There are many different special circumstances that notaries may encounter; however, the rules are the same: rely on the law, exercise reasonable care, and use common sense. Notaries in FL are required to verify identity through a valid identification form if the person is not personally known (signer must be in the presence of notaries to sign), to determine if the person understands the document to be signed, and if the person is doing it willingly.
So another special situation is when notaries are asked to notarize the signature of a minor, i.e., a person below 18 years old. Many notaries probably think of this situation as a major issue and may have some questions such as:
Can notaries notarize the signature of a minor? What about identification? Are there an age limit?
Well let’s see what notaries are able to do in Florida under this circumstance:
Can notaries notarize the signature of a minor?
The short answer is yes, but all proper and basic rules and law must be followed.
Are there an age limit?
No, there are no age limit by law; however, notaries must attempt to determine if the minor is able to understand what an oath or an acknowledgment is.
A woman recently called our office to ask whether she could notarize the signature of a 4-year-old child. The father wanted to transfer the title of a boat to his child. A child of this young age would probably not understand the transaction.
On the other hand, we recently encountered a situation involving a 12-year-old child who wanted to submit a sworn statement to the court regarding an incident that she witnessed. She actually wrote down what she had seen and wanted to sign her statement and swear to it in the presence of a notary. Most likely, a
12-year-old child would understand the act of swearing to the truthfulness of a statement.
So, aside from attempting to determine if a child understands the nature of an oath or an acknowledgment, notaries must also attempt to determine if the child is doing it freely, not being coerced.
Parents may be able to sign for minors when they are too young to understand to transaction, and if so, the signature of the parent must be notarized, not the child’s.
What about identification?
Notaries are required to ask for acceptable forms of identification in order to verify if the signer in front of them is the actual individual. Therefore, minors are not exempt from this requirement.
However, Minors who are 12 years of age or older may obtain a FL state I.D. card issued by the Division of Motor Vehicles (same place where people can get their driver’s license). In this case, notaries can ask the parents, guardian, or minor to obtain a state I.D. card before they notarize.
As a second option, notaries may rely on a credible witness to identify the child. In this case, notaries may require the witness to submit a sworn written statement.
Under the penalties of perjury, I declare that the person appearing before __(name of notary)__ is personally known to me as __(name of person whose
signature is to be notarized)__ and is the person named in the document requiring notarization.
If using a witness or notarizing for a minor, notaries can also request the witness, parents or guardians, including the minor to also sign the journal entry just in case.
As with any other transaction, notaries may refuse to notarize if they do not feel the minor understands the content of a document or what the nature of an oath or acknowledgment is, or who appears to be pressure, coerced. Notaries may always suggest parents, guardians, or the minor to seek an attorney.
FL Governor’s Reference Manual for Notaries – Notarizing For a Person Who is a Minor p.40
by Alessandra Gomes
On My Way FL Notary S.A.
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