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Credible Witness or Witnesses

Identification by Credible Witness
ASN Hot Tip, March 2008-#1

Credible Witness Affidavit
The credible witness affidavit as a means of identification is for the client who is not personally known to the notary, has no form of identification and cannot be reasonably expected to obtain an acceptable ID card. These clients are frequently elderly people who live in a nursing home environment and have mobility issues. They haven’t driven a car in years, and it would be unreasonable to expect the person to be taken to the Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain a non-driver’s identity card. Certain handicapped people may also fall into this category. Use your judgment when deciding if your client is eligible for identification by credible witness.

A credible witness or witnesses may NOT be used to identify a client for the sake of convenience. If the able-bodied client has let his driver’s license expire, he must obtain a current license. If someone has left his ID card at home, he must return home and get the existing ID card. In addition, keep in mind that since the credible witness(es) will serve as positive identification for the document signer, the credible witness(es) sworn affidavit must be obtained before performance of the notarial act for the document signer.

Our discussion of the process for using a credible witness(es) will be general in nature. Read your state’s statutes regarding the use of credible witness(es) before attempting to use this method of identifying a client.

One Credible Witness
All states that allow the notary to use one credible witness have the requirement that the credible witness must personally know the signer of the document, and the notary must personally know the credible witness. The purpose of this requirement is to maintain a chain of personal knowledge from the signer through the credible witness to the notary.

The credible witness will sign an affidavit stating that:

  1. The person appearing before the notary is personally known to the credible witness and is the person whose name appears on the document in question.
  2. The credible witness reasonably believes that the document signer does not possess an acceptable form of identification.
  3. The credible witness reasonably believes that the circumstances of the document signer are such that obtaining an acceptable form of identification would be very difficult or impossible.
  4. The credible witness does not have a financial interest in nor is a party to the transaction.

Upon signing the affidavit, the signer will swear an oath or affirmation to the notary that the contents of the affidavit are true. The notary may verbalize the short form of oath/affirmation (“Do you swear/affirm the contents of this document are true [so help you God]?”). Or, the notary may verbalize this more specific oath/affirmation:

“Do you solemnly (swear) (affirm) under penalties of perjury that you personally know this person as (name of person whose signature is to be notarized), that he/she is the person named in the document, that you believe that the person has no acceptable form of identification, that it would be very difficult or impossible for him/her to obtain acceptable identification, and that you have no financial interest in and are not a party to this transaction (so help you God)?”

If you receive an affirmative verbal reply to the oath or affirmation shown above, complete the Credible Witness Affidavit form by filling in the jurat section. Attach the Credible Witness Affidavit to the document and indicate on the notarial certificate on the document that identification was made through a Credible Witness Affidavit. Have the credible witness sign and print his name, address and phone number in a separate recordbook entry  for the notarial act of completing the Credible Witness Affidavit. In the space for additional information or comments write:

This entry is related to entry #XXX…,”

the recordbook entry for the notarial act performed over the original document. In the space reserved for additional information or comments in the recordbook entry for the notarial act performed over the original document write:

“Signer positively identified through credible witness affidavit; please see entry #XXX.”

Two Credible Witnesses
Both credible witnesses must personally know the document signer and possess an acceptable identification document to present to the notary for positive identification. When two credible witnesses are used, they both complete the credible witness affidavit, sign it and print their names under their signatures. The notary administers a verbal oath/affirmation to both witnesses, then completes the jurat section of the affidavit. The notary enters the type of identification document each credible witness presented on the Credible Witness Affidavit. Because of an increasing number of incidents of identity theft, notaries are advised not to write the serial number of the ID card on the notarial certificate. Notaries in a few states are prohibited from recording ID serial numbers.

Have the two witnesses sign and print their names, addresses and phone numbers in a separate recordbook entry for the notarial act of completing the Credible Witness Affidavit. Write into that recordbook entry the type of identification document that was produced by each credible witness (Remember NOT to record serial numbers). In the space for additional information or comments write:

“This entry is related to entry #XXX…,”

the recordbook entry for the notarial act performed over the original document. In the space reserved for additional information or comments in the recordbook entry for the notarial act performed over the original document write:

“Signer positively identified through credible witness affidavit; please see entry #XXX.”

Questions, comments on this Hot Tip?  Email Kathleen@asnnotary.org

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