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July 5, 2016

Credible Witnesses — The Process Explained

Filed under: Credible Witnesses — Tags: , — admin @ 6:01 am

What is the process for using credible witnesses? First of all, not all states allow the use of credible witnesses.

Which states allow credible witnesses?

One Witness or Two?
Some states will allow the use of one credible witness that knows the Notary and also knows the signer. Other states require the use of two credible witnesses. You need to know your state law to know what your state allows.

Knowing the Signer
The next question is, how well does a credible witness need to know a signer in order to swear under Oath that they know that person as a particular name? Most credible witnesses know the person as Joe, and have no clue what the last name is. They are swearing under Oath to something they were verbally told at the time of the notarization and they don’t really know Joe that well. In my opinion, credible witnesses should not be legal unless there is more scrutinizing to see how well they know the signer and how they learned the signer’s name before they were told at the signing what the Notary wants the signer’s name to be. Perhaps the Notary should ask the witness what the signer’s name is rather than telling them.

Journal Requirements
Credible witnesses must SIGN the notary journal, but NOT in the signature section. They must sign in the notes section. The Signer signs the journal in the signature section — get that straight! The Notary should write down the name, address, and driver license number of the credible witness as well.

Finally, the Notary must administer an Oath to the credible witness(es) asking them to swear that the name of the signer is John Q Doe, etc.

The idea of having credible witnesses is the best thing that ever happened to the Notary profession. Using credible witnesses you can legally notarize a signer as Mickey Mouse or Ronald Reagan — and all without any form of identification. We recommend you take journal thumbprints of the signer for proof that the signer really is who they say they are just in case fraud is suspected. Most states do not require journal thumbprints, but take them anyway because you will get investigated one day — and perhaps by an investigator named Mickey Mouse.



August 7, 2013

The Alaska Real Estate Broker & the Notary

A realtor in Alaska hired an Alaska Notary to go see a property… They took a dog sled out there… The Alaska Notary wanted to get paid in salmon… “I charge an extra piece of salmon if there is an accompanying oath.”

It takes 8 hours to get to a tiny shack that is being sold. They have to sleep in a tent.

Realtor: “I don’t know if I like this because it only has one bathroom.” Seller: “Next to that bush outside–that’s the other bathroom.”

Finally, once the signing has commenced, the notary public Alaska learns that the borrower has no ID. So, they use a sled dog as one of the credible witnesses… “Rover has known me his whole life”, explained the borrower. But, they need another credible witness. So, they take the sled all the way back to the city to get the other credible witness — a friend of the family… The witness has to go to the bathroom… ask Connie if you can use the bathroom– credible witness says “Ask WHO?” There was only one bathroom.

The last time they attempted this loan signing with a notary it was not so easy. This part of Alaska is serviced by planes that drop supplies once every six months. So, if you need a credible witness, they can dump one off on their run.

They flew a witness in…and they flew in a credible witness 6 months after the notary was there… Unfortunately, in Alaska they didn’t understand that the credible witness needs to be there at the same time the notary is there. That complicates things.

In any case, the borrower took an Oath. But, since they live in such a cold climate, he had questions.

Borrower — “Do you think my oath will keep? I’ll just take the oath right now”
Notary — “It will keep if you leave it outside because it’s just below freezing.”

(1) The Alaska Notary wanted to get paid in salmon
(2) Alaska Notary: “I charge an extra piece of salmon if there is an accompanying Oath.”
(3) Broker: “You want to get paid in salmon? That’s wild.”
Alaska Notary: “Well, actually it’s farm raised.”
(4) I thought you said this was a 2-bathroom igloo!
Well, next to that bush-that’s the OTHER bathroom.
(5) The borrower had no ID, so they used the sled dog as one of the credible witnesses.
(6) They used the sled dog as one of the credible witnesses since “Mush” had know the signer his entire life!

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A realtor selling land on the moon

Alaska Notary Information


April 20, 2013

Types of witnesses in the notary profession

Types of Witnesses in the Notary Profession

All the names of witnesses in the notary profession can be confusing if you don’t know your terminology. I am going to write a brief tutorial of various types of witnesses.

Anyone who witnesses a signature can be a witness. In general you should be 18 years of age or older to serve as a witness. A witness could engage in the act of witnessing a signature.

Credible Witness
Most states allow the use of Credible Witnesses to identify a signer. Some states will allow two Credible Witnesses who know the signer, but do NOT know the notary. Some states will allow one Credible Witness who knows the signer as well as the notary. Some states will allow one or two Credible Witnesses. Consult your state’s notary handbook for details.

Credible Identifying Witness
A more legal or technical term for a Credible Witness

Executing Witness
Also known as a Subscribing Witness that would be used in a Proof of Execution signing. Don’t make a mistake on this type of notarization or the joke is that you will be executed!

Subscribing Witness
A witness who watches someone else sign their name. The word “sign” can sometimes be synonomous with the word “subscribe”.

Subscribing Witness for a Signature by X signing
A Subscribing Witness is also the term for someone who watches and assists in a Signature by Mark or Signature by X signing.

Witness to a Jurat Signature
Notaries are required by law to witness signatures that correspond to Jurat notarizations. Signatures that are to be acknowledged on the other hand, do NOT need to be witnessed, and can be signed before (even years before) the signature is acknolwedged.

Witness to a Will
Being a witness to a Will is similar to any other type of witnessing, except for the fact that the witness might need to (or probably should) document the fact that they witnessed a will signing on the signature page of the Will. Wills are by definition, orten much more serious than any other type of document.

They are often more important even than Power of Attorney documents or Grant Deeds. Another reason why witnessing signatures on Wills is so critical is because the signer will probably be dead if and when the document is disputed. It is too late to drag someone into court to testify if they are deceased!

You might also like:

Can a notary witness a Will or notarize one?

How many witnesses do you need when signing a Will?

Credible Witnesses from A to Z

Identification requirements for being notarized


September 13, 2012

Prison signings: Notarizing Bank robbers & pornographers

One Ohio notary decided to accept a signing in a prison. She could not bring in a phone or a purse, but had to bring in all her notary equipment–her notary journal, pens, her seal, her certificate, her ID–in a plastic bag. Apparently, the guards were legally allowed to act as credible witnesses who could identify the man, so that was all set; outside witnesses are not allowed in a prison. This Ohio notary was very nervous, but the guards were all nice, and the prison was extremely clean. The man who was signing to refinance a property was allowed to come out to the table and sit next to her; the notary was told ahead of time that he was “not violent.” Throughout the signing and notarization of many pages, the man kept smiling at her strangely. She recorded the necessary information in her Ohio notary journal and left as soon as she could. Later on, our Ohio notary learned that the man was in prison for child pornography and was refinancing in order to pay the thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees…and that the images he had distributed over the Internet were truly disgusting. Still later, she decided she would rather not do work as an Ohio notary in jails or prisons.

One Ohio couple was refinancing their home because their son had stolen some money, and they felt they had to help him. They cried and cried throughout the entire notarization. The Ohio notary and the couple sat on the floor because all the tables and chairs were covered with papers. Their home looked as if it had not been cleaned for months; pictures of their son lay around the house on tables and chairs covered with dust.

Another Ohio notary did a refinance in a prison. The guards acted as credible witnesses. The man was refinancing to get money out of his home to pay for all his attorney’s fees. What was he in prison for? Robbing a bank…

(1) She was not allowed to bring her purse into the jail – had to bring notary supplies in a plastic bag.
(2) Outside witnesses were not allowed in this prison, so the notary used the guards as credible witnesses.
(3) The notary later learned that the inmate she notarized was in prison for child pornography.
(4) A man in prison was refinancing his home to get money to hire Attorneys. What was he in prison for?

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The warden forces the notary to use his seal in an illegal way during security procedures

Do criminals deserve to be notarized?

Notarizing an arsonist who blew his fingers off

Notarizing a kidnapper


September 11, 2012

Can a notary charge for a credible witness?

Can a notary charge for a credible witness?
I have never heard of a notary charging for swearing in a credible witness. However, notary rules and notary laws vary from state to state.  Some states allow a notary to charge extra for Oaths.  Whether or not that Oath is for a principal Oath taker, or can be charged for a credible witness is very unclear to me.  I would recommend looking through your state’s notary laws which will probably NOT have this information. However, you could call the notary division for your state, and maybe if you are lucky they can give you some type of an answer that makes sense!

You might also like:

What is a credible witness notary or notarization

Oath of two credible witnesses


April 20, 2012

California Credible Witness Requirements

California credible witness requirements 

If you are a California notary public, and you are at a signing where the signer doesn’t have a current government issued photo identification document, (or EXPIRED is okay if issued within the last five years) you will not be authorized to notarize the signature of that signer without the use of credible witness(es).
When can a California notary use credible witnesses?
If the signer has no identification, or if it is going to be very difficult to obtain (perhaps it got misplaced and is very far away), then you can use one or two credible witnesses depending on whether or not you know the witnesses.
When can I use only 1 Credible Witness?
If the Notary in California knows the credible witness relatively well, and the credible witness knows the signer’s full name (without you having to tell them the complete name), then you can use just 1 Credible Witness
When can I use 2 Credible Witnesses?
If the California Notary Public doesn’t know the Credible Witness, then you need to depend on the Oath of 2 Credible Witnesses who know the signer’s full name.
Identifying the Credible Witness
You need to check the identification cards or documents of the Credible Witnesses. If they don’t have any, then you can not use them.  They need to have current, (or EXPIRED if issued within the last five years) government issued photo identification with a physical description, signature, serial number, and expiration date.
Oath of Credible Witnesses in California
The California notary needs to have the Credible Witnesses (one by one) swear under oath that they will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Then, ask them what the name of the signer is who you are pointing to.  If the answer is, “Joe”, then make sure to ask if “Joe” has a middle or last name that they are aware of. If they can’t answer this question, then perhaps they are not the ideal witness for you!
Documenting the Signature of the Credible Witness in your journal.
It is required by law to document the signature of the Credible Witness or Witnesses in your journal.  Have them sign in the notes section, NOT the signature section.  Have the document signer sign in the signature section.  It is optional but recommended that you also document the printed name, address, phone number, and identification information about the Credible Witnesses in your journal.
If the idenfication is expired – what is the issue date?
On California drivers licenses, there is an issue date documented at the BOTTOM of the card.  This date is not labeled as an issue date, but it is clearly several years before the expiration date, and you can logically deduce that that was the issue date.
Get a thumbprint? It is a stronger proof of identity than anything else!
If you are identifying a signer in California based on the oaths of credible witnesses, I would strongly recommend getting a thumbprint of the signer in your journal.  Although only required by law for Deeds and Powers of Attorney notarizations, the thumbprint is a much stronger proof of the identity of the signer than the Oaths of a few people who hardly know the signer.  Please keep in mind that in rural Tennessee, you probably know your neighbors well, and your family’s have probably known each other since not far after the Mayflower landed.  But, in urban or suburban-sprawl California, you probably don’t know anyone well because people tend to not know each other in California.  Credible Witness rules were created a long time ago when people used to know each other a lot better.

You might also like:

California notary issues

A new California notary law

California e-notary rules


December 19, 2011

When can I use 1 Credible Witness

When can I use 1 Credible Witness? 

Not all states allow the use of Credible Witnesses, and the states that allow it have different rules for how they can be used, and different rules for when they can be used, and what the documentation process should be.  Please become an expert at your state’s rules for using credible witnesses, since roughly 5% of signings require the use of credible witnesses based on my eight years of experience as a California notary public.
Some states allow the use of 2 Credible Witnesses, a few states only allow the use of 1 Credible Witness, and a handful of states allow the use of either 1 Credible Witness or 2 Credible Witnesses depending on whether or not the notary knows the Credible Witnesses.
You can use 1 Credible Witness if…
First of all, in all states that I researched, if you are using one credible witness, the witness must know the signer, AS WELL as the notary public. States that allow the use of 1 Credible Witness include: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (there might be more states that allow this as well that we don’t have research materials for as of yet).
The notary must know the 1 Credible Witness
I will state this one more time.  If you use 1 Credible Witness, the notary must know the Credible Witness.  A general explanation of personal knowledge of a person means that you have known them over an extended period of time and know them through other people.  If you met a person once or twice before, you should not claim to “know” them for notary purposes.
General Recommended Procedures
Rules vary from state to state, but as a minimum, the Credible Witness should be identified with a passport, state ID, drivers license, etc.  The Credible Witness should sign the notary journal, document their printed name, address, and phone number as well. Additionally, the notary needs to document their ID’s information. This information goes in the additional notes section of the journal and NOT the signature area which is exclusively for the document signer’s signature ONLY.
You might also like:
Credible Witnesses from A to Z
Can a notary act as a witness?

Identification requirements for being notarized

Signature Name Affidavit: Not a substitute for an ID


October 25, 2011

Problems with credible witnesses

There are many problems associated with using credible witnesses.

In earlier years, notaries could claim that a signer was personally known to them, as a substitute for using identification documents. The California Notary Division’s definition of personally known went on and on in very confusing language. The basic meaning was that you have to know the person through a chain of events and know them through other people. I rarely meet clients through others. They found me in the yellow pages or online, called me and used me. If they used me regularly, I would say that I KNEW them if they didn’t have their identification.

How well do you think that credible witnesses know the signer when you are doing a loan signing or power of attorney signing? These are extremely critical documents. The credible identifying witness might have “seen the person around”, but might not really know the person’s full name. The witness might know the signer as Joe, but not know that his real name is Joseph Barbione. I personally do not like or approve of using credible identifying witnesses, simply because they never seem to be able to introduce the person who is the signer in a way that is consistant to what their name is on the document in question. I live in California where people don’t typically know each other well. We are a state of transients, and community bonds are much more evident in the Eastern half of the United States!

In California, you need to have the credible witness produce their own identification and sign the notary journal. It is possible, that if you are in a low income neighborhood, where the signer doesn’t have ID, that the credible witness also is likely to not have identification. This has happened many times to me in South Central. It seems that half of South Los Angeles doesn’t have an identification card, and doesn’t seem to think they need one!

The credible witness could be lying. The credible witness might have no idea who the signer is, and just shrug their shoulders and swear under oath that the signer is Joseph Barbione. There is no way to prove that they don’t know the signer.

In short, identifying people based on some neighbors, hallmates, or other nearby humans who you drag into the room because you can’t locate the signer’s identification — are not a reliable source of identification. A thumbprint is worth a lot more than some nitwit who will swear to anything just to do his buddy (who he hardly knows) a favor.

Most states that allow credible witnesses only allow one, but the notary has to know the witness and the witness has to know the signer. This creates a chain of personal knowledge. But, how well does the notary have to know this witness? When you are being offered $40 for a traveling notary job, you will be tempted to grab anyone as a witness. “Gee, I met you once last week and the week before… I know you right? Can you be a credible witness?”. There is no documentation to prove how well you know the credible witness, nor is there documentation to prove how well the witness knows the signer.

In short, I think that allowing credible witnesses might have made sense in the 1800’s when Americans actually knew each other. Please keep in mind that much of notary law originates in the 1700’s and 1800’s when society was in a very different state… Yes, that was before the Jerry Springer show! The social customs and community structure is simply not the same in 2011, and the laws need to reflect that. State notary laws do change, and have changed. 9-11 was an event that made the identifying laws much more strict since a terrorist had gotten a fake ID. But, we should not wait until there is a traumatic event to change our notary laws. The laws should be reviewed as a matter of schedule every ten years or so by a committee. It is also difficult with 50 states, plus Washington DC, and other territories. Notary laws differ from state to state and that makes life difficult for many. It might be easier in many ways to make the office of notary public a nationwide commission.

You might also like:

Can a notary be a witness?

Credible Witnesses from A to Z

Using credible witnesses at Twin Towers Jail

My first loan signing


October 22, 2011

Can a notary be a witness?

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Q&A for notary witness questions

Many people come to our blog to learn more about witness rules and credible witness requirements in various states.   We can not speak for all 50 states, but we will try to provide some good leads that can help you get your questions answered.
This blog entry will serve as a quick Q&A for some of the more common nationwide and state-specific notary witness questions.

How many credible witnesses are necessary?
Roughly 90% of states allow credible witnesses.  Please read:  This forum post to learn the credible witness requirements for your state.  In California and Florida, if the notary knows the witness, then only one is necessary.  However if the notary does not know the credible identifying witness, then two would be necessary. In either case, the credible witness must provide identification, and swear under oath to the identify of the signer. In many cases, the credible identifying witness only knows the signer by some informal name and knows them as a neighbor or co-worker on a very informal basis.

Can a notary act as a witness?  Can a notary be a witness?
Unless your state law indicates otherwise, then yes, a notary can act as a witness. Please keep in mind that certain notary acts require the notary to witness the signature of the signer (jurats), while other notary acts do not (such as acknowledgements).  A notary can act as a witness for a signature that they notarized, or for a signature that they did not notarize. It is an official notary act to be a witness in Delaware and Washington State as well.  It is common for people to ask a notary to witness signatures, since notaries are trusted state officials who would be a good impartial and responsible witness.
How to notarize a document when you have credible witnesses?
The credible witness(es) must sign the notary journal (rules vary state by state), and must produce identification as well.  The credible identifying witnesses must swear under oath as to the identity of the document signer.The credible witnesses do not actually sign any documents, they just sign the journal and help to identify the signers.

 Can a notary notarize with no ID and 2 credible witnesses?
Yes, if the notarization takes place in California, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, or Tennessee.
Nevada credible witnesses – is there a special form?
Nevada requires a special acknowledgment form for credible witnesses.
Can a notary be a witness to a Will?  Can a notary witness a Will?
Yes, a notary can be a witness to a will.  Some states allow witnessing as an official notary act as well. If it is not an official act, then the notary can charge any fee they like to serve as a witness.  Please keep in mind that notaries are discouraged from notarizing signatures on Wills without written instructions from an attorney.
Can a notary sign as a witness in Maryland? Can a notary be a witness in Maryland?
A notary can sign as a witness in Maryland, but it is not an official notary act in that state. 
Can a notary sign as a witness in Utah? Can a notary be a witness in Utah?
Yes, a notary can be a witness in Utah.
Can a notary be a witness in Texas?
Yes, a notary can be a witness in Texas.
Can a notary be a witness in New Jersey?
Yes, a notary can be a witness in New Jersey.
Can a notary be a witness in Pennsylvania?
Yes, a notary can be a witness in Pennsylvania, although it is not an official notary act.
What are credible witness statutes?
Credible witness statutes and rules vary from state to state. We have a forum post that covers many states rules about how many credible witnesses you need.
Doesn’t a notary have to witness you signing in person?
This depends on the type of notary act.  For Jurats — yes… for Acknowledgments — no.  In either case, the signer must sign the notary journal or notary record book if that is required in your state.
If you live on the border of 2 states, are you permitted to witness signings in both states?
Since witnessing is not an official notary act except in Delaware and in New Hampshire (as far as we know), a notary can be a witness anywhere, in any state or country.
Can a notary charge for a witness signature?  Can a notary charge to be a witness?
Since this activity is not an official notary act except in Delaware, the notary can charge whatever the client will agree to pay.  No state government regulates how much a witness can charge.

Can I be a notary and a witness?
What is a notary credible witness acknowledgment?
To the best of our knowledge, only Nevada requires a special acknolwedgment for credible witnesses.  However, credible witnesses may be used in most states to identify a signer for an acknolwedged signature.
What is a subscribing witness?
A subscribing witness could be someone who witnesses a principal sign in a proof of execution — OR, it could be a person who witnesses an elderly person do a signature by X signing.

You might also like:

Power of Attorney information

Can a notary witness a will or notarize one?

California Credible Witness Requirements

Oath of two credible witnesses


January 8, 2011

Credible Witnesses from A to Z

Credible Witnesses from A to Z
What is a credible witness?
A credible witness, “CW”, or credible identifying witness is someone who can identify a signer at a notary signing.  The credible witness must know the signer and must know the signer’s name.  The witness should know the signer by having met many times in the past through different individuals.  Some states require that the credible witness always knows the notary as well, to create a chain of relationships, while others only require that the credible witness knows the notary if only one credible witness is used.  The credible witness should be an impartial party who does not have beneficial interest in the document
Which states allow the use of credible witnesses?
Many states allow credible witnesses, and we documented these states on a forum post  To summarize: Virginia is a state that does not allow credible witnesses.  Most other states that we have information about do allow credible witnesses.
States that allow 1 Credible Witness
How many credible witnesses do you need to use in various states? What are the credible witness rules?
Arizona, Ohio, Pennsylvania and several other states allow the use of one CW that must be known to the notary, and must know the signer. 
States that allow 1 or 2 Credible Witnesses
California, Florida, and Georgia, among other states, allow the use of one CW if the witness is known to the notary and knows the signer; or two CW’s if the notary doesn’t know either of the witnesses.  These states are unique in that they offer a choice of using one or two credible witnesses.
States that allow 2 Credible Witnesses
Tennessee and Missouri allow the use of two credible witnesses to identify a signer.
Credible Witness Rules can vary from state to state, but as a general rule, you should not use a credible witness unless there is no identification available.  In many cases, the identification available will have a different name variation on it, making it unacceptable to be used when signing documents that have a longer, or different name variation. Whether or not its legal to use credible witnesses in this type of situation is something to look up in your state’s notary manual.
The credible witness must SIGN the notary’s journal in California. Rules vary from state to state, so be knowledgeable about your particular state’s rules. The CW must raise their right hand and swear to the identity of the signer.  The CW must also have acceptable identification.  It is wise for the notary to record the CW’s address, ID#, and phone number in their journal. 
Common Uses
If a notary is doing a jail signing, inmates never have acceptable ID on them unless a visitor brings it.  When doing a jail signing, an attorney, relative, or friend of the inmate will normally meet you. Make sure they are going to bring the inmate’s ID and that the ID is current and state issued.
Hospital signings involve signers who are too elderly to drive in many instances.  These folks often don’t have current identification making the use of CW’s necessary.
If you notarize someone who lost their ID, or doesn’t have one becase they don’t drive, you might need credible witnesses. 
If the name variation on the document is slightly different from the name on the ID, you might check your state notary manual to see if using a credible witness in this situation is allowed.
A few notaries on our Facebook network have pointed out that many loan signings should not be done using credible witnesses.  One notary in Pennsylvania stated that for loans that require USA Patriot Act ID verification, credible witnesses should not be used.  Another notary in Florida points out that the CW is swearing to the fact that the signer does not have the acceptable identification documents and that it is difficult or impossible to find such documents.

Credible Witness Notary
There is no such thing as a credible witness notary, however you can be a notary that uses credible witnesses.  Just make sure you know how many credible witnesses to use.
After being a notary public in California for eight years, I found that 15% of my signings would not have been possible without the use of credible witnesses, among other “Plan B” type procedures.  Many notaries try to get through their career learning as little as possible about what they need to know to get the job done.  You will be letting future clients down if you are not an expert at credible witness procedures for your particular state.  You could be letting countless clients go high and dry if you don’t know this procedure. Please consult your state’s notary manual to learn exactly what all of the CW requirements (credible witness notary rules) are for your state.

You might also like:

Glossary entry: Credible Witness

Forum string: Credible Witnesses – the basics

Can a notary be a witness?

His/her name was Chris

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