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Is It Legal to Sign on Someone Else’s Behalf? (2023 Update)

As a general rule, signing on someone else’s behalf is legal so long as you are authorized to sign for them. Find out more here.

Although handwritten signatures aren’t used nearly as often as they used to be, in instances where they are required, authenticity is taken very seriously. Sometimes, you will be asked to sign on someone else’s behalf and it can be unclear what the laws actually are. Put simply, it all comes down to whether the person you are signing on behalf of has given their authority. If they do not, signing as someone else is fraudulent.

It depends on the document

Different documents are treated with varying degrees of seriousness if you sign for someone else. For instance, when signing for a parcel from the Postal Service or Amazon, they normally allow you to sign for someone else if you tell them that you have permission to do so. They may ask you to present identification however to prove your identity. In other circumstances, such as applying for a bank loan or mortgage, the signature needs to be that of the intended signee. More formal documents such as contracts require an original signature. However, these can be signed by someone else with permission. The ordinary process for other documents such as letters, forms or general legal documents is that you write ‘p.p’ before your signature, to demonstrate that you are signing for someone else. This will show the reader that you’ve signed with the authority of the intended signee. There are also particular documents, such as government forms, which require the signature of the person they concern and cannot be signed by anyone else. There may additionally be certain procedures to be followed for documents that require witnessing, such as wills and powers of attorney.

What is ‘p.p’ and when should I use it?

In correspondence and certain company documents, the prefix ‘p.p’ is written before the signature of the person who is to sign on someone else’s behalf. This signifies that the document is being signed under ‘procurement’, with ‘p.p’ standing for ‘per procurationem’. Per procurationem means ‘through the agency of’, signifying an acknowledgment that another person is signing the document, but that they are doing so with authorization. Below your signature will usually be the name and position of the intended signee. If you are signing something formal with the express authority of the intended signee, put ‘p.p’ before your signature, as it will advise the reader that you are signing on someone else’s behalf.

When does this become illegal?

Under US law, falsifying a document is a crime. Forgery laws vary by state, but generally, signing a document as someone else without that person’s permission falls under this category as forgery. If the other person is unaware that you’re signing something for them and you’re gaining something, then you’re committing forgery. This is based on having the ‘intention to defraud’ someone. This applies even if you thought you had permission to sign something. It’s important to always have the permission of the person who you are signing on behalf of.

Electronic Signatures (eSignatures)

Electronic signatures (eSignatures) are common these days, with many platforms offering eSignature tools online for free. Whether this be by way of an image of a person’s signature, simply typing a person’s name, or using an eSignature platform, in many ways eSignatures have removed the need for someone to sign on another’s behalf. However, if you have access to someone’s eSignature, you must still only use it where you have that person’s permission. So long as you have the authority given to you in writing, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you used the eSignature of another personally legally.

Never sign your name to anything without reading it first

When adding your signature to something, it’s important to understand the legal significance it carries. If you’re their attorney, this is because you’re making decisions for that person, and your judgment needs to reflect what is in the best interests of that person. Even if you’re simply using ‘p.p’ in the absence of the intended signor, it’s still wise to understand what you’re attaching your name to. Make sure you read the document in front of you, and ask the intended signee if there’s anything that you’re unsure about. While signing for someone else has become less common, you might still have to do so from time to time. As long as you’re signing with the permission of the intended signee, then it is legal to sign for them except for some documents which carry a greater legal significance (such as wills). If you are unsure whether you have the legal right to sign something, check with the person who you are signing on behalf of or consult an attorney.

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