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Notary, Witness or Both?

September 12, 2008 by Know-How No Comments
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“Can I act as both the notary and the witness?” is a question that many notaries ask PAN’s Customer Service Representatives.

Notarizing one’s own signature is prohibited, yet on some forms you can act as both the notary and the witness. How so?

In signing as a witness, you must not notarize your own signature. You must act as two separate individuals-a notary and a witness, with no connection between them.

For example, on an affidavit, the signature of the affiant (the person swearing to the contents of the affidavit) is the signature you are notarizing. You may sign as a witness but that is not part of the affidavit itself. You are not required to identify any witness, nor do you make any witness swear to the truth of the contents of the affidavit.

Of course, situations exist where you should not and must not act as both the notary and witness. The most common situation is when someone makes what is called a “self-proved” will. This document requires an acknowledgment by the maker of the will and affidavits by two witnesses.

The maker of the will and two witnesses all sign the will in each other’s presence. The maker then acknowledges his or her signature on the will and the witnesses sign affidavits stating they witnessed the maker sign freely and with a sound mind.

Because the statements of the witnesses are affidavits, you cannot act as one of the witnesses and execute the affidavit yourself. As one of the individuals making the affidavit, you cannot notarize it without notarizing your own signature.

Avoid the Unauthorized Practice of Law

Remember, as a notary, you cannot compose a will for another person or advise anyone on making a will unless you are also an attorney. Additionally, when a customer presents you with a home-made, hand-written or a fill-in-the blanks type of will, you should advise the customer to consult an attorney to ensure compliance with applicable state laws.

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