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Notary Tip: How To Handle A Signature By Mark

signature-by-mark-resized.jpgSometimes signers are unable to write out their names due to a physical limitation, illiteracy or other circumstances. In these cases, you may be able to notarize a "signature by mark," a symbol made on the paper instead of signing one’s full signature. Here's what you need to know about notarizing a signature by mark.

What Is A Signature By Mark?

A signature by mark is an alternative to signing a full signature. The signer instead makes a mark (such as an "X"), scribble or other symbol on the document. Under the laws of many states, a mark is considered a signature and is treated as such.

What Are The Rules For Notarizing A Signature By Mark?

As you'll see in the discussion that follows, there are notable differences in how various states treat a signature by mark. It’s always important to consult your state’s laws, rules and official guidelines before notarizing a signature by mark. 

Some states, including Indiana (effective July 1, 2018), Maine, Texas, along with states that have adopted the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) such as Pennsylvania and Washington, do not mention or differentiate between a signature and a mark. In these states, the way a signer signs their name is immaterial and the signature, mark or scrawl may be notarized without a Notary taking any additional steps.

There are additional steps a Notary must take to notarize a signature by mark in many states. North Carolina and South Carolina require the Notary to write, "Mark affixed by (name of signer by mark) in presence of undersigned notary" below the mark on the document. Nebraska requires the Notary to write "Mark affixed by (name of signer by mark) in presence of (names and addresses of witnesses) and undersigned notary public." Montana law requires another individual to write the marker’s name near the mark in addition to signing the document.

Arkansas, Arizona, California, Illinois, Oklahoma (for real estate conveyed or encumbered specifically) and Missouri limit the use of signatures by mark to persons who lack the ability to sign their name or who have a physical impairment or other condition that prevents it.

Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming specify the types of notarial acts that must be performed on a signature by mark (acknowledgments and jurats are universally identified, and other acts depending upon the law of the state). Florida has statutory acknowledgment and jurat certificate forms for use when a Notary notarizes a mark. Illinois and Missouri have an acknowledgment certificate for an individual who cannot write their name. Hawaii simply says the notarial certificate for a signature by mark should reflect that the individual signed with a mark.

What Are The Witness Requirements For Notarizing A Signature By Mark?

When notarizing a signature by mark, several states require one or more additional witnesses to be present when the mark is made. It is a common practice to have one of the witnesses print the signer's name next to the mark on the document, and the witnesses may be required to sign the Notary’s journal entry.

North Dakota does not require witnesses, but recommends having at least one present. In Arizona and Montana, only a single witness is required, but California and Illinois require or recommend two. Arkansas requires at least one witness with no interest in the document. Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, Mississippi and Wyoming require two witnesses who must have no interest in the document being notarized.

May A Notary Witness A Signature By Mark?

Another question comes up: in the states that require a witness, can a Notary serve as a witness and also notarize the mark? The Michigan Secretary of State says that a Michigan Notary may not be a signature witness and notarize the same signature. Notaries commissioned in Franklin County, Ohio, may witness and notarize a signature by mark (see A Handbook and Notarial Journal for Notaries Public, 2008, published by the Notaries Public Committee of Franklin County, Ohio Common Pleas Court and Columbus Bar Association, page 13).

What About A Signature Stamp?

Many Notaries have asked if they can notarize a person’s stamped signature. Indiana, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon have statements in their Notary handbooks permitting Notaries to notarize a stamped signature used in place of a written signature. Nevada has a statute (NRS 426.257) that allows use of a signature stamp if the signer is unable to write due to a physical disability. New York also has a statute that defines a signature as including a mark made by stamp (Gen. Constr L 46). Minnesota has a new law effective January 1, 2019, that will allow Notaries to notarize a signature made by stamp.

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

6 Comments

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ED E. HARRIS

25 Jun 2018

The commesnts are confusing. "In Arizona and Montana, only a single witness is required, but California and Illinois require or recommend two." Which is it in California? Require or recommend?

National Notary Association

27 Jun 2018

Hello. California requires two witnesses present in order to notarize a signature by mark. (GC 16; see also CC 14 and CCP 17[a]).

Joel

26 Jun 2018

What is the rule in the rest of Ohio?

National Notary Association

27 Jun 2018

Hello. Notary applications and disciplinary procedures are handled separately in each county in Ohio by the county court of common pleas. For assistance with a specific county, we recommend contacting the local county clerk of the court of common pleas or the county bar association.

Michelle Riesenberg

05 Jul 2018

I am a notary in Iowa. I don't know that I have come across this situation before. Could you please tell me what this rule is for the state of Iowa, if there is a rule for it?

National Notary Association

05 Jul 2018

Hello. Iowa does not provide statutory guidelines for notarizing a signature by mark. However, a disabled signer unable to write their name may use the following procedure in Iowa: “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” (IC 9B.9).

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