What to do with witness lines when not needed

So, here in Florida, it’s my understanding that my local county doesn’t require witnesses to record a mortgage. However, most generic mortgage docs do have the spots for two witnesses to sign. I typically confirm with title companies that I haven’t worked with before as to their preference and usually am just told something along the lines of “no witnesses needed, thanks for asking”.

OK… so, what is the best practice to do with those lines? Have the signer write N/A on them? Or simply leave them blank knowing they are not needed?

To avoid potential UPL, I had typically left them blank, and have not had it be an issue so far.

I’m questioning myself because on a recent signing for a new title company I informed them that the signer did not have access to a disinterested adult witness (a generic question I ask on first contact when I haven’t received docs yet) and asked if the lender needed witnesses at all or would we need to get one (notary can be one of the two, so only need one more). And they answered… “yes, the lender would like the witness lines signed, so just sign yourself as one of the witnesses and leave the other blank and I will sign it over here” [This was in writing too!!!]

Grrrr!

Time was at a critical point so I wound up bringing a family member as a witness (confirmed with signer that they were ok with this) and avoided the whole dilemma. But I am still left wondering how to best handle this in the future.

I had never considered that leaving the witness lines blank could be misused this way by title being that I thought they were just aware that witnesses are not required to record the mortgage and assumed they were leaving them blank, but now having been told the “system” this particular company uses (even if only to appease the lender) I wonder if I have been wrong in leaving them blank all this time.

Journals are not required here, but I do notate that no witnesses signed when the unused spaces are there. I know my journal will protect me, but can I do better? Should I add a note in my certificate stating something like “No additional witness was present nor signed.” ??

If this were not a notarized doc, I wouldn’t give it much thought, but being notarized… should I inform title that if witnesses are not required I will be instructing signers to fill blank lines with “N/A” so that if a witness is truly required by the lender that they need to ascertain that one will be available (and truly present!)?

The irony is, that I know personally the witness isn’t required to record, but by the lender insisting on one and me staying in my notary lane, I now have to become the defender of doing it correctly and potentially causing a snag despite it actually being unnecessary!

I know these folks are in a crunch with so much work, but this type of cutting of corners is never justified and will take years to blow up in their face if there’s ever an issue that comes to light.

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Leave them blank - don’t write anything in there.’

You did the right thing by bringing someone and not letting the rep you spoke with do that…

Technically, no changes to the docs are to be made after they’re notarized but once they’re out of your control there’s not a lot you can do. You’re also not allowed to alter the docs, which title or lender may consider the doc altered if you write “N/A” or draw a line through them.

I would not add anything in my cert about it - that’s not an element required in our normal certs - under certain circumstances yes but not in a standard mortgage cert. Your journal, yes…make notes there and on any files you keep about the signing (I always kept paper copies of confirmation, directions, and other info like additional notes).

One friendly point - avoid overthinking - notarize, don’t analyze.

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I did a signing here in Alabama it was a sale (Florida property) I texted the signing company or maybe The buyer. (they were called Tampa sellers) and I asked them if I needed witnesses and they said oh yes definitely. so we were signing in a restaurant so I asked the young man who wasvover the age of 18 if he would sign because there was only one witness on it. I read somewhere here that they don’t advise Notary’s to sign as witnesses because you really can’t notarize your own signature anyway

Florida requires two witnesses on any deed of conveyance, which is what you were getting signed by the Sellers… Your laws in Alabama may not allow you, the notary, to be a witness. In that case signers need to arrange for two witnesses - somehow … I’ve done as you did - signing at a small restaurant and pulled someone out of the pizza takeout line (with the permission of the signers) to please witness the people sign their documents…

Ha!Ha! I joke with the witness that they can hit the signers up for pizza for a compensation. They KNOW I’m joking.

Also I actually read it on here somewhere. it came through my email and it was somebody that made that comment that Notaries aren’t really supposed to be witnesses. i’ve done it with a lot of legal type documents like powers of attorney in hospitals I’m not doing it anymore. praying that no one comes after me with a lawsuit when I’m on my front porch with a rocking chair. ha ha

I never offer to be a witness on a POA because most times in Florida the witness signatures are notarized - I err on the side of caution and tell them they have to get their own witnesses…because half the time the people don’t know what form they got and what is required.

I recently had a FL property signing where I did not sign as a witness being the Notary. The title company sent back the buyer with instructions to have me sign as a witness.

Did they require two witnesses on their documents? Was this an oversight on your part? If so the correction would be on your dime…however, if it were me I would not just sign the docs and send back - I’d go revisit the people - last thing I need is somewhere down the road the signers say “there were no witnesses here, just the notary”

Not sure your exact circumstances or your location - does your state ALLOW you to sign documents as a witness AND a notary? Some states don’t

Hi Linda ~ correct Notary MAY NOT sign as a Witness in WA State and then notarize document regardless of what title, lenders, etc. requirements may be. Must adhere to state laws and each state is different. I was getting a lot of push back from southern states so took the next step and contacted WA State DOL ~ Notaries. Received documented response stating my interpretation of RCW for state was true. Now when I get push back regarding not signing as Witness on document, forward response from WA State and copy of section of RCW. Documentation is best and shortest route to conclusion.

I did a notarization in Washington of a purchase of a Florida property. I asked for 2 witnesses. This is not required in Washington. I was told to leave it blank. Another signing told me to put my name in. What is the covering state law for this, the signing state or the property state. However, I always ask and get the answer in writing to protect myself.

Well…the “signing state” would rule for recordable documents, I.e. deeds (and in so.e places, the mortgage/deed of trust)…notary’s state law rules whether notary can also be a witness or not.