Legal Ramifications of Signatures in Virginia | Estate Planning Attorney VA
Legal Ramifications of Signatures in Virginia

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In Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick, Polynesian whale harpooner, Queequeg, signs his name as “X.” Since the character is illiterate, this signature serves as his unique identifier, his official seal in significance of his agreement to serve on the whaling ship, the Pequod. But what does signing a piece of paper really mean?

Demonstration assent

A signature is a method of indicating that a party is agreeing to terms, or entering into some form of contractual arrangement, however simple. An example is a receipt from a credit card purchase; the purchasing party signs in agreement to pay the amount of the purchase.

Often unnecessary, but still used

In many situations, a signature is not legally required, but is still requested as a formality. The act of signing a document reinforces the concept, in the mind of an agreeing party, that a promise is being made and that the promise is binding. An example is a construction firm that regularly makes purchases from a supplier of building materials. If a request is properly made by a principle with proper authority to purchase a large quantity of materials, and that parcel of materials is received by any employee of the construction firm, then no signature is actually required at either end of the arrangement. It will often be requested by the supplier upon making the delivery, however, to offer proof of delivery should some or all of the goods somehow disappear prior to use, and the quantity or actual delivery comes into question.

Not necessarily made by the assenter’s own hand

While traditionally, a signature is made by the hand of the party agreeing to the terms in question, it is not necessary that the assenter actually put pen to paper. Unless statutorily prohibited, a designee can be used to affix the seal. This is the case where the party demonstrating commitment is physically unable to make the signature, as in cases of severe illness or paralysis. Also, the assent can have been made prior to the time at which the signature is being made, and conditioned upon events occurring subsequent to the agreeing. An example of this is an agent acting under power of attorney created prior to the assent being demonstrated, and while the agreeing party is incapacitated.

Clerical mistakes can often be disregarded as significant

If a lengthy or otherwise complex document is signed improperly, such as by one party signing on the wrong dotted line, this can usually be demonstrated as a mere clerical error having no significance with regard to the execution of the contract.

Get legal assistance

If you or a loved one is involved in a legal dispute arising out of a signature, lack thereof, or some other form of contention involving a question of assent to terms of a legal arrangement, do not attempt to fight alone. Incorporated businesses, especially large ones, have trained and experienced attorneys working on their side to protect the interests of the firm. You need lawyers on your side to protect your rights and interests. Contact the attorneys at The Kamerow Law Firm, PLLC for a free and confidential consultation by calling 703-370-8088.