HELP…My Signer Doesn’t Have Identification

What forms of ID can a Notary Accept

At times, you may ask yourself, “what forms of id can a notary accept?”

In some instances, you may find yourself working with a signer that simply does not have identification.  I have seen this quite often when working with elderly clients or those with disabilities.  They’ve stopped or can’t drive anymore and no longer have a driver license.  They no longer travel and likely have an expired passport.  Some never thought to get a State Identification Card for whatever reason. 

Possible Scenarios and Solutions

In almost all states, a Notary is required to have the signer provide at least one form of identification that contains the signer’s signature and has a photograph or physical description of the signer.  So that means a social security card and/or birth certificate are NOT acceptable.  A few states have a list of acceptable IDs.  Some states allow you to accept expired identification if it was issued in the last 5 years and others will require only current identification to be accepted.  Make sure you reference your own state’s requirements for guidance.  You will find yourself explaining the requirements of acceptable identification to your clients and why it is needed in order for you to perform a notarial act so be prepared. 

If your client is unable to meet your state’s requirements of acceptable identification, you may be able to establish identity by an oath or affirmation of a credible witness.  A credible witness is a person who is personally known to the Notary AND the signer.  This could be a mutual co-worker, friend or neighbor.  The credible witness has to personally be known by both of you.  This person should also be a neutral party in the transaction. The notary will administer the oath or affirmation and complete an acknowledgement certificate. 

 What forms of ID can a Notary Accept

How to Handle Minors

If your client happens to be a minor, they typically don’t have adequate forms of identification to meet your state’s requirements.  In these cases, it is advised to use a notary who personally knows the minor.  Another option if available in your state is obtaining the identification through an oath or affirmation of a credible witness. Remember, a credible witness needs to be a neutral party and parents should not be used as a credible witness.  Keep in mind, your client is a minor and you as a Notary must determine competency and are confident the minor understands the nature of the document they are signing.  You must also ensure they are signing of their own free will.  You need to use your own judgement here so be cautious.  Make sure to follow the guidelines of the state you are commissioned in when performing notarial acts for minors.

Client is Unable to Physically Sign

In some cases, I have had clients who were unable to physically sign their name on a document.  In most cases they had a power of attorney signing on their behalf.  Be sure to review that document before moving forward with the signing.  You would be performing a notarial act based on the signature of the agent on the power of attorney.  However, if a power of attorney is not in place, you as a Notary are unable to notarize a document signed on behalf of the client. 

You may ask your client to sign by mark, which is usually an X.  In addition, two witnesses should be present and the name of the person signing should be written next to the X by one of the witnesses.  You want to also have the witnesses sign the document and record their information and details of the transaction in your notary journal. If the client is completely unable to write or make a mark of any kind some states allow what is called: signature by proxy.  If you are not certain on how to proceed, contact your state for guidance.

In summary, know your state’s requirements regarding acceptable IDs.  I have printed a copy of these requirement right out of state issues Notary Public handbook and keep it in my notary journal.  This allows me to always be prepared to explain what is required to a client and can save me time going to a signing where the client doesn’t have what is required.  You always want to understand what your state allows if your client doesn’t have the required ID or is a minor.  It is important to ask the questions of your signer in advance so you are both prepared to complete the notarization when you arrive.  As always consult your state issued handbook or contact your Secretary of State’s office for guidance if you are not certain on how to proceed.

For more tips on notary signing scenarios, check out our article on Useful Tips for Tricky Notary Signing Situations, and for some insights on verifying the identity of a signer, check out this great article from Notary Jane.


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