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What Would You Do: The case of the absent signer

What would you do about an absent signer?

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?

In this scenario, a client needs you to notarize his boss’ signature on an affidavit. The only problem is, the boss had to leave the country on business and needs the document notarized before he returns. Your client insists that the signature belongs to his boss because he personally stood there while his boss signed the document.

“I understand there is a way this can be notarized because I saw him sign it,” the client says. “I’ll sign whatever is necessary.” What would you do?

What would you do?

Members of the NNA community frequently share accounts of encountering dubious or improper notarial practices, and it is not always clear how they should respond. In this case, in this situation, you are dealing with an absent signer. Requiring the signer to personally appear before you at the time of the notarization is one of the most important elements of your duties. But is there anything you can do to help your client while obeying the laws and rules of your state? Or must you send the client away?

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:

Protect Yourself: Require signers to personally appear

Additional Resources:

NNA Webinar: The Importance of Personal Appearance

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Johanna Bermann

07 Apr 2017

Sorry to have to disappoint the client, but the law is clear: in order to notarize the boss' document the boss must personally appear before the notary.

Verne Gordon

09 Apr 2017

This is one that demonstrates that as a Notary Public, we must remain diligent in our efforts to do what's right each time we are asked to perform a notarization. There can be no notarization of the document without the 'boss' being present. I'd need to be firm, but polite in stating that to the client and even suggest a possible discount on the notarization when the boss returns as a gesture of good will.

Judy Chapman

10 Apr 2017

Absolutely not. IF the document is an affidavit, that document would normally require an oath or affirmation to be administered to the signer before he/she signs the document. According to NC Notary law manual, no one can take an oath or affirmation for you as a signer, only the signed could do so. With the absence of the signer, the notary would not be able to complete the notarization.

Rhea Corle

10 Apr 2017

I would not perform the act but would offer to locate a notary at that location

Sarah Langston

10 Apr 2017

I would refuse to notarize. The signer must be present when I notarize any documents.


10 Apr 2017

I'm no glutton for punishment. The signer appears before me or it's not getting notarized. The only exception to this would be in the case of a power of attorney (in which, in the case of a jurat, the one making the oath still needs to be there even though they're not the ones signing it) or if it's an acknowledgment then the the one witnessing the signature would also have to have signed it as well. But there is no exception to an affidavit.


10 Apr 2017

"Your client insists that the signature belongs to his boss because he personally stood there while his boss signed the document." How about administering an oath/affirmation that the client swears that statement is true?

Dave Franklin

10 Apr 2017

I believe the law is very clear in this matter. You can't notarize a document if the signer is not present in person and has a legal identification card to prove they are the signer.

Helen Paris

10 Apr 2017

I would not notarize without the "boss" being there. I would take the time, though, to find a notary where the boss went and pass this information to the secretary so they can get the notarization done.

Linda Millstone

10 Apr 2017

I would do a "Proof of Execution by a Subscribing Witness" provided it was not for an excluded act.

Talene Amadooni

10 Apr 2017

I would not notarize the document, and as someone else mentioned, I would try to find a notary in his location (however, he/she is out of the country, so this may not be possible). The problem here is not that the "boss" is out of the country on business but rather that the boss did not delegate his signing authority to another employee/manager in his absence. When the boss is away - on business, vacation, etc. - there is usually another person that is given authority so that business continues in his/her absence.

Katy Wibert

10 Apr 2017

I would also send the client away without notarizing, but am curious about the use of electronic signatures for such situations and haven't been able to find a clear answer on whether or not it is legal to notarize electronically signed documents (through programs such as DocuSign).

Mahmud Reza

10 Apr 2017

Yes , we can notarized it with two subscribing witness and completing Jurat form.

Bhaskar Bhaumik

10 Apr 2017

The signer must be present before I can notarize a document even if I know that person personally. That would be my stand.

Nina Torres

10 Apr 2017

Under the right conditions, it would be possible to perform the notarization. (I am assuming that there is no oath for the signer required here, since this was not specified in the scenario.) The client would act as a subscribing witness and swear that he witnessed his boss sign the document. As long as client witnessed the signing, can attest to the identity of the signer (his boss), and the document is not a power of attorney or property document requiring a thumbprint, it should be possible to notarize the document. However, there are some potential stumbling blocks. In my state, the subscribing witness must say under oath that they were instructed by the signer to sign the document as a witness AND as a notary, I can only establish the subscribing witness's identity using a credible witness known both to me and the witness, which means that it would not be allowed for the subscribing witness to show me ID to establish his identity. Instead, the credible witness must provide me with acceptable ID and affirm the subscribing witness's identity. If the subscribing and witness and I don't happen to know anyone in common, this would throw a wrench in the process. However, assuming that all these conditions are met, it is possible for a notarization to be legally executed without the signer being present. Messy, but possible.

R. Bermudez

10 Apr 2017

I would perform a Proof of Execution by Subscribing Witness since he personally saw his boss sign.

Melissa E. Boutwell

10 Apr 2017

I would never notary a paper for anyone that was not sitting in front of me. Not even for my best of friends that I would know their signature. Not gonna do it. Sorry , but you can find a notary anywhere. Don't take the risk . You swore not too.

Charles Pratt

10 Apr 2017

If the boss is absent you cannot notarize an affidavit signed by the boss while not in your presence. The party affirming that the boss signed the document can write up an affidavit testifying to the effect and you can perform a jurat regarding his statement of Truth as long as he has proper identification. Do not fail to obtain a fingerprint for this unusual circumstance. Although this will not resolve completely the boss's issue, it may be an acceptable alternative depending on the nature of the overall transaction.

Anita Williams

10 Apr 2017

I would suggest that they come with the boss at the time of signing. I will not put my seal on it just because he is assuring me that its ok, his boss would have to be there..

Joyce C Krauchuk

10 Apr 2017

I would initially refuse to notarize the doc. If the person keeps pushing, I would offer to have them complete an affidavit statement saying they saw the boss sign that doc, this person in front of me would sign this affidavit and could then attach it to the doc in question. If the person refuses to do this, I would again refuse the original request.

Terry Chapman

10 Apr 2017

The person who said he saw the boss sign the document and it is for sure the bosses signature, would sign an acknowledgement that the signature of his boss is valid and he saw the document signed. I would then notarize the Acknowledgement.

Frank T Hunt

10 Apr 2017

I would not do it for two reasons. 1- The signing must be done in front of me. Second he is not present. I would let him know that the law is very specific and not do it.

Mary Watts

11 Apr 2017

You know in today fast pace we are all ways trying to short cut and go around things that is not the right way. But there are rule that have to be followed to do it the right way. So on that note let's do it the right way at all times.

Alison Smoldt

11 Apr 2017

By a United States Citizen Who is Outside of the United States Description or Location of place where acknowledgment is taken On this _____day of ______ in the year_____before me, (name and title of person acting as a notary and refer to law or authority granting power to act as a notary), personally appeared (name of citizen), known to me to be the person who executed the within (type of document), and acknowledged to me that he/she executed the same for the purposes therein stated.

David Gordon

11 Apr 2017

Some states allow for a "proof of execution by subscribing witness", in which the witness declares having witnessed the signing of the document and having also signed as witness. The notary would complete an appropriate certificate attesting to the identity and affirmations of the witness. The only problem here is that the witness did not actually sign the document as a witness at the time the document was executed by the principal. The witness, to be a subscribing witness, should have signed at the time the document was executed by the principal. That is a declaration the witness would normally give as part of the proof of execution by subscribing witness process: i.e. that s/he was present, witnessed the principal's signature and also signed AT THAT TIME as a witness. It appears nothing can be done to help in this case. Perhaps the document could be sent to the boss, who could have the signature notarized in the location where s/he is.


11 Apr 2017

If it's an affidavit then the notarization is a jurat and you cannot do a proof for that and yes it is an oath and the signer must be present for that. You can only do proofs for acknowledgements.


11 Apr 2017

It would seem to me that you could Skype the boss, have him show his ID and have him confirm that he did indeed sign the document. I am all for keeping the integrity of the job but in this day and age of e-signing and everything being done with computers, we need to be able to service our customers. If you see the person on the screen and his ID matches his picture, technically he is there in front of you.

Kundan sharma

11 Apr 2017

Only way to do this acknowledgement is to perform a proof of execution by subscribing witness only if there is one credible witness is present before me(notary) and is personally known to me

Nick M.

13 Apr 2017

Gloria barrera

15 Apr 2017

Signer has to be present to notarize any document and in his absence I would refuse to do it in order to comply with the law.


17 Apr 2017


John Keegan

18 Apr 2017

I would not notarize it. I am sorry I could not help. I rather be cautious.

La' Verne S.

01 May 2017

I would have to decline notarizing the signature of the boss since he was not present. There might be another way to do it, but I would not be comfortable with the notarizing request.

Dustin Warford

06 Oct 2019

What do you do if someone gets a document notorized without you present by there friend.

National Notary Association

08 Oct 2019

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.

28 Apr 2021

I can notarize the signature of the Witness with a statement saying she/he witnessed the person's signature and that's usually what is done in a docusign. As an alternative, I also conduct a Zoom call with the signer and visually see their ID and witness their signature.

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