I notarize a signature without the person being present if another person
swears that the person signed the
No! The Notary Section receives frequent inquiries about "notarizing a person's signature by subscribing witness." Evidently, some notaries believe that it is permissible to notarize a signature when the person is not present if someone who witnessed the signing of the document appears before the notary and swears that the person actually signed the document. Some states, like California, do, in fact, allow such notarizations, but Florida does not. Misunderstanding may also stem from a section in Florida law that provides a method by which instruments concerning real property may be entitled to recording in Florida when the document signer cannot appear before a notary to acknowledge his or her signature. You may hear this procedure referred to as "proof of execution by subscribing witness."
We recently asked the leading experts in Florida about this issue. The Attorneys' Title Insurance Fund, Inc. is considered the state's foremost authority on matters related to the real estate industry. The following information should clarify any confusion which may exist on the subject.
method is used only for acknowledgments on real estate transactions. Second,
this is not an alternative method of notarization. The person whose signature
is being notarized must personally appear before the notary at the time
of the notarization without exception. Rather, this provision is a method
by which a document can be recorded in Florida. For example, say a person
signed a document related to a real estate transaction but did not acknowledge
his signature before a notary public. Later, the document cannot be recorded
by the county clerk because it lacks notarization. The problem is further
complicated when the document signer cannot be located or is deceased.
Florida law provides that one of the subscribing witnesses on the document
may "prove" the execution of the document by swearing that the
person did actually sign the document. With that sworn statement, the
document may then be recorded.
Some private companies produce form "certificates of proof." We prefer the affidavit format instead. By using an affidavit with a standard jurat, the notary will not be certifying more information than is required of the notary. It is up to the affiant to state the facts and swear to the truthfulness of his or her statement.
Remember then, if a coworker, family member, or anyone else asks you to notarize another person's signature based on a sworn statement that he or she saw the person sign the document, JUST SAY NO!!