Many legal documents are not signed at all. Most terms of business are simply sent out and incorporated into a contract between the parties. However, sometimes a signature is required and here people can get into difficulties.

Never lift a signature from another document or substitute pages later. Nor is it lawful to pretend a document was signed on a date when it was not although it is perfectly in order to say a later dated agreement takes effect from an earlier date.

In a recent case, the High Court said a signature on one document cannot be transferred to another and taken to be approval of the second document even if the signatory has said they are happy with that. A company “Mercury” offered tax planning schemes and clients were asked to sign an incomplete draft of three documents. They were not asked to resign final, complete versions of the documents. Earlier signed pages attaching to the earlier documents were taken and stapled to the new documents and taken to represent approval of the new documents.

The company said it was settled law that, with authority, someone could alter a document after signature, and the court agreed but not in the way this was done here. The judge, however, said that a previous case in which a court approved the use of a signature in relation to a changed document did not support this. If you need legal advice on how to sign documents and the legal formalities required contact Susan Lewis at Jordans Solicitors in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

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