Can a signed document be legal is important to know when entering into a contract. Putting your signature or mark on a document or instrument means you're accepting, approving, or obligating to what's in the document. A signature often means someone signing a written document with their own hand. However, it's not always necessary for it to be written by hand for it to be legal. The signature can also be stamped, engraved, or typewritten.

What Is the Purpose of a Signature?

A signature's purpose is to verify a writing or give notice of the source. This binds the person signing it to the provisions that are stated in the document. A signature commits that party to the contract's terms, so the law created rules that dictate what a legally valid signature is. Different forms of communication such as the Internet have formed the need to conduct agreements that are legally binding electronically. In almost every state in the country, there are laws that accept that digital signatures are valid.

Do Variations Between the Signature and the Name Appearing in the Body of the Instrument Automatically Invalidate the Instrument?

When an instrument gets signed, it's considered adequate if it's made in a manner that's commonly used. The instrument isn't invalidated just because there are variations between the name and the signature that are in the body of the instrument. If there's no statutory prohibition, a person can use any of the following to adopt as their signature:

  • Figure
  • Character
  • Designation
  • Symbol

This means if a person signs their name as Bill Jones but the contract talks about a William Jones, it's still considered enforceable against them. A person can use the name of their business firm or a name that's fictitious. The signature might be enough to verify an instrument even if it's almost illegible. The whole name doesn't need to be written, and an inclusion of the middle name isn't significant. A person meets the signing requirement if someone who has been authorized to sign for them does so.

If a statute requires that an instrument needs to be signed in person, it's necessary for the signature to be in the signer's hand. They can also request another person signs in their presence. In the event where a person means to sign as the witness but accidentally signs where the principal was supposed to sign, it can be shown that he meant to sign as a witness. On the other hand, when the signer means to sign as the principal but signs in the spot for the witness, this fact may also be shown.

Can Initials Serve as a Signature?

In the case that a situation doesn't require a signature that's more thorough, an instrument can be signed when the given name letters or initial letter are used in conjunction with the surname, when just the given name gets used, when just the full surname gets used, or if just the initials are used. A mark is typically an "X" or a cross that's used in substitution of the signature where a person can't write. If there's no contrary statutory provision, the mark can be used by a person who can't write due to a disability or illness.

A mark and a signature have an identical binding effect on the person making them. There are certain statutes where a signature is described as involving a mark that a person who is illiterate or infirm makes. Anyone can write the name of the person who is making the mark. This isn't invalidated even if the person who writes the name with the mark doesn't spell the name correctly.

If there isn't a statute that dictates a name needs to go along with the mark, the legality of the mark in place of a signature isn't affected due to the fact that a name doesn't go with it.

Can Someone Be Assisted in Writing a Signature?

A signature may be written by the purported signer's hand, either with the help of another person who guides the pencil or pen of the signer or through the unaided efforts of the signer. If the maker's hand is steadied or guided, the signature is considered the maker's act instead of the assisting individual's act.

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