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What Would You Do Answer: A signer with no hands

Notaries weigh in on how to handle notarizations with handicapped signers.

Last week we posed the scenario of A Signer With No Hands, in which a man with no hands needs a jurat for an affidavit. The man offered to use a toe print or bite mark as his signature.

What Would You Do? Do you accept either of these options? Suggest he consult an attorney? Or do you send him away without any solution?

What you said

This real-life conundrum generated nearly 100 responses and suggestions between Facebook and the blog post comments.

“I would not be able to notarize a bite mark, but I have had a signer who was paralyzed from the neck down sign the document with a pen in her mouth,” New Orleans Notary Bob Gostl wrote on Facebook. A blog commenter concurred, noting, “I carry a blue felt-tip pen in my notary case for folks with physical issues.”

Howard Cohen, a Florida attorney, recounted handling a real estate transaction last year on behalf of an elderly signer who was so infirm that she could not even make her mark. “Pursuant to a Florida statute, I arranged for her to direct the Notary (who knew her) to sign a durable power of attorney for her for the execution of the closing documents. The statute authorizes the notary to sign for her. The title company accepted the POA and an affidavit from her husband who witnessed the procedure and signed the closing documents under the POA.”

“I would ask this person how he "signs" other documents — and that method is what I would expect to use,” wrote Susan Kehoe-Sutphin.

The NNA’s Recommendation

Many states have provisions in the laws specifically dealing with disabled signers and signature by mark, so the Notary in this scenario should start by checking her Notary handbook or the guidelines from the Secretary of State’s office. Here’s a brief rundown on the alternate signing methods for physically-challenged signers:

  • Signer makes mark: Twenty-four states, including Alabama, California, New Mexico and Illinois allow a Notary to notarize a signature made by mark.
  • Notary signs: Eleven states, including Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska and Texas permit a Notary to sign for a signer who is physically unable to sign or make a mark.
  • Third party signs: Seven states (Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon and West Virginia) permit a Notary to notarize the signature of a third party who signs for a person who is physically unable to sign.
  • Signer uses signature stamp: Four states, including Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire and Oregon permit a Notary to notarize the signature of a person who signs using a signature stamp.

In many states, it is permissible to allow the signer in this case to hold a pen in his mouth and make his mark. Some states also would require one or two witnesses to the mark.

As Cohen’s comment illustrates, a number of states allow the signer to direct a third party or even the Notary to sign on his or her behalf.

Additional Resources:

The NNA Hotline is available to help with your questions.

The NNA offers various resources to boost your knowledge of Notary Best Practices.

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Betty F. Swammy

09 Feb 2015

Good Morning. I did respond to the above last week's scenario, "Sign With No Hands". You mentioned what so many other states would do, but you often fail to include Wahington, DC, separately, which is not a State. I am a licensed/certified Notary Public in Washington, DC, and I would appreciate you including Washington, DC in some of your follow-up responses. Thank you.

Jade Piearson

09 Feb 2015

As to "signing" for the person with no hands, I am a Graphoanalyst (handwriting analyst) and handwriting or signatures can be done by the person holding a pen (or pencil) in his/her teeth and making a mark or signing if he/she is capable.

Elodoa Alaniz

10 Feb 2015

very interesting subject . Also appreciate most of all the responces and other ways of helping this persons..

Marian H.

15 Feb 2015

I can't believe this is even a question... do we ask how somebody with no legs walks around? Do we ask how a blind person manages to read? People with disabilities adapt and the lack of hands, alone, doesn't mean a person can't sign their name or make a mark. I'm sorry... this is just kind of insulting. This, with some of the other hotline questions the NNA is promoting lately make me seriously wonder about the quality and common sense of the people you're training. That's proven right in the few comments related to this question on Facebook (or the original page where the question was posted) where at least three CA notaries suggest or reference the use of Credible witnesses as a solution. Credible witnesses are used to assist with establishing identity and have nothing to do with this scenario. It's the quality of information and obvious l lack of adequate knowledge of NNA members I refused to renew my membership. I'm so glad NNA never did any of my notary training. Sorry guys... I know this may not sound very nice, but it is meant as a serious bit of constructive criticism.

Mr. J

04 Mar 2015

Marian H.... considering the serious lack of common sense in today's culture and society (which is unfortunately apparent even with many notaries), yes, people really do need to be spoon-fed such basic things.


27 Mar 2015

Marian H I am just a common person surfing the net seeking data on business lawyers etc. I saw the question about "A Signer With No Hands". I already knew myself several of the suggestions, and saw a couple new ideas I did not know. You posted a question that went unanswered. "do we ask how somebody with no legs walks around?" I say yes we do. We not only ask them to walk, we seek ways to help them, not only to walk, but to run, play basketball, and do anything they so desire. The question that was originally asked did not deserve attack. It opened a subject that in some people opened minds. Reminders that people with no hands exist. If I can understand this, then maybe my mind not expands to remember someone I know with no hands, legs, eyes, etc. They are people. Ideas and reminders to all readers that we are a part of the picture and what we read from a site, a question, or a comment, is not limited to that sentence or statement. But as people we expand and grow. When we look at a situation with our mind and not our emotion, we open doors of possibility and everyone has an opportunity to grow. When we allow emotion to decide then we restrict expansion. I may not be saying this right as I have limited education, but I do not intend to attack, but I do not see the topic as "insulting", but instead just a topic of discussion and it beats silence. Thanks for the opportunity to think, Mesu

Jerry Lucas

24 Feb 2016

In Colorado, we can use a signature by proxy where a volunteer, other than the notary, can sign at the direction of the principal, in the presence of the notary. This is to accommodate a person unable to sign due to a physical disability. When offering services to the public, be sure to make reasonable accommodations to serve a person with a disability. There are federal and state laws against discrimination in places of public accommodation. I wrote an article on this topic on my Colorado Notary Blog, In my research of notary history, I read there was a time when tooth marks were used on documents. Probably when wax seals were used. Since politicians, Presidents and famous people sign so many signatures, they often use a signing machine, called an Autopen. See article on Wikipedia.

Larry Emsweller

07 May 2018

As long as person has been properly identified & is of sound mind, I accept any kind of mark the person is capable of, as long as it matches the mark in my notary journal.......most signatures cannot be read anyway.

02 Sep 2023

Thanks for posting the question because I didn't know what I would have done if I came across a person with no hands. There's. No reason to attack the messages. Thanks forvsharing


04 Nov 2023

I agree, this us a learning/educational platform. Let's be kind to each other, diverse comments and ideas are welcome. Attacking or insulting comments are not ok. Not all individuals learn at the same speed/level. Being an ethical educator/leader entails being open and showing empathy, does it not!

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