Your Cookies are Disabled! NationalNotary.org sets cookies on your computer to help improve performance and provide a more engaging user experience. By using this site, you accept the terms of our cookie policy. Learn more.

Notary Bulletin

A Guide To Notarizing For Physically Impaired Signers

Notarizing for signers who are physically impaired

Updated 9-1-20. If you're asked to notarize for someone unable to sign their name due to a physical condition, don't panic. Some states provide alternatives when notarizing for a physically impaired signer, including:

  • Powers of attorney
  • Representative signers
  • Signatures by mark
  • Having someone else sign at the impaired person’s direction

Let's take a look at some of these options below.

Powers Of Attorney And Representative Signers

In some situations, another person may be given power of attorney for someone who cannot sign in order to sign documents on behalf of the disabled individual. This other person is known as a "representative signer" or "attorney in fact" (though the representative does not necessarily have to be an actual lawyer).

In these cases, the notarization would be performed normally, but you are notarizing the signature of the representative signer. They would present proof of identity, and their name would be entered in the Notary certificate. However, be aware that in most cases a representative signer can’t swear an oath or affirmation in the name of the disabled individual.

Some states, such as Colorado and Nevada, require Notaries to use special certificate wording when notarizing for a representative signer. Oregon, Hawaii, Montana and Utah require the representative signer to show the Notary proof that they have the authority to sign on behalf of the person in question.

Signature By Mark

If the impaired signer is alert, coherent and appears willing to sign, another option may be for the person to sign documents with an 'X' or similar mark unassisted in lieu of a signature. This is called "signature by mark," which many states permit. For a signature by mark, the signer does not have to write out a full name. Instead, they make an 'X' or similar mark in front of witnesses, which can then be notarized. Depending on the state, you may need one or two witnesses.

If the signer wishes to use a signature by mark, make sure to follow your state’s requirements about the procedures. For example, California requires two witnesses be present if a signer wishes to make a signature by mark. In California, the witnesses to a signature by mark do not need to present identification for themselves unless they are also serving as credible identifying witnesses vouching for the signer's identity. 

When using signature by mark, the signer must be able to make the mark on their own. Neither you nor a third party may physically hold or guide the signer’s hand to help them make a signature. If someone asks you or another person to do this, you must tell them no.

Let Someone Else Sign For The Impaired Person

If the customer is completely unable to write or make any kind of mark, some states permit the Notary or another individual present to sign the document as directed by the customer. This is sometimes called "signature by proxy." For example, if a person in Florida who is physically unable to sign wants the Notary to sign on their behalf, the signing must take place in the disabled person's presence, with two other witnesses present who have no interest in the document being notarized. Texas also allows a Notary to sign on a disabled person’s behalf, but only requires one disinterested witness to be present.

Montana does not allow a Notary to sign on behalf of a disabled person, but a disinterested third party may sign by proxy if the instruction is given in person by the disabled individual and in the presence of the Notary.

If you’re not certain how to proceed, contact your state Notary regulating agency or the NNA Hotline for help.

If There Are No Options Available, Don't Proceed

If the requirements for alternative methods of signing cannot be met, then do not proceed with the notarization. The customer will need to contact an attorney or other agency qualified to provide legal advice on acceptable alternatives to signing the document.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.

Additional Resources:

Notary Essentials

27 Comments

Add your comment

Joseph Berning

26 Sep 2016

Not sure why a comment is necessary?

National Notary Association

26 Sep 2016

Hello Joseph. We do not require comments for Bulletin articles. If you are having any problems viewing an article, please email us at social@nationalnotary.org with a description of the problem and the type of device you are using, and we'll see if we can help you resolve the issue. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Maria sarraff

27 Sep 2016

In lieu of a signature a fingerprint is also allowed

Anita M Ferguson

24 Jan 2017

If ID's are still a concern and you are at their home they should have some ORIGINAL medical record to show the disability. If not walk away. Just because their is a cast does not mean there was an injury. If there was an actual physical impairment then yest the above Mark X or thumbprint may be acceptable if approved in your area.

Janelle Jefferson

07 May 2018

Find out if there is a better time of the day for a shaky signer, maybe early in the morning or right after exercise or a meal.

Jon Parker

08 May 2018

I had a similar situation where one of the borrowers had Parkinson's Disease. Though the co-borrower had POA for the primary, the lender demanded the primary sign where required in the loan package. 109 out of 290 pages and two hour and a half later I was shaking my head.

Roxana

25 Jun 2018

Not a comment, but a question! A dementia person paperwork includes doctors letter stating patient unable, I have two credible witnesses and presented acknowledgement, names of CW on all paperwork including deed, but deed not signed by C Witnesses. Does the deed need to be sign by them in lieu of the dementia person? even thought their names are in all paperwork and on deed? I so much appreciate your input. Roxana

National Notary Association

27 Jun 2018

Hello. Based on what you’ve described, we think it would be best if you contacted our Hotline team by phone and provided them with a more detailed description of the situation. The NNA Hotline: 1-888-876-0827 Mon – Fri: 5:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (PT) Saturday: 5:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (PT) If you’re not an NNA Member or Hotline Subscriber, they will provide you with a one-time courtesy call.

Reba

26 Aug 2019

if a signer is unable to sign the document could a finger or thumb print be used?

National Notary Association

29 Aug 2019

Hello. Yes, if the signer can make a thumbprint unassisted, that may serve as a signature by mark, provided all other requirements under CA Notary law are met.

Vanessa Minser

26 Aug 2019

What is the case in CA, if a person is unable to sign? Is a fingerprint sufficient?

National Notary Association

29 Aug 2019

Hello. Yes, if the signer can make a thumbprint unassisted, that may serve as a signature by mark, provided all other requirements under CA Notary law are met.

Miguel V

26 Aug 2019

hi there, for reference purposes, where in TX code does it state that a notary can sign for a disabled person? is there a URL? thanks

National Notary Association

27 Aug 2019

Hello. It's Texas Government Code 406.0165.

M.E. Wadsworth

27 Aug 2019

In California, is a right thumbprint allowed for a signature by mark, if the signer can't hold a pen (e.g., Parkinsons or paralysis) but meets all other requirements?

National Notary Association

29 Aug 2019

Hello. Yes, if the signer can make a thumbprint unassisted, that may serve as a signature by mark, provided all other requirements under CA Notary law are met.

Summer Schrag

14 Oct 2019

Oklahoma Statute Title 58 Section 1072.2 allows signature by proxy on a durable power of attorney. The proxy must sign in the principal's presence and by his direction.

Eddie

01 Dec 2019

What are the laws in California for signing a DPA and the signer is quadriplegic?

National Notary Association

06 Dec 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but that is a legal question that would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Terry L Clements

12 Feb 2020

Looking for specific information notarizing documents for the physically impaired in the State of Maryland?

National Notary Association

12 Feb 2020

Hello. Maryland does not provide guidelines for notarizing using signature by mark or signature by proxy for a physically impaired signer.

Cherie roney

15 Feb 2020

How I get a pice of paper norterzied ov my aunt when she cant sign she had a storke and we lived together all our life a and I take care of her and she has raised me since birth and my little boys

National Notary Association

18 Feb 2020

Hello. You would need to contact a qualified attorney for advice and instructions.

Jestina Slaney

31 Mar 2020

I live with my elderly dad whom has dementia in Las Vegas Nevada own his home . Which he wants to live in an never sell ,an I have 3 younger grown children that wants to put him in hospital can I get guardian ship thru notary public with his permission n initials to take care of him. And keep his house ? what are my rights as being the oldest? Thank you for your reply or recommendation

National Notary Association

01 Apr 2020

Hello. Any questions you have about obtaining guardianship of a parent are legal questions, and you need to contact a qualified attorney to assist you with answering them.

Tiffany Phelps

08 Sep 2020

Where do I find Wisconsin code for signature by mark? Can thumbprint be used in WI?

National Notary Association

08 Sep 2020

Hello. Wisconsin does not provide guidelines for notarizing a signature by mark. However, the state does provide guidelines for notarizing a signature by proxy if a person is physically unable to sign their name: “If an individual is physically unable to sign a record, the individual may direct an individual other than the notarial officer to sign the individual’s name on the record. The notarial officer shall insert ‘Signature affixed by (name of other individual) at the direction of (name of individual)’ or words of similar import” (WS 140.09).

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.