelling doubt about whether the principal knows the consequences of the transaction or document requiring the notarial act;

(iv) in the notary public's judgment, the principal is not acting of the principal's own free will;

(v) the notary public is a party to or is named in the document that is to be notarized unless: (1) the notary public is named in the document for the sole purpose of receiving notices relating to the document; or (2) the notary public is licensed as an attorney in the commonwealth or is employed by an attorney so licensed and is named as an executor, trustee or any other fiduciary capacity in a document;

(vi) the notary public will receive as a direct result of the notarial act any commission, fee, advantage, right, title, interest, cash, property or other consideration exceeding the maximum fees provided in section 41 of chapter 262 or any other general or special law or executive order, or has any financial interest in the subject matter of the document; provided, however, that this clause shall not preclude a notary public who is licensed as an attorney in the commonwealth or who is employed by an attorney so licensed from performing notarial acts relative to any document in connection with which the attorney receives a legal fee for professional legal services; provided further, that a notary public shall not be precluded from receiving a technology services fee that has been clearly disclosed in advance to the person requesting the service and that technology services fee reflects the actual reasonable cost to the notary public of utilizing a third-party technology service provider; provided further, that the state secretary may set reasonable limits on such technology services fee; or

(vii) the notary public is a spouse, domestic partner, parent, guardian, child or sibling of the principal, including in-law, step or half relatives, except if a principal witnesses a will or other legal document prepared by the notary public who is an attorney licensed in the commonwealth or if the notary is employed by any such attorney.

(b) A notary public shall not refuse to perform a notarial act solely based on the principal's race, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, health, disability or status as a nonclient or noncustomer of the notary public or the notary public's employer.

(c) A nonattorney notary public shall not influence a person to enter into or avoid a transaction involving a notarial act by the notary public; provided, however, that the notary public may provide assistance relating to that transaction if the notary public is duly qualified, trained or acting pursuant to a standard or practice recognized in a particular industry or professional field in selecting, drafting or completing a certificate or other document related to a matter within such industry or field.

(d) A notary public shall not execute a certificate containing information which the notary public knows or believes to be false.

(e) A notary public shall not affix an official signature or seal on a notarial certificate that is incomplete.

(f) A notary public shall not provide or send a signed or sealed notarial certificate to another person with the understanding that it will be completed or attached to a document outside of the notary public's presence; provided, however, that in connection with a commercial, nonconsumer transaction, a notary public may deliver a signed, sealed or signed and sealed notarial certificate to an attorney with the understanding that: (i) the attorney shall attach the certificate to a document outside of the notary public's presence; (ii) the attorney shall hold such notarial certificate in escrow; and (iii) the attorney shall obtain the approval of any principals involved before attaching the certificate to the document.

(g) A notary public shall not notarize a signature on a blank or incomplete document, except as provided in subsection (f).

(h) A notary public shall not perform any official notarial act with the intent to deceive or defraud.

(i) A notary public shall not use the term ''notario'' or ''notario publico'' or any equivalent non–English term in a business card, advertisement, notice or sign.

(j) A notary public shall not claim to have powers, qualifications, rights or privileges that the office of notary public does not provide.

(k) This section shall not require a notary public to use the forms in section 15 if the form of acknowledgment, jurat, signature witnessing or copy certification appears on a printed form that contains an express prohibition against altering such form.

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Last updated: March 29, 2023

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