Over the course of your notary career, you may encounter a signer or client who—because of illness, impairment or disability—is unable to sign his or her own name on a document. In such a case, the document can still be notarized, provided the signer can make an X or other physical mark on the signature line. This action, defined as “signature by mark,” represents the intent of the signer to execute the document and therefore is acceptable in lieu of a formal or legible signature.
Laws regarding signature by mark vary from state to state, and most states do not differentiate between a signature and a mark at all, so it is important for a notary to be familiar with the laws and procedures regarding signature by mark in the state where he or she is commissioned. However, erring on the side of caution and following the guidelines listed below will protect both you and the signer and ensure that a lawful notarization is completed.
If a signer is capable of signing his or her name regardless of health, a signature by mark is unnecessary. Signature by mark should only be used in situations where the signer’s physical condition prevents him or her from having the wherewithal to write out his or her full name.
In order for a document to be notarized, the signer must have valid identification, be personally known to the notary, or be accompanied by a credible witness. Infirmity does not excuse a signer from giving proof of his or her identity before a notarization.
Presence of Body and Mind
As with any other kind of notarization, the signer must physically appear before the notary. The notary should also determine that the signer is aware of the information contained within the document and is signing of his or her own free will. If the signer is hospitalized, make sure he or she is not under the influence of any painkillers, anesthetics, or medications that could affect his or her decision-making abilities.
Most states require that a signature by mark be witnessed by at least one other impartial individual besides the notary, and some states require two witnesses. Please note that anyone acting as a witness should present identification prior to the notarization taking place.
To record the notarization, the notary will have the signer make his mark again in the appropriate box in his or her notary journal. Be sure to record the names of the witnesses in your journal along with their contact information, so that either or both may be reached in case anything about the signing comes into question at a later date.
Some states, for example Florida, offer detailed guidelines as to how a signature by mark should be notarized. A signature by mark in this state must be witnessed by two impartial individuals. The notary prints the signer’s first name at the beginning of the signature line and the signer’s last name at the end of the line, and the signer makes his or her mark between the two names. The notary then writes (in print) “His/Her Mark” below the signature line.
Following are examples of Florida notarial certificates specifically for signatures by mark:
“The foregoing instrument was acknowledged before me this _____ day of __________, (year) , by (name of person acknowledging), who signed with a mark in the presence of these witnesses: Witness 1 and Witness 2.”
“Sworn to and subscribed before me this _____ day of __________, (year) , by (name of person making statement), who signed with a mark in the presence of these witnesses: Witness 1 and Witness 2.”
Variety of Marks
As mentioned above, a simple X is the most common type of signature by mark, although any physical impression made by the signer will be acceptable. In addition to an X, the signer could make a squiggle or scrawl, draw a line, or leave a thumbprint (if allowed by your state). That said, in order for a signature by mark to be notarized, the signer must have made the mark without any outside assistance. Neither the notary nor either witness may guide the signer’s hand to make a mark.
Please note that some states (Texas, for example) do not have any additional requirements to notarize documents signed by mark. As always, be sure to consult your own state’s notary laws to ensure that you are in total compliance.