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What Would You Do: The case of the absent friend

The 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?

Requiring a signer’s personal appearance before the Notary is an important rule that helps prevent document fraud by an imposter. But what would you do if a close friend you know personally needs a favor?

Imagine yourself in this situation: A close friend you know well contacts you. He is currently out of town, but needs an important document notarized immediately. He asks you if he can have someone else bring the document to you while he’s away so you can notarize the document with an acknowledgment today. The friend promises you that he will be back in town tomorrow and will visit you as soon as he gets back to sign your Notary journal.

What would you do?

Do you turn down the friend’s request? Since the signer is a close friend of yours, do you trust him enough to do him the favor he’s asking for? Or is there a third option you would choose?

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.

David Thun is the Assistant Managing Editor with the National Notary Association.

Related Articles:

Personal Appearance: The best protection for Notaries

How do you notarize if a signer can’t be present?

View All: Best Practices


Add your comment


06 Nov 2020

I will not notarize unless signer persolally appears before me at the time of signing the document because although the signer is known to me but I am not sure that he is appearing in a court on same date and time and it will be a problem to justify his presence at the time of signing the document and Notary journal. I will try to avoid any possible fraud.


07 Nov 2020

If the friend is within Vermont and is able to participate in a video meeting, I would take his acknowledgement by video, while recording the video. I would attach a COVID-19 compliant certificate to the document delivered by the third person, while taking appropriate measures to assure the document brought by the third person is identical to what my friend intends to sign. The third person could affix my friend's signature to the document at my friend's direction. My state does not require a journal, although I keep one anyway; I would note in the journal that it was a video signing and the method used to sign the document.

lucy Rodriguez

09 Nov 2020

A close friend would not ask for such a favor. The request would be denied. Documents notarization required personal face-to-face appearance. Why would I want to compromise my integrity over a blatant disregard for the laws, and standard of my professional ethics. It's a one for all principle discipline action with no exceptions nor considerations.

Patrice S

09 Nov 2020

I will say no dont sign. You made an oath to follow your state laws to be a notary. You should explain that to your friend and recommend another options. But on another note, once you start doing favors for friends and family you will drop your guard and get too comfortable and you will open yourself to liabilities and mistakes.

Shavahn Erby

09 Nov 2020

What a great scenario. I would tell my friend since they are out of town that they have a few options. First, they could find a local notary near them to complete this notarization. Or secondly, since I’m also RON approved, I would tell them about online notarizations. If they have access to a computer with a webcam and microphone, a non expired ID and a credit card to pay the fee, I would set them up on one of my platforms and notarize the documents that way. Otherwise, they will be waiting til they are back in front of me to sign.

Jose Gomez

09 Nov 2020

I am a notary in Texas. I will not notarize my friend’s document because in Texas, it’s illegal to backdate entries in our Journal. I would suggest he contact an authorized Online notary.

Suzanne Bellah

09 Nov 2020

Yes, decline the notarization. #1 rule, signer MUST be present. What would happen if the signer suddenly passed away? The answer is NO.

Annette Owens-Earnest

09 Nov 2020

Advise your friend that is allowed. However, you can advise your friend to search for a RON to complete the notarization.

Donna D. Allen

09 Nov 2020

Absolutely not....I've learned what basic notary laws are and without looking for some sort of a loophole, it's a quick and easy reply to my friend...I'm sorry but that's not legal. Could come back on both of us!! Not worth the risk.

Tammy White

09 Nov 2020

Tell your friend that you wouldn’t mind meeting them tomorrow to sign all documents.


09 Nov 2020

Easy, I'd ask my friend to send me the doc via the RON platform I use. No drama. :-)

Gwendolyn Green

09 Nov 2020

I would politely decline to perform the notary. I would simply state that, by law, I have to have the document signed in my presence in order to notarize it and the notary journal has to be signed. I would also point out that while I have complete trust in them, it is for their protection that they appear before me in person and to do otherwise would be breaking the law.

Patty Greenwood

09 Nov 2020

As much as I value my friendships, I value my reputation and credibility more. I would explain why I could not do as requested and hope they understood. In reality though, friends close enough to ask such a favor, also know me well enough not to.

Kathy Barnes

09 Nov 2020

I would ask a few more questions and then offer to notarize the signature of the authorized (via POA) thrid party that is delivering the document. I won't even notarize a doc for my best friend if they aren't present to roll through the proper steps with me.

sarah burrowes

09 Nov 2020

If a friend is really a friend, he or she shouldn't be asking me to break the law. I'd simply explain that it's illegal for me to do what is requested and try to set a time when we can be face to face.


09 Nov 2020

First, no friend of mine would ask me to put my credibility and reputation on the line with such a request. In the unlikely event one did ask, I would have to politely decline the request, and explain my reason(s), unless the person presenting the document is acting as POA for my friend, and has proof of such. I would tell the person I value their friendship, and suggest they find a notary near where they are, or see me when they return to town.

Greg Stewart

09 Nov 2020

I would deny the notarization & explain to him/her why. I would then let him/her know that I value our friendship but I took an oath & will not brake the law for anyone. Being a true friend I would help him/her locate a mobile notary to be dispatched to his/her location so him/her can get it notarized that day.

Rosemary H. Mathews

09 Nov 2020

I would ask him to take the document to a bank or credit union or someplace that has a notary to get it signed where he is. I'd explain that I can't sign it till he is present with me.

Michael E Harris

09 Nov 2020

I do loan signings so this situation would probably never come up. However, I would have to refuse since notarizing would violate the law and my ethical practices.

Meaghan Grogan

09 Nov 2020

I would explain to my friend that this is illegal and that I would be happy to help as soon as they are back in town (or maybe they will pay my travel fee to come meet them! lol). I think breaking the rules once makes it easier to do next time, and next time, and then it's a habit. Not worth the risk.

A Deloris Blair-Cannon

09 Nov 2020

I will tell them “they’ll just have to wait until they get back in town.” It’s better than me getting mixed up in a fraudulent situation.

09 Nov 2020

Question, why wouldn't the credible witness work in this situation as long as the document is signed? Of course no if no signature, but doesn't the credible witness signs as long as he/she is known to both? Thanks in advance for the response.

Luis Frias

09 Nov 2020

No; am in CA and I will be perjuring myself as I am certifying personal appearance.

Patricia J Wynn

09 Nov 2020

I would decline and make it clear to that "friend" that if he/she were my friend then they wouldn't even consider putting me in that situation.

Sharon Lowe

09 Nov 2020

Depending on what the document is, if it falls within the restrictive requirements of a Proof of Execution, I would have him sign before a mutually known friend and perform the Proof of Execution. If no mutually known person is available, like others stated, I would advise him to find a local notary to do the notarization or simply wait until he is back in town the following day. If this is in California, remote notarizations are not allowed.

Mindy L Black

10 Nov 2020

I am in California. I have had this type of request many times before. I tell them that I have to have the thumbprint of the signer. My personal rule is I get a thumbprint for all notarizations. When I tell them that a thumbprint is required, they always accept it gracefully. This saves hurt feelings, begging for an exception , etc.we can then discuss other options such as next day notarization, going to a bank, finding a mobile notary, etc.

Carol Wilson

14 Nov 2020

No Can Do! Although it is ok for the friend to sign the Acknowledgement before he gets to me, he MUST show up in front of me. I'd say, "I'm sorry but you know I follow law and it is illegal for me to notarize a document without the signer being present in front of me, no matter even if it's my own child. You will need to wait until tomorrow when you are here to keep us both out of trouble OR you could get a notary public wherever you are and have her/him notarize in front of you."

Marjorie A Hunt

14 Nov 2020

I would first ask as to what it is that he needs notarized. If it is something that does not have any financial gain. That I would ask if he can have someone who he knows that can be a witness of him signing the paperwork, and be a proxy to being a witness of him signing the document to be notarized. Or I would tell him that he has to come in person himself or meet with another Notary to take care of what he needs to notarize. I have not had this happen to me yet, and I am also a Financial Professional.

Daniel Decker

17 Nov 2020

If the friend told his friend that he signed the document then in Ca. the notary could issue a proof of execution by a subscribing witness with a credible witness. If the notary does not know his friend's friend with the document then two credible witnesses would be needed and the friend would sign the journal.

Toya Thomas

17 Nov 2020

No I will not #1 its against the LAW!! #2 just tell your friend wait until they get back.

Mary Lou Stewart

30 Nov 2020

In Texas, unless you have Remote Online Notarization capabilities, you must say no.

A Johnson

30 Nov 2020

No, rule #1 is that the signer (any person) has to appear before me with unexpired ID and/or credible witnesses. None of my friend's would ever ask me this...they know ME better than to do that!

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