We often have to send documents to clients for them to sign and although we always try to explain how this needs to be done we are offering a guide in this fact sheet for how to sign some common documents:
- It is usually best to sign in black ink - legal documents are often copied and signatures in black ink usually show up best on photocopies or scans of documents.
- please don't ever fill in any missing dates or other information unless we have asked you to do so.
- If a document is made up for signature with a provision for a signature to be witnessed you should choose an independent adult third party to act as witness and should make sure you do not have as your witness anyone who is connected to the transaction the document effects, or indeed anyone whose name is by coincidence the same as that of any other party to the document.
- If you are signing a Will you will need two witnesses and you must make sure you do not have anyone witness your signature who is intended to benefit from the Will as, if they witness your signature, their right to inherit will be lost.
- If you are in doubt as to how to sign any document we have sent you do please ring us first and we will be pleased to help you with the process. This is particularly important if the document has already been signed by some parties or has been provided to us by third parties.
If we have sent you an original Will for signature you need to follow a process to ensure that your Will is properly signed and cannot be challenged.
- Arrange for two independent adult witnesses to be with you before you sign the Will. These should not be persons named in your Will or intended to benefit from it in any way. You will all need to stay together until the Will has been signed by both you and both witnesses.
- CORONAVIRUS: NB to minimise the risk of infection if you have a window where your witnesses can stand outside your house but watch you sign through the window this is acceptable but your witnesses must both stay together and in your sight (and vice versa) after you have signed – you can then pass the signed will out to them for them to sign whilst you watch them do so.
- Please write in the date at the top of the Will. We will usually have left a space where you need to fill in the day in long form (for example “Twenty-fifth”) and sometimes also the month (again in long form “December”. Check that when you have done this the entire current date is present in your Will.
- Please then sign your Will, using your usual signature to the right of the bracket marks at the end, on the first dotted line.
- Your witnesses should then each sign above the words “Signature of witness 1” (or 2 as applicable) and then print in BLOCK CAPITALS their name, address and occupation on the succeeding lines beneath their signature.
- Please then return the signed Will to Stapleton and Son where it will either be stored in our strong room with a copy being sent to you or, if you prefer, we can return the original to you, for you to arrange for safe storage, once the Will has been checked to ensure it appears to comply with current legislation.
Contracts for the sale or purchase of a house.
We almost always use contracts with a box for your signature but if you are buying a property the contract will have been prepared by the Sellers' Conveyancer and some contracts do differ.
No contract will need you to have your signature witnessed.
One of our contracts will look like this [click link to open image in new window]: SCPC1
On these forms of contract you sign in the box, which, in the linked example, is shown outlined in red - don't fill in any dates or other details - all of these will be filled in by us when we actually exchange contracts for you. If you are buying and the contract looks different we will usually have marked where you sign by lightly pencilling your initials.
If you are buying or selling jointly you will both need to sign in the same box. If the box allows you the option of "Buyers / Sellers" then cross out the one which does not apply. If you are buying and selling at the same time expect to sign two contracts - one for your purchase and one for your sale.
Generally speaking when you return a signed contract to us we will take that as authority to commit you to the sale or purchase - if you do not intend this then please include a covering letter explaining that.
Contracts for the sale or purchase of a commercial property.
These are often long documents all in typescript, sometimes running to dozens of pages, and often finishing with a page for signature simply saying:
(sometimes Buyer: Seller:)
In these cases again we will usually have marked the document to show where we want you to sign but usually you sign in the open space to the right of the word Vendor (if you are the seller) or Purchaser (funnily enough if you are the buyer), again .
Watch out for deceptive documents where the space for your signature is well before the end of the document but the document has a schedule containing some prescribed ancillary wording - and perhaps also, confusingly, finishing with a signature clause. Generally speaking we will have made this clear to you but if you are unsure do please ring or email us and we will be happy to explain.
Following your exchange of contracts (and sometimes at the same time where time is pressing) we will need you to sign a transfer document. Again we use versions that have boxes for each signatory so you just need to find the relevant box and sign in it. You will need to have your signature witnessed though.
Click the link to see a typical back page from a transfer form: TR1
You will see that you sign in the box to the right of your name and your witness - an adult third-party - not connected with you or with the transaction in any way (and please, not anyone whose surname is, even by coincidence the same as that of any other party to the document) should then sign their name on the dotted line labelled "Signature of witness" and then have your witness fill in THEIR name and address in block capitals on the next two dotted lines.
Three common forms of document signature blocks look as follows, (the first is an individual signature block where an individual signs for themself in the presence of a witness and the next two are signature clauses on behalf of corporate entities - the first with no Common Seal and the second where the company has a formal seal to use for executing documents):
Lasting Powers of Attorney:
Make sure you read the entire form before starting - everyone signing a Lasting Power of Attorney should be familiar with Section 8 which sets out what can and can't be done under a Lasting Power of Attorney and the duties of an Attorney
As a donor:
Your signature needs to be added to the documents in the presence of an independent witness and a certificate provider. These can be the same person, and usually will be, if we are arranging for the signature of your new Lasting Powers of Attorney with us.
In every case the donor, their witness, and the certificate provider must sign the form together. It does not matter if the Atorney
It is crucial that the instructions on the forms for the order of signatures is followed precisely - if an attorney signs before the donor the power is invalid and if this is not discovered until after the form is submitted to the Office of the Public Guardian for registration the registration fee may be wasted.
Usually the donor signs, and dates the form, their signature is then witnessed and the certificate provider completes their certification process and signs and dates the certificate.
As an Attorney:
The forms are then usually handed or sent to the Attorneys for each of them to sign and date their respective Sections 11 in the form, again having their signatures witnessed. It does not matter that the attorneys sign after the donor but they must NOT sign before or the LPA will be invalid and will be rejected at registration.
The Donor or the attorneys whoever will be applying to register the LPAs will, as the last-dated signature, also have to sign and date Section 15. Again this date must be after the date when each of the Attorneys signed or the LPA will be invalid and will be rejected at registration.
The checklist at the end of the standard forms is a useful guide - and the quick and simple check is to make sure that when you read through the completed signed witnessed and dated form each date you come to is either the same as or later than the previous one.
As always if you are a client of this firm and are having trouble working out how to sign these documents we will be pleased to assist - just give us a ring and we will talk you through the process to ensure your document is valid and legal.