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Notary Tip: How To Handle A Signature By Mark

signature-by-mark-resized.jpgUpdated 8-24-20. In the event your signer is unable to sign their name for any number of reasons, a "signature by mark," such as an X, may be used instead. Here's what you need to know.

What Is A Signature By Mark?

A signature by mark is an alternative to writing a full signature. The signer instead makes a mark (such as an "X") or other symbols 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, 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, and Oklahoma (for real estate conveyed or encumbered specifically) 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 has 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? Michigan and Ohio Notaries may serve as a witness and notarize the same signature by mark. 

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 the 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 allows Notaries to notarize a signature made by a stamp.

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

34 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).

Aqueela Bowie

17 Jul 2018

Can a notary witness signature mark by X and also notarize? I think not but please confirm. Also the statements above says winesses may be required to sign journal.....what does it depend on and should we obtain identification from the witnesses as well?

National Notary Association

18 Jul 2018

Hello. So that we can provide you with the correct information for your state, can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Kristina

03 Sep 2018

Do DC, Maryland, or Virginia have any rules about this? I have always gone by the rule that the signature on the Driver’s License is the legal signature.

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2018

Hello. To the best of our knowledge, none of the three jurisdictions you mentioned provides guidelines for notarizing a signature by mark.

Delia Granados

04 Sep 2018

What are the requirements, if any, for notarize a person’s stamped signature in California?

National Notary Association

05 Sep 2018

Hello. Please see the information in the article above about the limits on use of a signature by mark in California.

Kari

12 Sep 2018

What are the requirements for notarizing a signature by mark in Michigan?

National Notary Association

12 Sep 2018

Hello Kari. According to the Michigan Secretary of State's website, a Notary may take the acknowledgment of a person who cannot sign his or her own name.Such a person should sign the instrument by marking an ‘X’ in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom may be a Notary.

Vernita

15 Sep 2018

Are there any rules that prohibit a Notary from taking a photograph of the person signing the document?

National Notary Association

17 Sep 2018

Hello. To help us answer your question can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

michaelanthonyforbes@gmail.com

21 Aug 2019

Attempt #2... Please don't erase it Mr Capcha... The form used for a signature by mark is shown in every video and every book but there is no mention of how the form is produced or what it is called. Do we draft it up ourselves?!?? Is it just the one form that is absent from all training materials? What's the big heavily guarded secret?

National Notary Association

22 Aug 2019

Hello. To help us answer your question can you please tell us what state you are commissioned in?

Julia Blevins

18 Jun 2020

What are the requirements for notarizing a signature by mark for the state of Virginia?

National Notary Association

26 Jun 2020

Hello. Virginia does not provide guidelines or instructions for notarizing a signature by mark.

Doris Barnhill

31 Aug 2020

What are the requirements for notarizing a signature in the state of New Jersey?

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2020

Hello. Guidelines for performing notarizations in New Jersey can be found in the state's Notary Public Manual: https://www.state.nj.us/treasury/revenue/pdf/NotaryPublicManual.pdf

Brian kujawa

31 Aug 2020

Does Illinois require one or two witness signatures when someone can only mark an. X

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2020

Hello. The Illinois Notary Public Handbook states that when notarizing a signature by mark, the Notary should ensure that there are two persons to witness the signature by mark in addition to yourself.

Victoria Chase

31 Aug 2020

I am not able to open the above information that relates to CA.

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2020

Hello. Can you please clarify what CA information you are unable to access in the article?

Philip Berkner

31 Aug 2020

What about a name stamp in the state of California?

National Notary Association

04 Sep 2020

Hello. California does not permit a signer to have a stamped signature notarized.

William Westerfield Tolbert

31 Aug 2020

The article states no information about the State of Kentucky.

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2020

Hello. Kentucky does not provide guidelines for notarizing a signature by mark in its Notary laws. However, the state does provide guidelines for notarizing a signature by proxy if a signer is unable to write: “If an individual is physically unable to sign a record, the individual may direct another individual, other than the notarial officer, to sign the individual’s name on the record by proxy, in the presence of two (2) witnesses unaffected by the record, one (1) of whom may be the individual who signs, by proxy, on behalf of the individual physically unable to sign. Both witnesses shall sign their own names beside the proxy signature, and the notarial officer shall insert ‘Signature affixed by (name of proxy signer) at the direction of (name of individual) and in the presence of (names and addresses of the two witnesses)’ or words of similar import” (KRS 423.335).

Norm Stutesman

31 Aug 2020

I've heard that Michigan's governor just passed a law that states that all notarizations must be done electronically. How is this possible?

National Notary Association

03 Sep 2020

Hello. That is not correct. While Michigan has enacted laws authorizing qualified Notaries to perform remote online notarizations (RON), there is no law in place requiring Michigan Notaries to perform all notarizations electronically. For more information, please see here: https://www.nationalnotary.org/knowledge-center/remote-online-notary/how-to-become-a-remote-online-notary/michigan

Roderick Miller

01 Sep 2020

Does Mississippi have guidelines or instructions for notarizing a signature by mark?

National Notary Association

01 Sep 2020

Hello. Yes: “A notary may certify the affixation of a signature by mark on a document presented for notarization if: “1. the mark is affixed in the presence of the notary and of 2 witnesses unaffected by the document; “2. both witnesses sign their own names beside the mark; “3. the notary writes below the mark: ‘Mark affixed by (name of signer by mark) in presence of (names and addresses of witnesses) and undersigned notary under [Rule 6.2]’; and “4. the notary notarizes the signature by mark through an acknowledgment, jurat, or signature witnessing” (1 MAC Pt. 5, R. 050.5.1[C]).

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