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Special Situations: Notarizing For a Person Who Is Illiterate, Signs by Mark, or Directs Another to Sign

posted May 29, 2016, 4:12 PM by AG Pro Serve Intl.   [ updated May 29, 2016, 4:17 PM ]

What do notaries do when a person wants to have his or her signature notarized but is illiterate, or signs by a mark, or directs another person to sign?

The same basic precautions must be taken as discussed on previous posts for special situations, and FL notaries must be able to identify the person signing by verifying an acceptable form of identification and make sure he or she understands the document to be signed and is doing  it freely.

Here are a few pointers for notaries facing these situations:

Notarizing for someone who is illiterate:

  • Although the law doesn’t require as in the case of visually impaired, notaries should read the document to the signer before notarizing; notaries cannot advise or explain the contents of the document. If the signer does not understand, suggest him or her to seek an attorney.
  • Add a statement to the notarial certificate that you have read the document such as ”I further certify that I read the document to (name of signer) prior to notarization.”
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Notarizing for someone who signs by mark OR with a disability who directs another to sign:

These are circumstances where the person may be illiterate or has a disability that impedes him or her to sign the usual way. So notaries should accommodate the request, but rely on the law, use common sense, and exercise reasonable care.

See §117.05(14)(b) & §117.05(14)(b)(d) Fla Stat.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Question the signer about his or her understanding of the document to be signed. If the person is blind you must read the entire document to him or her; if  illiterate, notaries should read the document. But do not advise or explain it. In case he or she does not understand, refer to an attorney and do not notarize.
  •  Ask the signer for an acceptable form of identification. In case of the person who directs another to sign, it’s not necessary to ask for identification of the designated signer since the person is merely guiding the hands of the person with a disability.
  • Perform the correct notarial act: administer an oath or take an acknowledgment. In the case of the person who directs another to sign, notaries may then sign the signature of the person with a disability at the direction of and in the presence of that person. When performing the notarial act, direct either to the person with a disability.
  • For the person who signs by mark (p.38), before he or she signs, print his/her first name at the beginning of the line and the last name at the end of the line, then below the line, print “His Mark” or “Her Mark,” the ask the person to make his or her mark.
  • Add the special circumstances to the notarial certificate. For the person signing by mark, indicate that. For the person who directs another (p.39), indicate the name of the designated person as well.
  • Two impartial persons must be present as witnesses at the signing and notarization. Their name and addresses must be clearly printed below their signatures. Notarizing the witnesses’ signatures is not needed unless required by law for a particular document.
  • Record it all on your journal and make sure the witnesses and designated person sign on it as well.
As with any case, if you do not feel comfortable because the signer does not appear to understand the document to be signed, or seems reluctant, or coerced, it’s better to err on the side of caution, refer him or her to an attorney, and decline to notarize.

by Alessandra Jackson

AG Pro Serve Intl.