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December 28, 2016

Credible Witnesses

Credible Witness requirements vary from state to state. However, a vast majority of states allow the use of credible witnesses to identify a signer when the signer has no ID. Some states allow the use of one credible witness if the witness knows both the signer and the Notary. Other states allow the use of two credible witnesses if the credible identifying witnesses know the signer (but, not the Notary.) You can find out your state’s rules on credible identifying witnesses on the internet in your state notary handbook. The NNA often has technical information on state-specific Notary issues as well.

There are many situations where signers do not have identification on them. Here are a few.

1. The signer is in Jail. Laws for identifying jail inmates have changed recently in California. But, before, we needed to have the Attorney, girlfriend or mom bring two credible witnesses to the jail. Don’t depend on the wardens for this as they aren’t always nice. If they were nice, they’d probably be a bar tender or work at Starbucks and not be stuck in a jail — think about it!

2. The signer is in a hospital. Elderly people don’t always have drivers licenses. They often have expired licenses as well which cannot usually be used for notarizations. It is common to use a credible witness or two at a hospital or nursing home for an Acknowledgment or Jurat.

3. The signer lives in a bad neighborhood and got mugged. I notarized a young lady who didn’t look behind her enough. She got jumped in her driveway and lost her ID. When I notarized her, I needed the Oaths of two credible witnesses to identify her. I also thumbprinted her in my journal just to be on the safe side.

4. The signer doesn’t drive. Normally people have a state issued ID if they don’t drive, but a few elderly people just don’t have anything current.

5. The signer forgot their ID at home and you are meeting them somewhere else.

6. The signer’s name is Susie Johnson, but wants to be notarized as Angel Johnson. It might not be legal to use a credible witness in this circumstance unless she can’t find her ID. Hmmm.

Note: A subscribing witness is one that watches a signer sign or in the case of a proof of execution signs for them. A credible witness identifies the signer, and signs the journal as well. The credible witness must swear under Oath to the identity of the signer — which is something they don’t always know. “I just know him as Joe — I don’t know his full name.” — how “useful” from a legal point of view — but, most states allow this!

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Types of witnesses in the notary profession

Credible witnesses from A to Z

When can I use 1 credible witness?

Glossary Entry — Credible Witness

The sexist Notary dentist



November 25, 2016

Credible Witness Protection Plan

Filed under: Credible Witnesses,Uncategorized — Tags: , — admin @ 10:58 pm

A Notary from 123notary was doing a highly sensitive Notarization regarding a mafia deal for gun sales. Unfortunately, the signer didn’t have identification. And if he did, it would probably be a fake ID from China. So, the Notary required them to use credible witnesses. The problem was that nobody would agree to be a credible witness unless they were offered a credible witness protection plan with a safe house.

So, the witness identified the signer, swore under Oath to the signer’s identity, signed the journal and then was rushed to the safe house in Chula Vista, CA. Meanwhile in Chula Vista, there was another Notary signing going on and the witness being protected was asked to be a credible witness again. It was kind of a “while you are here” type of a thing. So, the credible identifying witness happened to know the signer in Chula Vista and identified him. Next thing you know, the signer was also a criminal from a rival mafia and once again the credible witness needed a protection plan.

So, the local police got him a nice room with a comfy bed in the back of the police station. It was kind of a make-shift type of arrangement. Twenty years later the witness is still there and has to be escorted to work. So, if you ever ask anyone to be a credible witness for future signings — just know what might be involved in the worst case scenario!

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See our string of credible witness posts

The mafia guy who could make witnesses disappear


July 5, 2016

Credible Witnesses — The Process Explained

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.


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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!

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Can a notary witness a Will or notarize one?

Credible Witnesses from A to Z

Identification requirements for being notarized


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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Glossary entry: Credible Witness

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December 5, 2010

Arizona Notary Laws vs. Other States

Arizona notary law and laws that vary from state to state. 
It’s difficult to post about notary procedure on Twitter and Facebook.  No matter how universal a notary law seems, it can differ across state boundaries and the interpretation can differ among individuals too.
Credible witnesses
Arizona notary law specifies the term, “Credible person” , which is a way of saying credible identifying witness.  In Arizona, one credible witness who knows the notary as well as knowing the signer may be used to identify the signer.  Different states have different rules for credible witnesses. 90% of states allow them, but some states allow two witnesses who the notary doesn’t know, while others allow only one. California allows one CW if the notary knows them OR two if the notary doesn’t know them.
Foreign language signers
An Arizona notary must be able to communicate directly with the signer. Many other states have this same rule.  But, there are a few states where an interpreter may be used between the notary and the signer. 
There are a few states where notaries can get a special credential such as Justice of the Peace and perform marriages.  An Arizona notary public unfortunately can not perform a marriage — at least not one that would be legally binding. So, forever hold your peace!
Appear before?
In Arizona’s electronic notary rules for electric notaries (which is a separate office from a regular Arizona notary), there USED TO BE conditions where the  signer can be notarized without appearing before the notary for that particular signature.  Read our blog about Arizona electronic signatures for details.  This rule has been changed and signers must appear before the notary according to

Click here
Arizona Notary Bond?
Arizona notary bonds must only be for $5000.  Most other states require a larger bond than that.  In California, the bond must be $15,000 for example.
Seals and journals
An Arizona notary must use a seal and journal.  This seems fairly elementary, but many states do not require the use of both a seal and a journal. 
Marriage or adoption?
Arizona notary law prohibits notarizing for anyone who you are married to or related to by adoption.
Legal advice?
An Arizona notary public should not give legal advice and not prepare documents for clients.  Some states prohibit the preparation of legal documents only, while AZ prohibits the preparation of any document. The prohibition of notaries from giving legal advice is standard across the board though.
An Arizona notary commission’s term is four years.   A four year term is very common, although the number of years can really vary from state to state.

Please visit our Arizona Notary page!


November 30, 2010

CW’s When ID and Docs Have Different Names

Credible Witness Discussions on the Forum

Here are some excerpts for discussions about credible witnesses on our forum. Please remember that many states require the signature of a credible witness in your journal and that roughly 90% of states allow credible witnesses to identify a signer. Its a great idea to also record the identification information on credible witnesses as well as getting a phone number recorded just in case. Don’t forget to administer your oath to the credible witnesses asking them to swear that the person in front of them is Jimmy Doe! These commentaries are taken from a forum post. Please feel free to scroll to the bottom and click on the link to see the original post.

Use of CW’s when ID and Document have different names

Larry Said:
It has been suggested that credible witnesses would be an appropriate method to establish the idenity of a signer when the docs had the name printed as James Doe, and they had to be signed that way, and the drivers license the borrower presented had the name Jimmy Doe. My take on this is that credible witnesses could NOT be used but that reasonable reliance on the drivers license photo, description and signature match would allow me to notarize the signature as James Doe. Am I wrong here? I’m in California.

Deborah Bond Said:
 I have had this exact situation previously. I was lucky. Docs as James, ID as JIMMY. I asked for additional id and was handed Passport, Social and birth certificate and was shocked to find Passport said Jimmy, Social James and Birth James…Hence I had plenty of info stating Jimmy was James.

I did not get copies of all this but called my contact LO and advised of name issue and that LEGALLY his name was JAMES but 1/2 ID said Jimmy and they wanted copy of the DL…which had the wrong name. Per the LO his ID Affidavit showed both names when we were done and on the copy of the drivers lic we had him state that is is known as Jimmy and had him sign as James…

Now if he had not the additional id’s I would have had to adjourn because in Massachusetts CW are not a viable option. CW needs to be known to both the NOTARY (highly unlikely) and the person being id’d. The chance of that is slim. I liken it to asking my neighbor Bob (who I know) to ID another neighbor Chris who I know but has no ID. Chance is unlikely that would EVER happen.

Joe Ewing Said:
You are correct Larry but Jimmy goes on the Acknowledgment. The AKA statement that the signer signs under oath would have him signing as Jimmy and James. Credible witnesses when told that they must swear under penalty of purgery (a felony) punishable by 2-4 years in prison that their neighbor goes by a nickname will generally refuse to cooperate and rightly so.

I have used credible identifying witnesses on many occasions. When the signer has an expired ID or no ID at all a credible witness is necessary to establish the current identity of the signer without satisfactory ID.

* Missuse of credible witnesses by Notary Signing Agents

The credible witness codes were NOT created to determine the correct spelling, the presence of a middle name, whether the signer is a junior or a nick name is the real name. When a signer has a current acceptable ID that shows a slightly different spelling of the signers name that is printed on a set of loan docs, it is not appropriate to call two neighbors into a notarization to swear (a felony) not to someones identity but that the signer is actually a junior or that Joe is actually Joseph. That act by the notary in itself is inapproriate.

You (NOTARY) are looking at a picture, a description and a signature. It is the Notarys duty to make a resonable determination as to the identity of the signer based on that current satisfactory ID presented to him. If the notary is unable to do that then the notary should resign his commission. 

Shannon Said:
Joe, I’m concerned that you seem to be indicating that there is somehow some discretion by the notary on whether to notarize. I prefer to rely on what is more black or white. The ID is going to be what the ID is….I would never feel comfortable with a name that is even partially different. Although I can’t quote exact statute, I seem to recall that credible witnesses are not to be used for “convenience of the signer” for example: If the signer left his ID across town…..       Any thoughts on this?