Online Notary Course  for California

Part 4, Section 3
Subscribing Witnesses

A person who has signed a document that needs to be notarized need not personally appear before a notary public, but a representative may appear before the notary, take an oath that the signature of the principal signer is genuine, and sign as a witness. 

The person who originally signed the document is called a “principal signer”, and the representative that was sent to the notary is called a “subscribing witness”.  You as a notary can certify that the signature of a principal signer who does not appear before you is genuine, based upon the sworn testimony of a subscribing witness.  This is called a Proof of Execution.

Proofs of execution are not permitted with mortgages, deeds of trust, security agreements, quitclaim deeds, grant deeds, powers of attorney, or any documents in which the notary is required to obtain the thumbprint of a signer, but are allowed with trustee’s deeds resulting from foreclosure and deeds of reconveyance.  Civil Code § 1195(b)  and Government Code § 27287

Before taking a proof of execution for a subscribing witness, you must make sure that certain requirements are being met:

  • The subscribing witness must be able to say, under oath, that he or she personally knows the principal;
  • That he or she saw the principal signer sign the document or heard the principal signer acknowledge signing the document; and
  • That the principal requested the subscribing witness to sign his or her name on the document as a witness.

 Code of Civil Procedure § 1935

The subscribing witness must have their identity established by a third party.  That third party must be known personally by the subscribing witness and the notary, and prove their identity to the notary with proper identification (i.e., driver’s license, passport, etc.).  That third party is known as a “credible identifying witness”.  Civil Code § 1196

The subscribing witness must sign the document and the notary’s journal, and the credible witness must sign the notary’s journal.  Note in your journal the  form of identification used by the credible identifying witness. 

Since you cannot notarize the signature of someone who is not before you, with a proof of execution by subscribing witness you will be notarizing the subscribing witness’ signature only. 

The standard “all purpose” acknowledgment form CANNOT be used for proofs of execution by subscribing witness.  The following form is acceptable:


State of California               )
                                            )  ss.
County of (where the           ) 
Proof of Execution
is being signed)

On (date), before me, (notary’s name) the undersigned, a Notary Public for the state, personally appeared (name of subscribing witness), proved to me to be the person whose name is subscribed to the within instrument, as a witness thereto, on the oath of (name of credible identifying witness) , a credible witness, who is known to me and provided a satisfactory identifying document.  (name of subscribing witness) being by me duly sworn, said that he/she was present and saw/heard (name(s) of principal signer(s)), the same person(s) described in and whose name(s) is/are subscribed to the within, or attached, instrument in his/her/their authorized capacity(ies) as (a) party(ies) thereto, execute or acknowledge executing the same, and that said affiant subscribed his/her name to the within instrument as a witness at the request of (name(s) of principal signer(s)).xfs

(Signature of Notary)                                                                        (Seal)

Civil Code § 1195(c)

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All rights reserved. Revised: 01/04/12.