Today, let's talk about signatures.
You know, I verify the right person signed the document, but can I even read the signature I'm looking at?
Typically not, and that's okay because their signature does not have to be legible to be their legal signature. I'm verifying their name from the printed name on their ID card. So that's not a problem. However, there can be issues with signatures. So let's take the easiest one, which is that it's not illegible - really it's incomplete, or just a mark of some kind. In this case, this might happen with an older signer or a signer, who's had an accident with their signing hand, or perhaps they're a signer who has a disease state that is preventing them from their finger dexterity to manipulate a pen well. So when that happens, how do you handle that?
It depends on your state, because not all states handle it the same. So there are some states, Kansas, for instance, who relies on the intention behind the signature. So that means whatever Mark your signer makes is going to be acceptable and you need no further proof or witnessing of that signature. As long as the signer can communicate that it's their intention to sign that document.
Other states, such as Florida or California, they're going to require witnesses, right? So witnesses don't have to know this signer, but they have to be there during the signing so that they can sign their own name as witnesses and print the name of the signer next to whatever that mark is. So receiving agencies know what that name really is. But sometimes even that is a problem. You know, if they can't manipulate a pen, they could perhaps give you a fingerprint and a fingerprint, printer to paper that could suffice.
And of course the witness would write the signers name either way. It still allows us to notarize the signature of the signer. And the witnessing is an extension, right, of this. We are still identifying and notarizing the principal signers name. Now sometimes they can't even do that. And when that's the case, there could be some states, and there are about a half a dozen different states that allow for something called signature by proxy. And this is where either the notary or a designee of the signer would sign the signers name on their behalf. And if it is a designee, other than the notary, they need to be doing that in the presence of the principal signer and the notary. And now we can notarize the signature of the principal signer. And again, this person is an extension of the signer.
It is still the signer's signature that we are notarizing. Now, there are other times that you'll be asked to notarize a signature for a principal, but it's by representing signer. And sometimes I call them the appearing signer. A person comes to you with a document that does not belong to them. It belongs to a principal signer, principal signer signed a different document, giving permission or power to this person in front of you to sign on the principal's behalf. It might be called 'attorney in fact', or a 'power of attorney'. In this case, they cannot just sign the signers name. They must indicate who the principal is, who they are, and what their status is. So for instance, a signature might look something like 'principal signer' by the 'appearing signer' as 'attorney in fact', or 'power of attorney'.
Now, in this case, they're actually the signer for the notary's purpose. That means you will be identifying the person in front of you. You will be putting the person in front of you, his name in your notary certificate. And if you're in a state that allows for representative capacity, you would be adding to their name as 'attorney in fact for principal signer', if you're in a state like California, where that's not allowed, then you would just have the appearing signer's name and you would have no title or status to go with it. In loan signings I see this when the property is in trust and they're signing as the trustee, which is perfectly fine, but in my certificate, I have to leave off the title of trustee, meaning they're the manager of the trust because I'm not allowed to certify the representative status of that signer, only them as an individual.
So as you can see, there are a lot of details in notarizing a signature, much more than what people probably recognize or understand. And this is a valuable skill and will make you more valuable as a notary, whether it's in your office or whether it's because you're a mobile notary or because you're a loan signing agent, because you understand how that works. And those are the things that will make you stand out from other notaries who don't have that ability. So I hope this was helpful!
Until the next time, be safe!