How does a disabled person sign legal documents? The following are some of the ways a disabled person can sign legal documents:

  • Sign with the aid of a notary public (someone authorized to legally validate documents by administering oaths).
  • Make a simple mark that is legally witnessed and verified.
  • Sign by an amanuensis (someone who helps another with writing).
  • Use a conservatorship (a legal custodian appointed by a judge to manage the affairs of another).
  • Sign by power of attorney (authorizing someone to legally act on behalf of another).
  • Guide the person's hand to the appropriate place on the document using a ruler or template.

Sign With the Aid of a Notary Public

It's not unusual for sound-minded but disabled people who are unable to sign documents to be concerned about the management of their property. However, a provision was made by the Michigan Notary Public Act to address that specific situation. This provision enables the mentally sound but disabled person to sign documents for the management of their property.

A notary public is permitted by Section 33 of the Michigan Notary Public Act to sign for someone who is unable to sign as a result of disability under the following conditions:

  • If the notary public is authorized and instructed by the disabled person to sign on their behalf
  • If the notary public is there physically, in the presence of the disabled person
  • If the notary public adds a section stating that the signing was done under the legal provisions of Section 33

Make a Simple Mark

Signing by making a mark is useful for a disabled person who is not able to make a signature. Such a person can make a simple mark such as an "X" on the document.

For the mark to be valid, two disinterested witnesses are required to be present at the signing. Each of the two witnesses must sign the document, stating that they witnessed the marking of the principal, or legally represented person, on the document. Then one of the witnesses is required to sign the principal's name near the mark.

Sign by an Amanuensis

Signing by amanuensis is useful when a disabled person is completely paralyzed and is unable to hold a pen but is able to speak and direct people. Such a person could employ the services of someone to do the signing for them. The person doing the signing must be a disinterested person, and the signing must take place in the physical presence of the principal.

It is in the best interest of the principal to have a notary public validate the document. For the record, most notaries aren't familiar with the process. Therefore, you should engage an experienced lawyer to guide the notary and supervise the process.

In certain extreme cases, the paralyzed person might have also lost their power to speak. In such cases, the principal could use eye movements to communicate.

The supervising lawyer would have to double-check and verify the eye signals that mean “yes” and “no” before reviewing each line of the document to affirm the principal's understanding. Then the disabled principal would instruct a disinterested amanuensis to sign on his or her behalf.

Use a Conservatorship

Under a power of attorney, a conservator can play the role of an agent with the authorization to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of a disabled person. A conservator can act like an agent under a power of attorney, with the ability to make financial and legal decisions. However, becoming a conservator is not simple. It is a very costly and time-consuming process.

Sign by Power of Attorney

If the principal is mentally incapable, a court of appeal could be petitioned to issue a court order authorizing a power of attorney in adherence with the California Probate Code's Substituted Judgment Procedure. Here the order of the judge would substitute for the permission and signature of the principal.

Physical Guidance

If the disability in question is blindness and the blind person is otherwise sound with functioning limbs, it is recommended that the entire document be read to the person verbatim in order to verify their understanding. Then something like a template or a ruler can be used to guide the person's hand to enable them to sign at the correct section of the document. Also, documentation by video record is necessary for all of the above methods.

Avoid Cutting Corners

It is common knowledge that there are strict legal requirements for signing legal documents like wills and trusts, and for good reason. It is critically important that the required legal procedures for signing important legal documents be followed. Shortcuts could lead to forgery and fraud, which could result in permanent damage.

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