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Notary Quiz: Test your witness knowledge



ANSWERS:

What does a credible identifying witness do?

A. Appears before a Notary on behalf of an absent signer
B. Vouches for the identity of a signer for a notarial act
C. Watches the signer sign the document in the Notary’s presence
D. Verifies the signer’s identity on behalf of an absent Notary

Answer: B. A credible identifying witness is used to identify a signer. Essentially, a credible witness serves as a “human ID card” for the signer. A credible identifying witness must personally know the signer and present ID to the Notary, but in some states must personally know the Notary as well.

What does a subscribing witness do?

A. Appears before a Notary on behalf of an absent signer
B. Vouches for the identity of a signer for a notarial act
C. Watches the signer sign the document in the Notary’s presence
D. Verifies the signer’s identity on behalf of an absent Notary

Answer: A. When signer is unable to personally appear before a Notary to acknowledge their signature on a document, some states permit a "subscribing witness" to watch the signer sign the document or take the signer's acknowledgment and appear in the principal signer's place during the notarization. This is often called a "proof of execution by subscribing witness."

Because of the high risk of possible fraud when using a subscribing witnesses, some states do not allow subscribing witnesses, and others have strict requirements or restrictions on the type of documents a subscribing witness may be used for.

True or False: A request for a Notary to sign a document as an individual witness and also notarize is a potential conflict of interest.

A. True
B. False
 

Answer: True. Requests for you to both notarize signatures and also sign as a document witness may be inappropriate because you are notarizing a document you have also signed in an individual capacity. In fact, some states, such as Georgia and Kansas, specifically prohibit Notaries from also acting as document witnesses. If you are unsure if a request to serve as a document witness would affect your impartiality, the safest choice is to act as a Notary or as a document witness — but not both.

Are witnesses to a signature by mark required by law? 

A. Yes
B. No
C. It depends on state law

Answer: C. If a signer is unable to write their name and wishes to sign using an “X” or other mark, some states, such as Arkansas, CaliforniaFlorida and Nebraska require one or more witnesses to be present when the signature by mark is made. In other states that follow the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts, such as Indiana, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington, anyone with or without a physical impairment may sign a mark and a special procedure — including witnesses — is not required because a “mark” is considered the same as any other signature.

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

 

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