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July 12, 2016

Subscribing Witnesses Explained

There are TWO types of subscribing witnesses.

1. The person who appears before a Notary on behalf of someone being notarized with a Proof of Execution is called a subscribing witness or executing witness. The actual signer cannot appear before a Notary Public, so a witness is used to sign on the principal’s behalf and swear. The basic idea is that the subscribing witness witnessed the principal sign the document.

2. A person who witnesses a disabled person who is signing by X in a document is also called a subscribing witness.


As a Notary Public, you may come into a situation where the signer is not able to sign. Most Notaries are not trained in how to handle such situations. If you do hospital notarizations you will deal with this situation a lot. Some signers cannot move their arms properly. Others cannot sign their name. If you can get them to sign an X in your journal and an X in the signature section of the document with two subscribing witnesses watching. You are in luck.

You need to have the subscribing witnesses sign your journal and input their drivers license info as well. Additionally, the subscribing witnesses sign the first and last name of the signer on the document which sounds like forgery, but many states allow this. Check your state notary handbook to see if this procedure is legal in your state.

Signature by X from A to Z

Subscribing Witness Glossary Definition

What is Signature by X or Signature by Mark

Types of witnesses in the notary profession




  1. It’s worth mentioning that, while the above procedures (when in compliance with local law) are perfectly proper – they may not be “useful”. I have done “non routine” procedures (totally legal) and have the notarized document not accepted for its intended purpose. Thus, when performing similar actions, I advise my client that the document might not be accepted where it is to be used. And, there will be no guarantee from me for suitability for purpose (eg: no refund if it’s not accepted). There is no way for me to determine what the acceptance policy is at the document destination. Warning your client about “non routine” procedures and the possibility of document rejection lets them make an informed decision as to how to proceed, and takes the notary off the hook if it is rejected.

    Comment by Kenneth A Edelstein — July 12, 2016 @ 10:05 pm

  2. This is a State specific issue. In Florida, Credible Witnesses can only be used as a last resort. FL 117.05(b)(1) (c and d) read:

    c. That it is the reasonable belief of the witnesses that the circumstances of the person whose signature is to be notarized are such that it would be very difficult or impossible for that person to obtain another acceptable form of identification;
    d. That it is the reasonable belief of the witnesses that the person whose signature is to be notarized does not possess any of the identification documents specified in subparagraph 2.; and…”

    If they have lost their license, they should go get it replaced as it is not “very difficult nor impossible” to do so.

    Comment by John Axt — July 20, 2016 @ 7:15 pm

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