Can a Notary Sign for a Disabled Person

I've had several appointments during which the signer was unable to physically sign his name to a document. I can see the family members are really worried about this when it happens. Many want to know if they can sign for the signer. I have to explain that unless they've been given a power of attorney by the signer, I am unable to notarize a document signed by them for the signer.

Recently, I had an appointment to notarize a power of attorney for a 92-year-old woman, Mrs. Smith (fictitious name). Mrs. Smith had cancer, but she was fully aware of what was going on and as alert as anyone else in the room, myself included. I was in the room along with Mrs. Smith, her son, Mrs. Smith's caregiver, and a social worker.

Upon arrival, I was told that Mrs. Smith was physically unable to sign the document or make a mark, so her son had decided that he was going to sign for her. I told the son that he could not sign for his mother without the power of attorney. Mrs. Smith asked me if her son could sign for her if she verbally gave him permission. I told Mrs. Smith I could not notarize a document for her signed by her son.

I explained to Mrs. Smith that she could give me permission to sign the document for her (Texas Government Code §406.0165, check your state's notary laws). Once the power of attorney was signed, witnessed, and notarized, her son would then be able to sign for her as attorney-in-fact. Mrs. Smith gave me permission to sign for her, and the social worker agreed to act as a witness.

I signed Mrs. Smith's name to the power of attorney. Under the signature, I wrote the following statement: "Signature affixed by notary in the presence of (name of social worker who was the witness), a disinterested witness, under Section 406.0165, Texas Government Code." I annotated details of this signing in my notary journal.

Each state handles this issue differently. In New Mexico, the notary public can sign for the signer; however, he or she has to do so in the presence of two credible witnesses, and the statement under the signature has to include the two credible witnesses' names and addresses (14-12A-7C NMSA 1978).

Make sure you check your state's notary laws so you'll know how to handle signers who are physically unable to sign or make a mark on a document that is to be notarized.

-- Phyllis Traylor, U.S. Army Retired is a Contributing Writer with the American Association of Notaries

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