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.

How Do You Notarize If A Signer Can’t Be Present?

absent-signer-resized.jpgUpdated 10-30-18. There are times when a signer urgently needs a notarization, but cannot appear in person before the Notary due to unusual circumstances such as a medical or family emergency.

If this happens, some states permit the signer to sign the document in the presence of a witness. The witness — not the signer — then appears before the Notary.

The Notary identifies and administers an oath to the witness. Then, the witness signs the document. Based upon the witness’s oath, the Notary performs the notarization. This is called a proof of execution by subscribing witness.

But there are restrictions and specific requirements for this act. Here’s what you need to know.

Restrictions On Proofs

The most important thing to remember is that proofs of execution are one of the only times a document signer does not appear before a Notary to have their signature notarized. While you must be careful when performing any notarization, this is even more important when you perform a proof.

Not all states allow Notaries to perform proofs; sometimes Notaries aren't even aware that they are permitted to do so. This is often because the rules for proofs of execution are sometimes included in real estate statutes or some other obscure part of state laws rather than in state Notary statutes.

Because the signer is not present, states often have strict criteria for using proofs of execution by subscribing witnesses. Here are some examples:

  • California requires a subscribing witness to be identified by another credible identifying witness who is personally known to the Notary. The credible witness must present an ID card allowed by law to the Notary. 
  • In Texas, the subscribing witness must either be personally known by the Notary or be identified by a credible witness.
  • In North Carolina, a subscribing witness cannot be a grantee or beneficiary of the document.
  • In Pennsylvania, the subscribing witness must be an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania.
  • In Tennessee and Virginia, two subscribing witnesses are required.

Florida does not permit Notaries to perform proofs of execution. 

Always check your own state’s rules first before accepting a request to perform a proof of execution.

Real Estate Documents And Proofs

Due to risk of fraud, California prohibits its Notaries from performing a proof of execution on powers of attorney, on documents requiring a thumbprint in the Notary’s journal or on any instrument affecting real property. Certain real property documents — decrees of foreclosure, non-judicial foreclosures under California Civil Code 2924 or deeds of reconveyance — are exempt.

Conversely, Oregon law permits proofs of execution to be used only for certain real estate transactions, but state officials recommend that Oregon Notaries consult with the Real Estate Division if it comes up.

Proofs In The Workplace

Some employers ask Notary-employees to perform proofs of execution as an easy alternative to appearing in person as a convenience for themselves or clients. While it can be argued that there is no reason the boss or the client couldn’t go to a Notary themselves, state laws governing proofs allow this practice.

If you are asked to perform a proof of execution by your boss, be sure to confirm that your state permits the act. If you are allowed to perform a proof of execution and the subscribing witness meets all the requirements, you can proceed. Also, you might gently make the case to your boss why it’s a good idea for signers to be present and suggest that failing to require the signer to personally appear is one of the most common causes of Notary-related lawsuits.

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

Additional Resources:

NNA Notary Hotline

 

64 Comments

Add your comment

Michael A. Aloe

05 Dec 2016

You should get rid of this popup box. You can't read what's on this page.

National Notary Association

05 Dec 2016

Hi Michael. There should be no popup box appearing when you read Bulletin articles. If you can please email us at social@nationalnotary.org and describe the popup you are seeing, the article you're trying to view and what type of browser and device you are using, we will forward the information to our Web team and ask them to look into the matter.

Dan

05 Dec 2016

This is great stuff. We have several people here in Pennsylvania that need documents notarized but can't make it to the office. Knowing what the legal recourse is makes my job easier. Thanks for the updates!

Meg Gruwell

05 Dec 2016

I had someone related to someone at work (and who I had met before) request a notarization. I confirmed by Skype that she indeed had signed the document that needed notarization, and the person I worked for provided a copy of her identification. Is there any precedence for using Skype or other electronic method to talk with a person who is not physically present, but needs something notarized? Thanks.

National Notary Association

05 Dec 2016

Hello Meg. Currently only Virginia and Montana (under limited conditions) permit use of audio and visual technology to perform notarizations. In other states, this is not permitted. If you are not a Notary in VA or MT, you should not be using Skype to perform notarial acts.

Michael Isernia

05 Dec 2016

See also NY Real Property sec 304 which allows Proof by Subscribing Witness on Deeds

Kurt Gross

05 Dec 2016

I would like to see NNA send me notary info about ONLY my state. I don't care about other states when I'm trying improve my knowledge as a Notary Public and Signing Agent. Yes, I do have an interest in what other states require, but that's a curiosity issue. It's not the same issue as sharpening my NP skills. If someone starts a service that does this, I'll jump to them and leave NNA. Kurt Gross

National Notary Association

05 Dec 2016

Hi Kurt. As a member benefit, you can access your state's information in the U.S. Notary Public Reference manual by logging into your profile at https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/reference-library/us-notary-reference-manual and selecting your state from the drop-down menu. State-specific law summaries are also available on our site at https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/reference-library/state-law-summaries. Again, you can select your state's information from the drop-down menu.

Ana Bertha Uribe

06 Dec 2016

Does Arizona State permit proofs of execution?

National Notary Association

09 Dec 2016

Hello. The Arizona Governor's Reference Manual for Notaries does not list proofs of execution among the notarial acts AZ Notaries may perform.

Marty c

07 Dec 2016

Victim of fraudulant quite claim in nj as violates settlement agreement during divorce from bed & board in nj I agreed to convey marital home interest & title as stated in MSA on the day we obtained a final judgement of divorce from B&B. Deed to be drawn up by my attorney and conveyed that day. Just got final in 9/2016. Deed was conveyed without knowledge & dated 7/2014 day MSA drawn up and frayed by her attorney. Has wrong address for me, no consideration noted in $ amount, never got check,never copied of such deed,was away on trip,don't know witness and never was at her attorney on a Saturday, sold home , joint title & loan she paid off but never removed my name as supposed to, notary commission expired and unable to locate,her notary stamp has no #, and didn't sign it . Had found forged check previous she signed my name to. Treasury tells me they can't do ? It was accepted. ? Think that balony . Next need to call her attorney for certified copy or original docs. . Lawyers have done zero to move on this and her lawyer paid loan collecting over $6 k escrow of FHAl loan he closed without me. Wells Fargo reported to cfpb.

Mr hector cruz

14 Dec 2016

I would like to become a notary

National Notary Association

14 Dec 2016

Hello Hector! Our Customer Care team can help you with the process when you are ready to get started. You can reach them at 1-800-876-6827 or Services@NationalNotary.org. You can also find information at www.NationalNotary.org/become-a-notary.

Jeanne Yomine

10 Apr 2017

I am a notary in the State of Illinois. My response is simple. The person needing my seal must convey his or her wishes by oath. With a language barrier, the only solution is to open an online translation site so the signor and I could type Q&A. Absent signor? Sorry, no can do.

Thomas

23 Apr 2017

My partner needs to grant me power of attorney but due to medical issues is unable to sign her name. Is there a way to get this done.

National Notary Association

24 Apr 2017

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

Paige

25 Apr 2017

What are the laws on this for Washington State?

National Notary Association

26 Apr 2017

Hello. Information on Washington's Notary laws is available here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/file%20library/nna/reference-library/state-law-summaries/washington.pdf

erinv vanryn

04 May 2017

In Pennsylvania when recording documents related to land records (Recorder of Deeds Office), does the acknowledgement page have to have the signature of the person(s) that the document is stating or can the notary state they acknowledge the person to be the correct person(s) related to this document to be recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds without the owner(s) signature?

National Notary Association

04 May 2017

Hello. In this situation, you may wish to contact the recording office that will be receiving the documents to ask for instructions.

Debbie Norman

18 May 2017

I live in Pennsylvania I have insurance policy but the person cannot sign it they have a document already but the insurance company said the signature is not the same so they want the signature to be notarized is there a way to get around this without the person being there?

National Notary Association

19 May 2017

Hello. We're sorry, but we are not clear from your message what it is you are asking. You may wish to call our Notary Hotline at 1-888-876-6827 to speak with one of our Hotline Counselors and provide more details by phone to see if they can answer your questions.

John Tippins

19 Jun 2017

Had our mortgage holder get a spoof done in ga.,but i did not sign the paper that got notarized.My wife told me later that she signed my name.The thing is that my wife is disabled.Is there any recourse that i can take?

National Notary Association

19 Jun 2017

Hello, we're sorry but we can't answer legal questions. You would need to speak with an attorney.

Vicente Anders Delgado

10 Oct 2017

Hi I'm just purchasing a house in arizona but, but need a signature from my wife notarized. How can I get it her being in Mexico, is it possible

National Notary Association

12 Oct 2017

Hello. You should discuss with your real estate agent what options are available. It may be necessary to send the documents to your wife to be signed, and then notarized either by a Notary in Mexico, if the agency receiving the documents will accept this. Another possible option would be to have your wife sign the documents and request a notarization from an officer at a U.S. consulate or embassy.

Amanda

20 Oct 2017

In Ga does both parties have to be present in order to get things notarized?

National Notary Association

24 Oct 2017

Hello. Any person having their signature on a document notarized would need to personally appear before the Notary.

Kristine

09 Nov 2017

I have a question. My husband is in the military and he will not be here when we sign the closing documents. I have a specific power of attorney that allows me to sign for him. I have the original in hand . I’m selling a house in Hawaii.The escrow company wants me to give them the original before I move to Idaho and then just provide a notary with the copy of the specific POA. In all the deals I have done before I have always provided the originals to the escrow agent or the notary. I do not have time to sign before I move to Hawaii. Is giving the original POA (to record) to the escrow company instead of giving it the notary and just sign for me and my husband with a copy of it in another state going to be an issue?

National Notary Association

09 Nov 2017

Hi Kristine. Please contact our Hotline Team at 1-888-876-0827 or at hotline@nationalnotary.org for assistance with this question. Thanks!

Linda

20 Nov 2017

I have no idea where you are getting the incorrect information that Virginia allows proof of execution with two subscribing witnesses. Proof of execution does not appear anywhere in the VA Notary Handbook. In fact, it specifically states that the signer must personally appear before the notary. It goes on to say that, "A notary must never accept any signature as genuine on the word of a third party," and, "the most frequent charge of official misconduct involves a notary's failure to require the personal appearance of an individual before the notary when acknowledging that person's signature." Proof of execution is NOT allowed in Virginia.

National Notary Association

20 Nov 2017

Hello. Though taking proof of execution by subscribing witness is not mentioned as a notarial duty in COV 47.1-12 (“Powers and Duties”), it is mentioned as one of the “acts which the laws and regulations of this State authorize notaries public of this State to perform” in COV 55-118.1. COV 55-113(3) prescribes a proof of execution certificate for use by out-of-state commissioners appointed by the Virginia Governor and by notarial officers in other U.S. jurisdictions. That statute specifies the use of two subscribing witnesses.

Cheri Benson

09 Dec 2017

Hi I am a notary in MN. Pleas tell me the law for this state

National Notary Association

11 Dec 2017

Hello. You can find a link to the MN state Notary laws here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/file%20library/nna/reference-library/state-law-summaries/minnesota.pdf

Singleton

22 Dec 2017

I want to know is the rule the same for NYC. Can a n agent signed as a witness when the person can't be there.

National Notary Association

26 Dec 2017

Hello. A subscribing witness may appear on behalf of a signer in New York under certain conditions: “When the execution of a conveyance is proved by a subscribing witness, such witness must state his own place of residence, and if his place of residence is in a city, the street and street number, if any thereof, and that he knew the person described in and who executed the conveyance. The proof must not be taken unless the officer is personally acquainted with such witness,or has satisfactory evidence that he is the same person, who was a subscribing witness to the conveyance” (RPL 304). The witness’ place of residence must be indicated on the Notary’s certificate (RPL 306).

KELLY EARHART

07 Jan 2018

Can you please tell me if this law is applicable in Arkansas and, if so, the statute #. Thank you.

National Notary Association

08 Jan 2018

Hello. Guidelines for the use of proofs of execution by subscribing witnesses in Arkansas can be found in ACA 18-12-206[b]; see also ACA 16-47-106[b].

FELICIA HAM

26 Jan 2018

My husband is hospice in my home he want me to take ovwr as power attorney he to weak you actually got out get in car to go bank is there any other way we can do this pkease help us .

National Notary Association

30 Jan 2018

Hello. We're very sorry, but we can't provide legal advice on obtaining a power of attorney. You would need to speak with a qualified lawyer for assistance.

Chukwuma Umezurike

04 Feb 2018

Does Arkansas permit proof of execution?

National Notary Association

05 Feb 2018

Hello. Yes, for deeds and certain other real estate instruments: “When a deed or instrument referred to in subsection (a) of this section is to be proved, it shall be done by one (1) or more of the subscribing witnesses personally appearing before the proper court or officer and stating on oath that he or she saw the grantor subscribe the deed or instrument of writing or that the grantor acknowledged in his or her presence that he or she had subscribed and executed the deed or instrument for the purposes and consideration therein mentioned, and that he or she had subscribed the deed or instrument as a witness at the request of the grantor” (ACA 18-12-206[b]; see also ACA 16-47-106[b]).

Kristen

27 Mar 2018

Can you notarize a document that has already been signed and the signer cannot be present? I have a girl who is needing her title notarized. Her dad has already signed it over to her but says he isn't able to be there to certify he signed it

National Notary Association

27 Mar 2018

Hello. If you have been asked to notarize the father's signature, the father must appear in person before you and be positively identified in order to have his signature notarized.

Jason

02 May 2018

Is this how an automotive dealership in Indiana is allowed to have all their paperwork signed by customers notarized at a later time?

National Notary Association

03 May 2018

Hello. We're very sorry, but we don't have enough information from your message to provide help with the notarization you are describing. If you need assistance immediately, you may contact our Hotline Team at 1-888-876-0827 and speak to one of our Counselors for more detailed assistance.

Peggie

19 Jun 2018

Sister's attorney friend notarized POA paperwork and my parents were not present. Mom revoked POA paperwork and now wants that attorney to loose his notary privileges. Is that possible??

National Notary Association

19 Jun 2018

Hello. You may be able to file a complaint with state officials or the state bar association if you have reason to believe an attorney-Notary has committed misconduct. What state are you located in, please?

Mark Fallon

20 Jul 2018

My son-in-law is stationed in the middle east. He and his wife (my daughter) are in the process of house buying. What are options in the state of LA as far as substitute signers?

National Notary Association

25 Jul 2018

Hello Mark. We suggest contacting your lender first to discuss if there are options available for your son-in-law.

Kathyrn Mecham

17 Aug 2018

I have a document that needs my dads signature and needs it notarized but my dads unable to be there i have power of attorney for my dad can i have it notarized without him present i live in Oregon

National Notary Association

17 Aug 2018

Hello. You would need to speak to an attorney to determine if your power of attorney authorizes you to sign on your father's behalf for this document.

Mark M

23 Aug 2018

Hello. I work for a relatively small mortgage servicing company. One of our investor clients in Illinois has an independent agent go to borrower's homes to have them sign Deed In Lieu documents, and he never brings a Notary Public with him. He then forwards the Deed In Lieu documents to an Illinois law firm and they notarize them weeks or months later without the borrower being present. There have even been instances of a signature being missing, and assume the agent forges it later (another topic, but this shows a pattern). Our office has a Notary and she has warned the investor that these activities are not permissible, but they continue to ignore our advice. The borrowers obviously consented to the Deeds In Lieu, so they have never faced an issue where the Notary signatures have been questioned. What are the penalties for these acts? Are we, as servicer, obligated to report these acts? I'm sure that blowing the whistle on our client would not please the owner of our company, but I'm just curious. Thank you.

National Notary Association

24 Aug 2018

Hello. Notarization fraud involving real estate documents can have serious legal and financial consequences. If you have reason to believe a Notary is committing fraud involving real estate documents in Illinois and wish to report it, you can contact the Illinois Attorney General's Division of Professional Regulation at (217) 785-0800.

Harasiddhiprasad Gajanan Bhatt

05 Nov 2018

Can we notarize a document in Ohio without the signer being present?

National Notary Association

07 Nov 2018

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.

Joanne Frison

15 Nov 2018

Hello. Need power of attorney form notarized but my nephew (principal) is unable to sign due to his critical medical condition.

National Notary Association

16 Nov 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.

Desirae

29 Nov 2018

I wanted some clarity on this part of California Notary Law, "or in the presence of the principal heard the principal acknowledge that the principal signed the document," When it's said "in the presence of," does this mean physically or is digitally sufficient as well, for example - if via a Skype call, could the subscribing witness talk to (and hear) the principal acknowledge signing the document? I looked up both Codes and it seems to me that a video chat would be sufficient, but I'd like to be sure. Below is the full section from the CA Notary Public Handbook, for reference: The subscribing witness must say, under oath, that the subscribing witness saw the principal sign the document or in the presence of the principal heard the principal acknowledge that the principal signed the document (Code of Civil Procedure 1935 and Civil Code section 1197); and"

National Notary Association

30 Nov 2018

We’re not attorneys here at the NNA and we can’t give legal advice. We can make a couple of observations that may help you think through this issue. First, as you have discovered there is no definition under California law as to what constitutes an “appearance” of an individual who acknowledges their signature to a subscribing witness. The most obvious reason to explain this is that until relatively recently the only appearance that was possible was a “physical” one and this is what the legislature had in mind when they enacted the statute. Second, we suggest it may be helpful to look at the broader question of whether under California law a document signer may appear before a Notary using Skype or another audio-visual technology to have their signature notarized and apply this logic to your question. We make the observation that not just California but the other states would likely say that under existing law the appearance of a signer before a Notary must be “physical” and that in order to allow audio-visual notarizations, a change to the statute expressly authorizing it is needed. We do not know of any state that has said that a Notary may conduct a notarial act using audio-video technology based on their current law today without a change to the law. Applying this logic to your question, if the states say a signer cannot appear before a Notary using Skype without a change to existing law, then it is likely they would say without a specific law change neither may an individual appear before a subscribing witness using Skype. We hope these observations have been helpful to you.

Angie Patrick

13 Dec 2018

If someone takes my car title to a notary and gets it notarized without my permission and I was not present but I did sign the title , how can I prove that I was not present if the notary says she is sure I was but she sees so many faces she can't remember for sure

National Notary Association

13 Dec 2018

Hello. If you suspect that some kind of fraud was committed on your car title, you should report it to law enforcement. Any legal questions would need to be answered by a qualified attorney.

Alicia K

06 Feb 2019

My mom is in hospice care at home and unable to leave her bed. We have located a traveling notary that can come to the home but we don’t have any witnesses and the forms state we need 2. It’s just me and my sister, we don’t communicate with anyone from her side of the family and my dad and his family is in another state. I live with my mom to help her around the house but my sister does have her own place. What other options do we have for obtaining a witness signature? I work from home as well but my sister works in PA (lives in DE)and get witness signatures from coworkers after the fact but we don’t have much time to get things in order before she passes and the people we would feel comfortable with witnessing this important documents are in different states. Is video calling/Skype or FaceTime something that can be used for a witness and have them sign a proof after the fact? If I didn’t mention we live in DE and looking for any advice or direction to websites or hotlines that can help us based on the laws in my state. I’m sure we can’t be the only ones that have needed something notorized but didn’t have any witnesses. Thank you for helping

National Notary Association

07 Feb 2019

Hello. We're sorry, but any questions about witness requirements for a document are legal questions that can only be answered by a qualified attorney.

Leave a Comment

Required *

All comments are reviewed and if approved, will display.