Credible Witness’s Role in Notarizations

Identifying signers is a crucial component of every notarization. The identification process ensures that signers are indeed who they claim to be. But what happens when the signer cannot provide an identification document such as a driver’s license or a passport? In such cases, a credible witness can step in to support the identification process. This alternative approach ensures that notarization remains accessible and secure for all individuals, even in unique circumstances.

The role of a credible witness in the notarization process

A credible witness is an impartial individual who personally knows the document signer and can vouch for his or her identity before the notary public. The use of a credible witness when the signer lacks suitable identification documents ensures that the notarization process maintains its integrity. Confirming the signer's identity through a trusted third party reduces the risk of fraud and identity theft. 

Situations warranting the use of a credible witness:

  1. Absence of an identification document: The most common scenario requiring the use of a credible witness arises when the signer does not have an acceptable identification document due to loss, theft, or expiration. In such cases, a notary can rely on a credible witness who personally knows the signer and can vouch for his or her identity.
  2. Questionable identification document: Even when identification documents are available, their validity might be questionable, or additional verification may be deemed necessary by the notary. A credible witness can provide that extra layer of assurance regarding the signer's identity.
  3. Special circumstances: Certain situations, such as notarizations involving elderly individuals or people with disabilities, may necessitate the use of a credible witness. These individuals might face difficulties in obtaining or maintaining standard IDs, thus making a credible witness invaluable for verifying their identities.

Qualifications to serve as a credible witness

The requirements for someone to serve as a credible witness in the notarization process can vary depending on jurisdictional laws and regulations. However, there are common criteria that typically need to be met for an individual to qualify as a credible witness. Understanding these requirements is crucial for notaries and parties involved in notarization to ensure the process is conducted legally and effectively. Here are the general requirements for credible witnesses:

  1. Personal knowledge of the signer: The credible witness must personally know the signer of the document. This means the credible witness must have a direct acquaintance with the signer to be able to confirm the signer’s identity without any doubt.
  2. Impartiality: The witness must be impartial, meaning he or she should not have a financial interest in or be a party to the document being notarized. The credible witness’s role is to verify the identity of the signer, not to benefit from the transaction.
  3. Ability to take an oath or affirmation: The credible witness must be competent and willing to take an oath or affirmation, in front of the notary public, affirming that the information he or she provided about the signer's identity is true. In Florida and a few other states, a credible witness is required to sign a written sworn statement that the person whose signature is to be notarized is the person named in the document and is personally known to the credible witness. This step adds an extra layer of assurance and integrity to the notarization process.
  4. Valid identification: A credible witness must be identifiable by the notary through a valid, government-issued identification. This ensures the notary can reliably document who served as the credible witness for future reference.
  5. Sufficiently known to the notary: In some jurisdictions, the credible witness must be personally known to the notary. This requirement is designed to add an extra layer of security to the process.
  6. Acknowledgment of legal responsibility: Credible witnesses should understand that they may be subject to legal penalties if they falsely identify a signer. This acknowledgment serves as a deterrent to fraud and ensures credible witnesses recognize the seriousness of their role.

Recording the credible witness’s information in the notary journal

Recording a credible witness’s information in the notary journal is a vital step in the notarization process. Maintaining a detailed record of the method used to identify the signer ensures the integrity and reliability of notarial acts and provides a secure audit trail for future reference and verification purposes. This practice reinforces the authenticity of the notarization process and safeguards the interests of all parties involved. Therefore, notaries must take this step seriously and ensure that all credible witness information is accurately recorded in the notary journal.

If you are considering using credible witnesses, be aware that the rules and requirements for such witnesses may vary from state to state. While not all states allow the use of credible witnesses, those that do have specific guidelines that must be followed. Be sure to consult your state’s notary laws and rules or commissioning authority for more information. 

Legal Disclaimer: The American Association of Notaries is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information. However, it is important to note that the information provided on this page is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. We do not claim to be attorneys and do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or reliability of the information provided. It is your responsibility to know the appropriate notary laws governing your state. You should always seek the advice of a licensed attorney for any legal matters. In no event shall the American Association of Notaries, its employees, or contractors be liable to you for any claims, penalties, losses, damages, or expenses, howsoever arising, including, and without limitation, direct or indirect loss, or consequential loss, out of or in connection with the use of the information contained on any of the American Association of Notaries website pages. Notaries are advised to seek the advice of their state’s notary authorities or attorneys if they have legal questions. 

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