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What Would You Do: The case of signing someone else’s name

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

Notaries often encounter signers who claim to have a power of attorney authorizing them to sign a document on behalf of someone else. These signers are commonly called attorneys in fact. In this real-life case, a man claims to have the power of attorney to sign for his elderly aunt on a grant deed. But he insists that he only sign his aunt's name and that his name should not appear anywhere on the document or certificate.

What would you do?

The requirements and standards for dealing with an attorney in fact differ from state to state, and unscrupulous individuals have taken advantage of powers of attorney — or falsely claimed to have them — to commit fraud, especially property and mortgage fraud.

Does this scenario raise any concerns? How would you handle it?

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 Notary challenge.

Related Articles:

What Would You Do Answers: The case of the absent signer

Additional Resources:

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View All: Best Practices


Add your comment

Janet Aguilera

22 Jan 2018

I’ll refuse to move on with the notarization

Brent Gill

22 Jan 2018

This situation screams of the potential for fraud. Ask for a copy of the Power of Attorney, and explain that without it you can't proceed. Explain that the law prevents you from doing exactly what they are asking. Then watch the reactions. Anger, aggressiveness, and shouting will reveal much about the actual facts, and intent. Long story short: don't proceed without proof allowing you to continue.

Helen Dugan

22 Jan 2018

I would ask to see the POA then have them sign according to the law in my state and if there is no proof of POA I would refuse until they could produce one.

Tom ODonnell

22 Jan 2018

I offer notarizations by appointment and would refuse to do the notarization in this case. Part of my process is to ask the requestor on the phone whether or not it is just them or witnesses, or another party's signature required on the form. I then explain that I need to see people sign and then have them sign my log book. If that can't be accomplished I ask them to reschedule when all parties are available. I even suggest they see if their bank has a notary public with Saturday hours if they can't all get together with me during business hours. And I've saved them the inconvenience of a wasted trip to my office.


22 Jan 2018

Stop the signing. It is pointless to identify a signer who is Expected to sign a document and then fails to do so. You cannot complete the witness and especially if the document is to be notarized, the documents becomes incomplete.

Gwendolyn Z. Green

22 Jan 2018

First, I would ensure that the state in which I hold my commission would allow attorney in fact. Next, I would tactfully explain to the client that he would have to sign the document in my presence. If the client did not want to do that, I would politely refuse to perform the notarization, due to the risk of fraud.

Jacqueline Richardson

22 Jan 2018

I would ask for a copy of power of att document and require person to sign dicument as well as having their information when signing my ledger.


22 Jan 2018

would explain that I can not notaries

David Gordon

22 Jan 2018

In the first place, someone claiming to have power of attorney should be asked to present the document granting that authority. It appears this individual did not present such documentation. Also, deeds usually require an acknowledgement, which would need to refer to the person actually appearing. The signer request would have to be refused.

Manny Martinez

22 Jan 2018

I would definitely walk away from this scenario. If you allow it, now your part of the upcoming fraud.WW

Pat Gundvaldson

22 Jan 2018

I would not accept his signing his aunt's name. He would first need to show me the power of attorney and then sign his name on the document. I would also make a notation that he had a power of attorney which allowed him to sign on her behalf.

Frank Bagnato

22 Jan 2018

Absolutely, unequivocally, NOT. Walk away.

Catherine Almanzo

22 Jan 2018

This scenario screams fraud. I would not accept the response from the supposed attorney-in-fact until that person can provide objective evidence of said title - possibly a notarized state form or other legal notarized document authorizing this practice.

Cynthia Gould

22 Jan 2018

I would need a copy of the POA notarized before I would allow them to sign. They would need to print the aunts name & sign their name with POA behind it.

Hayden Warren

22 Jan 2018

I would indicate that I need to see the power of attorney and that when you are signing as poa you need to sign the principal's name as well as your name as agent. If they cannot do this then no notarization. Also note the poa in my journal.


22 Jan 2018

I would have him sign his aunt's name and then his name with "attorney-in-fact" afterward. If he refused, I would refuse to notarize the document. Otherwise, I could be indicted as an accessory to fraud.

Kevin Libert

22 Jan 2018

Refuse to notarize

Fred Dellar

22 Jan 2018

If he signs only her name and not his name as attorney in fact I would think that would be a form of forgery. I would want him to sign her name and his name as attorney in fact.

Carlos Robles

22 Jan 2018

I would ask to see the power of attorney that he has for his aunt and then advise him that he has to sign his own name as attorney in fact.

Wendy Hunter

22 Jan 2018

Seems like the entire group is in agreement!

Dori Wollen

22 Jan 2018

Without a valid POA and proper ID of the person claiming a POA one cannot continue the process. The case as described is fraud for sure!

Muhammad Hamza

22 Jan 2018

I will refuse to notarize the document.


22 Jan 2018

First, I would ask that he provide a copy of the POA and proof of his identification. Then I'd require him to sign the document including his name indicating POA. If he is not willing to do this, I wouldn't notarize the document. Also, if you do participate in something sketchy like this, you open the door for him coming back with more of the same.

Jean L.

22 Jan 2018

I would not notarize it. I probably would suggest they go to an attorney.

Tom Keyser

22 Jan 2018

When signing by POA you must sign your name by the POA which must be presented. Do not notarize this document.


22 Jan 2018

When I had a friend sign mortgage papers for me while I was out of the country the mortgage company had me sign documents ahead of time allowing my friend to sign and she had to bring that document with her to the signing and she signed her name not mine. If that person has no proof that they have the power to sign on this persons behalf that is one issue. Second, if they don't want their name anywhere on the document they may be trying to pull a fast one. I would not proceed.

Jack Crawford

22 Jan 2018

The appropriate way for a Power of Attorney to be executed is to sign it John Jones, Attorney-in-fact for Jane Doe. John signs HIS name and the notary notarizes HIS signature. John DOES NOT sign Jane's name. If that is not acceptable to him I would refuse.

Mike C.

22 Jan 2018

The only scenario without a POA and doing a proper acknowledgment in representative capacity that I could imagine would be to have the Aunt present. She could either sign by mark, i.e. ‘X’ or he could help her sign her name with his hand over hers. His name would not appear on the document, but would/should be recorded in the journal. If in this scenario, he desires to just sign his aunts name on the document, that is forgery by definition. We are notaries to exactly avoid forgery on documents! A refusal to notarize is indicated.

Joy Pierce

22 Jan 2018

I would ask the person to see the paper's


22 Jan 2018

I would request a copy of the POA for proof that he has the authority to act on her behalf. I would then explain that acting on her behalf does not mean signing her name, that is fraud. He would need to sign his own name as her attorney in fact. If the POA is valid but he refuses to sign using his own name, I would not do the notarization. I would also contact the local senior abuse agency and report what had taken place so they can look into the situation.


22 Jan 2018

I would ask to see the power of attorney document and then after seeing it I would ask the person acting as power of attorney to sign their name as well after like they are supposed to. If they don't do that I'm not notarizing it. It's that simple.

Rodger Ward

22 Jan 2018

This case meets my scientific definition for when to stop a notarization: “I smell a rat.” First, I complete a journal entry for the signer with POA. Next step: Require the POA document. Then I inform the signer that state statutes require the aunt's name plus the POA’s signature and the printed designation of POA. Because only a slim chance exists that this signer will cooperate, I am mentally prepared to politely decline the notarization.


22 Jan 2018

The notary should make sure what is required in the state of jurisdiction. My state requires the signature of the attorney-in-fact along with the representative capacity. The standard format would be James T, , as attorney-in-fact for Steven G. James T. would execute the document using the same format. The acknowledgment is always given by the person signing, so the person signing is identified and signs his or her own name. You can not take an acknowledgment of the principal, since the principal did not sign.


22 Jan 2018

I would refuse to notarize unless he could produce the power of attorney.


22 Jan 2018

In CA we do not have to review the POA to prove the signer's capacity. The signer does have to present ID etc and usually signs in the following format: the Principals signature by Signers signature as Attorney -in- fact. In the acknowledgment we have to name the person who appreared before us, in this case the AIF. We cannot notarize the capacity of the signer, however we can make a note of it on the additional information section of an acknowledgment certificate. I would also make a note of the capacity and who is being represented in my journal. If the signer would not allow me to put their name on the acknowledgment as the person who appeared before me and is the person who signed the document then I could not complete the notarization.


22 Jan 2018

The attorney-in-fact must sign his own name along with his title and the name of the principal signer, Kindly point out the notarial wording that must reflect the attorney- in-fact will be signing his/her name for principal signer, or suggest to reschedule the notarization at a time that the primary can be present for notarization.

Takysa Ringold

22 Jan 2018

I would refuse this job.

Terry Osterdock

22 Jan 2018

He would need to show the POA document and then sign as follows: "Person's name by this POA's name, his/her attorney in fact". If POA is invalid no notarization. If POA cannot complete signature as defined, no notarization. This case more than likely will not be notarized.

Alex Marin

22 Jan 2018

1. Request to see Notarized POA. 2. Insists that they sign clearly denoting they are signing as agents of principal, "John Doe as Attorney in Fact for Jane Doe," making sure state regulations are followed. Don't forget that thumbprint! The ultimate identifier.

Paul Crownover

22 Jan 2018

I would tell them that the law requires them to sign their name and that signing the other person's name is forgery. The I would take a picture of the POA. If they still refuse to sign their own name I would leave. I also would contact the Secretary of State office in my state to see if I should notify just them or if I needed to let someone else know. I wouldn't let someone take advantage of being named in a person's POA.

Billy Bob

22 Jan 2018

Notaries ARE NOT authorized to interpret the authenticity of a POA. You CAN NOT tell someone a notarial act is illegal if they lack what YOU deem to be proper documentation. You may ONLY notarize a person signing as themselves, whatever qualification they want under their signature (POA for Jane Doe) is not your concern. In other words, I agree that this is an illegal notarial act, since this person wants to sign as someone else, but as a notary you are NOT in a position to practice law or provide legal advice. By challenging whether or not a POA exists, or by demanding presentation of said POA, that is a practice of law because you are INTERPRETING that document! Just offer to notarize his signature and properly identified name, then move on.


23 Jan 2018

I would ask to see the POA, then explain he will have to sign his name with POA after it. If he does not agree then I would refuse to notarize. This just screams fraud.

Barri Gordon

23 Jan 2018

First of all, you NEVER notarize a person signing via Power of Attorney (POA) without also seeing the POA while the agent is signing before you. Second, the legal requirements of a POA state that the agent sign the person's name granting them power, BY their name, as agent or as Atty in fact. So they cannot refuse to sign their name or else it is not in adherence of the POA document/rules. It is thus, very simple.. If a person cannot sign the way required to, nor provide the necessary documents to do so, you do Not notsrixe their signature.

Jonathan b Segura

23 Jan 2018

First of All, I would request to see the POA and if applicable, documents showing why the principal is unavailable. After verifying this information, I would inform the signer that as far as I know that is not how it works, and he should call the real estate agent or broker to see how they say we should continue. When I had this before, the company re-issued the papers showing the attorney-in-fact's name and title. If he continued to insist and did not allow to call the broker, I would refuse to notarize and make a note in my journal explaining why/

Cindy Straub

24 Jan 2018

I would ask for a copy of the POA in order to proceed and refuse to do so without proper documentation.

William L Gale

24 Jan 2018

I have already had a situation happen like this. a womans daughter asked me if I could notarize a paper giving her power of attorney over her Mother, but I happen to be friends with her Mother and knew it wasn't going to happen. Her daughter got very verbal with me so I asked to leave my house.

Cheryl R L Kaster

24 Jan 2018

I would refuse to notarize unless he presented the original power of attorney for my review to determine first that the POA actually gave him the power he was attempting to exercise. Then I would have to positively identify him as the person named in the POA, and I would insist that he sign the principal's name by his name, as the principal's attorney in fact (or agent, depending on how it was shown in the POA). If any one of those conditions were not met, I would refuse to notarize.


25 Jan 2018

I will not notarize this document.

Ann Haddox

26 Jan 2018

I would need to see the POA. I would want to know the state, who the POA was for, dates covered in the POA, if there were limitations on the POA or not, and then ask for ID from him.


26 Jan 2018

First, I would ask for to see the POA & his ID to verify he does have POA for his aunt (I'm not verifying the validity of the POA, just that John Doe has been granted POA Aunt Doe). Fill in my journal. Explain he needs to sign "John Doe attorney in fact for Aunt Doe". If he refuses to do sign document, then I refuse to notarize the document.

Denise Stokka

29 Jan 2018

It sounds very suspicious to, however, I would notarize ONLY UNDER THE STIPULATION that the individuals name also be assigned to the document. He is does not agree, then he will need to find another Notary. But be very polite about the whole thing, just explaining that under the circumstances, you cannot eliminate the use of his name.

Reanetta Stokes

29 Jan 2018

I'd recite the law concerning this particular request to the signer, then refuse notarization until he revises his request. Once, and ifs, he revises is request, and he produces a Power of Attorney, I'd perform the notarization as allowable by law, then be sure to document his original request in my journal along with a detailed description of the request that was denied as well as the one that was honored. I'd make sure I have this information in conjunction with his signature and fingerprint in my journal as well.


03 Feb 2018

I would NOT notarize this document because everything sounds suspicious. I also would ask more questions and then possibly call the NNA hotline and advise him/her of what I am doing to see the reaction.

Bernadette A Padilla

07 Feb 2018

I would refuse to sign


19 Jul 2018

Hi, This happened to me yesterday, I politely refused to do the notarization. They said they had POA from another country, that's fine but you can sign with someone else's name! The attorney in fact suggestion sounds like it it work but I told them to consult an attorney.

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