Being a notary may seem like a fairly easy job. Still, it involves a lot of legal processes and other specific requirements that can result in disciplinary action if not followed exactly. One of these processes is getting a witness signature.
What is a witness signature? As the name implies, it refers to the signature of a witness—in this case, the notary. Signature witnessing is an important part of the notary process and is required for recorded documents in Florida. Louisiana, Georgia, Connecticut, and South Carolina are other states that require witness signatures.
Who Can Be a Witness?
A witness is someone who physically watches a person sign a legal document and then verifies its authenticity by signing their name. A notary can be a witness, but so can anyone else who meets the following requirements:
- A legal adult (over the age of 18)
- A neutral third party (someone who is not involved in the document/transaction)
- Can confirm the identity of the signer
- Has the mental capacity to make decisions without assistance
What is a Recorded Document?
In Florida, many types of documents need to be notarized. However, a witness signature is required for recorded documents, which deal with legal ownership of real estate. These documents include the following:
- Deed of Trust
- Grant Deed
- Warranty Deed
- Quit Claim Deed
Florida requires two witnesses for these documents. One can be the notary, while the other can be someone the signer knows well, such as a relative, friend, or neighbor, as long as they are not involved in the transaction.
Importance of a Witness Signature
What is a witness signature, and why is it so important? A witness signature is used as proof that a document was signed on an exact date. It shows that the document is valid and enforceable. The signature of a notary witness prevents fraud and misrepresentation, which is common with legal documents, especially when property or money is involved. It also reduces the risk of coercion or influence, as the notary can determine if the signer is mentally capable of understanding what the document entails.
Witness Signature Rules
A signature witnessing is an official notarial act. Whether you are a notary who performs in-person transactions only or a remote online notary (RON), you’ll need to know what a witness signature is and the rules to be followed.
Does a notary have to witness a signature? Yes, a witness signature in Florida requires the signer to appear before a notary and provide proper identification. This identification may include a state-issued driver’s license or identification card, U.S. military ID, government ID, passport, or permanent resident card (green card).
Once the signer’s identity has been verified, they must sign the document in the notary’s presence. The notary then completes the appropriate notarial wording.
The signer should use blue ink or black ink. The notary should check all document pages to ensure the person has signed in all required spaces. If the person makes any changes, the changes should be initialed on the document.
Each document has different witness signatures rules. So as the notary, you should check the document for any special details or instructions.
In January 2020, Florida enacted laws allowing for remote signature witnessing by RONs. They are required to confirm the signer’s identity via the remote presentation of identification, identity proofing, and credential analysis.
Online notaries must also:
- Record the audio-video communication performed during the notarization.
- Keep an electronic journal of the online notarization for 10 years after the act.
Witness Signature Example
Adding the witness signature is pretty straightforward. If the notary can act as one of the witnesses, they must sign in the witness signature block, which is typically located near the signature block for the signing party. The notary will then add their stamp and other requirements per usual.
Contact Us Today
Now that you know what a witness signature is, you have some of the important knowledge you need to become a notary. The Florida Notary Association can provide you with everything you need to become a successful notary. Explore our products to learn more about how you can become a notary public in Florida.