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What Would You Do: The case of the signer with the broken wrist

Signer with broken wrist.

The Notary Hotline receives hundreds of calls daily from Notaries nationwide who find themselves in challenging situations. To boost your knowledge of Notary best practices, we’ve created a series of scenarios based on actual situations and ask a simple question: What would you do?

Imagine you’re about ready to call it a day when a married couple comes to you to get a set of mortgage refinance documents notarized. Everything seems fine, except the husband has a cast on his right wrist and hand. The wife explains that he broke his wrist in a biking accident.

You check their IDs. The husband doesn’t look exactly like his driver’s license photo, but it’s obviously an old photo. The man has put on some weight and grown a beard, but the general features seem to be similar.

You notice, however, that his signature on the documents does not resemble the one on his ID. The wife says it’s simply due to his broken wrist. The cast does make it difficult to hold a pen normally.

What would you do?

Notaries often are confronted with situations that require judgment calls. When checking a signer’s ID, for example, you often have to compare the signer before you to a small photo that may have been taken a decade or more ago. And people’s signatures can be affected by medical issues.

In this case, do you see the husband’s issues as warning signs? Or do you accept the explanations as reasonable? If you see them as warning signs, what steps would you take to resolve your concerns?

To participate in this week’s “What Would You Do?” scenario, share your answers in the comments section below. We may mention your response in next week’s Bulletin, when we offer the best possible answer(s) to this notarial challenge.

Related Articles:

A guide to notarizing for physically impaired signers

How to be prepared for signers with special needs

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment


23 Jan 2017

Mortgage documents can generally be notarized by someone handling the financing/closing. I would not notarize them if I did not know him personally.

J R Langley

23 Jan 2017

I would take picture of individual, face and shoulders, wrist and , iwhile signing the doc insist on thumb print and witness before starting and follow up with a note or call to lender of the circumstances surrounding the signing


23 Jan 2017

If I was unsure, I would ask for another photo I.D, explaining the dilemma I am in in protecting them and the integrity of the notarization. If another photo I.D. is not available, then a social security card or work I.D. would give me more confidence.

Karen Schultz

23 Jan 2017

If I was concerned - the cast looked like it was a "do it yourself/homemade" temporary, I would be concerned, especially if the photo didn't look like him. I may refuse the notary but would call the NNA hotline.


23 Jan 2017

If I didn't know them, I would ask if they had a more recent photo and/or something with his signature on it to compare to the older driver's license photo and/or signature. If I had a friend who knew them I might call the friend to come by to verify the accident and who they are.


23 Jan 2017

If there is NO resemblance in the signature, along with all the other questionable signs, I would have no problem sending them on their way. I would feel very uncomfortable. So sue me.

Lorrie Walton

23 Jan 2017

Note in the book the signer's injury or medical status. No different than signing by an "x". You're there to identify identity.


23 Jan 2017

I would ask the husband to sign the document again in front of me so I know it is in fact him who is signing.

Pam Bass

23 Jan 2017

I would be really skeptical about this situation especially since the wife is doing all the talking for the husband. It is only his wrist that is broken, not his voice box. I understand that a dated DL picture could be difficult to match; however, there are too many discrepancies with this situation so therefore I would probably turn them away unless I knew them personally.


23 Jan 2017

I am in a similar situation I have a wroken thumb and my natural signature and documents that I have notarized are not similar. I know the time frame for when my signature is not "true" so I could defend my signature if it became necessary. So I would allow the shaky signature.

Lori Williams

23 Jan 2017

The signers would need to leave a fingerprint in your journal since the document being notarized involves real property. I would be likely to decline the notarization if they are unwilling or claim to be unable to do that.

Terri L Poster-Taylor

23 Jan 2017

I would decline the signing: too many red flags. Refinance documents are date sensitive and they have showed up late in the day. Either other notaries have refused to execute the documents OR they are hoping to get a notary too tired to notice the discrepancies int the photo and signature. If the signature matched and the physical description matched (height eye color) I would overlook the picture not being exact because weight and age can change the picture. But how convenient to have his wrist in a cast and the signature be off???? Perfect set up for fraud! My solution would be to them get the date on the documents changed to a day or two later, get a power of attorney drawn up (he would have only one or two documents to sign and could suffer through making sure his signature looked like his signature on the license) and the wife would be the attorney in fact. That way if fraud is being committed, the notary has based the signing on the wife appearing before her and she has her husbands POA. If the man with her is not the real husband and the real husband did not sign the POA, then she has committed fraud and the notary is not negligent.

Helen Wardale

23 Jan 2017

This scenario sounds suspicious. #1: He presents with signed documents and hasn't waited to sign before the notary, #2: His signature on the documents doesn't resemble (even a little?) that on his license, #3: He doesn't resemble his ID and #4: He's not talking. I would politely decline.

23 Jan 2017

I would ask for an additional form of ID. If none was available, I think I would decline to notarize the documents.

Andy B

23 Jan 2017

I would ask if he has any additional forms of photo ID that may be more recent such as Passport, CCW/CWP, Military ID/Retired military ID, or possibly company ID badge (if i could call company and verify badge validity) - these forms of ID could provide a more recent photo of the man to reflect weight gained and facial hair not present in drivers license. If none of these are available or prove inconclusive I might ask who/where the broken wrist was treated by and explain that my duty is to confirm without a doubt the identity of all persons whom I notarize signatures for. If they refuse to provide info on treating physician/medical facility I would document the request and the reason for refusal. If they agree to provide the medical contact info for who treated the wrist i would contact that facility with the signer and ask if they indeed treated "john Doe" for a broken wrist and could they release an image of the man's signature at the conclusion of his visit where the cast was applied as he likely had to sign a treatment consent - this could be difficult with HIPAA rules, but if the signer is present and can give permission you may be able to compare signatures. Ultimately if you are not confident in the ID presented let the party know you are unable to conduct the signing because you are not able to positively ID the man listed on the documents and the drivers license as the man you see before you.

Jan Thomey

23 Jan 2017

I would decline. Too many red flags.

William Conklin

23 Jan 2017

Like signing with a "mark" require two competent witnesses.

23 Jan 2017

Um ... where, exactly, in the hypo does it say that the documents were signed before the couple arrives? "You notice that his signature on the documents..." does not indicate pre-signing; it merely indicates that the guy's signature, which may have been made in front of the notary, does not match the signature on his ID. The statement that "Everything seems fine..." tells me that the documents are NOT pre-signed, since pre-signed documents are decidedly NOT fine.

Nina Parker

23 Jan 2017

It is a reg flag that the wife is doing the talking, and of course, my comfort with this transaction would also depend upon how dissimilar the man is from his ID. The easiest way to tip the scales would be to ask the man questions and ask the wife to refrain from answering, or ask her to step from the room. If the man is unable to answer simple questions about the transaction, or about the information on his ID, such as address, date of birth, driver's license number, or if he seems inordinately nervous without the "wife" present, then I would refuse the notarization and make the proper notation in my journal about the incident.


23 Jan 2017

I would ask them to bring in an additional witness someone who knows them both. An employer, pastor, teacher, etc. I would explain that I was doing it to protect them.

Verne Gordon

23 Jan 2017

This would raise a red flag to me and I would ask the 'husband' if he had another form of identification such as a passport that I could verify. I would also ask some pertinent questions such as his address and age, etc. without the wife present to see if it was truly the right person. If he was hesitant or nervous about the signature or showed signs of trying to rush e to get the notarization done, I would stop there and politley explain that I could not continue. These people could be genuine and truly have the situation with the broken wrist or they could be committing fraud. In any case, better to be cautious. I would also call the police if I could not verify identity.

Linda L Mitchell

23 Jan 2017

Along with being a notary, I am a forensic document examiner and handwriting expert. I often work with cases that involve a signer who for whatever reason is unable to sign in their usual manner. Features of forgery often have similar appearance to those that are authored by a person with a disability. Unless you are witness to the signatures in question, I strongly advise not to make a judgment call on the veracity of signatures. As a highly trained expert in this field, I have examined signatures purported to be genuine and found them fake and vice-versa. These findings require focussed attention to nuances and details that the average person has no idea about. As a notary, I do not notarize anything without having witnessed the signing myself. If there are limitations on the part of the signer, I am sure to note those limitations in my register. I also suggest to the parties involved that they either video or photograph the signing in the event that the signature comes into question at a later date. You are welcome to call me regarding handwriting questions. 888.760.0339

L. Turner

23 Jan 2017

This is a clear-cut situation calling for a "signature by mark", with utilizing the required two witnesses to the mark (in California) and their signatures in the notary journal, and accompanying paperwork.


23 Jan 2017

I would simply ask for another form of I.D. If he does not have it, ask them nicely to go to another notary, that you are not allowed to notarize without two identifications in a situation like this.


23 Jan 2017

I always require a thumb print even if I know the person. I had an attorney tell me once that it is good practice and that she sues notaries all the time! I immediately got on and ordered the thumb print ink pad!

M K AChristiansen

23 Jan 2017

I would request 2 credible witnesses to comply with California requirements.


23 Jan 2017

I would ask for additional ID. If the husband could not come up with it then I would suggest they come back with additional ID. I would not feel comfortable if I did not know them personally.

Beverly McCarrell

23 Jan 2017

I would ask that they bring other documents with them that had been signed (before the broken wrist) as proof of the signers signature. But, if it was still a questionable situation, I would refuse to notarize for them.

Michael E Harris

23 Jan 2017

I do mortgage refis and HELOCs; the lender, title company, or signing service contracts for my services--NOT the borrowers. Red Flag. I would question the couple about the issue, but I would demand thumbprints from both. I would also photograph the couple and the cast. I would check the professional quality of the cast--my daughter had a broken wrist so I have some idea of what a modern cast looks like.


23 Jan 2017

The first thing I noticed that was odd, was that the wife kept speaking for him, but maybe he's shy (ha). I don't see the ID as an issue since it states that other characteristics DID match, other than wight and a beard. I would note his injury in my book. But he would have to be able and willing to do the fingerprint.

Gloria Becker

23 Jan 2017

I've always believed in "when in doubt, don't". If his I.D. doesn't look like him there is a responsibility of providing a current form of identification. Drivers Licenses are renewed more often than passports as a rule. Even if you called in a friend as a verification witness, it could be a scheme to have the document signed.

Leonard Simmons

24 Jan 2017

I don't think I would notarized it beeD2fKAcause that's a red flag


24 Jan 2017

i would request the signer provide finger print for my journal and allow the borrower to sign the documents


24 Jan 2017

I would request finger print for journal and allow the borrower to sign the docs

S Gold

24 Jan 2017

The ID is what is important. As long as you are able to establish identity, the signature does not have to match. I am frequently called to a rehab center that treats stroke patients. Their signature is usually quite different from their ID. As long as you witness the signing it is ok. Take notes at the signing in case a question comes up in the future


24 Jan 2017

I would ask for additional identification until I was satisfied with the ID.

M C Tina Wallace

24 Jan 2017

I've been in this situation. I was already collecting two IDS, signature, and a thumbprint from each signer. I saw family photos on the walls and their teenage children were in and out, talking with the parents. It was obvious to me these folks had lived in this home a long time. I was comfortable that my client was who she said she was.

M C Tina Wallace

24 Jan 2017

Also, I noted in my journal the client had recently had wrist surgery.

Christin Grider

24 Jan 2017

Have a POA present.


24 Jan 2017

I would require two witnesses who know the husband and know him to be married to the woman with him and will attest to that.

S. L. Wilson

24 Jan 2017

I would ask for a second ID, maybe a third documentation with signatures. Most people carry more than one documentation in their wallet. Also maybe take a photo of wrist.

25 Jan 2017

All excellent suggestions here so far. My only addition would be to speak with him alone, then hold the ID and ask questions to see if he can match personal details on it, like address, birthday, etc.


25 Jan 2017

I would ask them for secondary id such as Social Security Card, Credit card, military card or any other document that I could compare names and signatures. I would also ask for medical document with the doctor statement of his wrist condition. I would always be polite you cant look at the people as all of them are delinquents until proofed. I will explain the importance of my job and potential complications for me and them if there will be doubt on the other end. Instead to take a picture I would rather made a statement that the person had wrist injured while signing a document and presented valid medical document to justify the difference between signatures.


25 Jan 2017

I would complete my journal entries first as usual. This includes thumb print and notation the husband has broken wrist in cast, and his signature does not match his identification. The California driver license is good for five years, and not looking exactly with weight gain and beard is not reason enough for me to refuse. Wife is signer too; could set her up to be credible witness for him in journal as added notation.

Barbara Citty

25 Jan 2017

If the person was not recognizable from his picture ID and his signature did not match the signature on the ID because of his broken wrist I would request the party provide 2 credible witnesses with their ID's to swear to his identity.

Marcela Franco

27 Jan 2017

First I would call NNA hotline to ask if I could use his left thumb print stamped on my journal. Then I would request a credible witness.

Jamille Aine

28 Jan 2017

I will take picture and ask for two others witnesses signature.

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