Chapter 4: Signature by Mark

What happens when someone is injured in an accident or suffered a stroke and they cannot sign their name on a document that needs to be notarized?   The Secretary of State has made provisions for every possible scenario so a Notary Public can perform their duties notarizing documents.   (Civil Code section 14) “When the signer of an instrument cannot write (sign) his or her name, that person may sign the document by mark.”    Translation: The signer must be able to make a mark where their signature would be if they were able to sign their name.

Example of a mark: X

Here’s the list of requirements for a “Signature by Mark:”

  • The person signing the document with a mark must be identified by the Notary Public.  See Chapter 2 (Proper ID for Notarizing a Document in California)
  • The signer’s mark must be witnessed by two people who must sign their own names as witnesses on the document.
  • Witness #1 will write the person’s name next to the mark and then sign their own name as a witness.
  • Witness #2 will sign their name next to Witness #1

Do the witnesses need to identify themselves with proper ID like the signer of the document?   No.  Can the staff at the hospital act as witnesses?  No.  Most medical facilities forbid their employees from signing any legal documents for patients.   If you know your loved one cannot sign their name make sure you have 2 witnesses present before the notary arrives.   A notary public cannot act as a witness to a document if they’re notarizing the document.

Witness #1 is required to write the name of the signer next to the mark in the Notary Journal and then sign their name as Witness #1 in the journal.   Performing a Signature by Mark notary can be time-consuming for everyone involved because the documents have to be altered for the witnesses to sign the document.   This is why I always carry a ruler in my briefcase.   Drawing a straight line with a ruler keeps the document neat and legible.

How often are documents notarized with a Signature by Mark?   Not very often for most notaries that work in postal type stores.    As a mobile notary public for the past 13 years I can safely state I’ve performed dozens of Signature by Mark notaries.  Each time my services are requested to complete a Signature by Mark notary I always refer back to the Notary Public Handbook issued by the Secretary of State.    The notary laws change every year in California and it’s the responsibility of the notary to make sure documents are notarized properly.   If you can’t remember how to perform a notary properly check the Notary Public Handbook before completing the notary.   When a patient in the hospital needs an Advance Health Care Directive or any important legal document notarized, making a mistake isn’t an option.   There might not be a second chance to get this document or any documents notarized again.

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