What’s a Signature?

What’s a Signature?

In all areas of the law, a person’s signature is of utmost importance. A person’s signature provides authenticity to a document whether they are signing a contract, signing a will, or purchasing a home.

In the past, signing a legal document was a major event. The individual would come together with several witnesses and affix a wax seal along with a wet-ink signature. Now, times have changed and Virginia law allows a multiple of variations which may constitute a signature.

Virginia Code 8.3A-401(b) states “[a] signature may be made (i) manually or by means of a device or machine, and (ii) by the use of any name, including a trade or assumed name, or by a word, mark, or symbol executed or adopted by a person with present intention to authenticate a writing.”

First, the term manually means the traditional signature of pen to paper. As you can see, electronic signatures are acceptable now which has made it much easier to conduct and transact business among parties and entities that are in different geographic areas. No longer do we need to e-mail and print, or fax documents back and forth.

Next, the statute allows for trade or assumed names meaning or by a word, mark or symbol. This is extremely important since this allows an individual to use a “short-hand” version of their signature. A person’s signature does not have to show every character in their legal name nor need to have any resemblance to the legal name. A few examples could a squiggly line or star pattern. Even further, an individual may need to use some type of stamp to “sign” their name. For example, an individual with full cognitive abilities, but limited physical ability in their hands, may use a stamp in order to authenticate.

The main premise noted in this statute however, is that the person must intend to sign the instrument and use the particular mark as their signature for authentication. This is the reason why many legal documents require the presence of a notary. A notary is a witness certified by the State of Virginia who also authenticates the signor’s signature.

It is always good practice to check with the local clerk’s office to ensure they do not require anything additional for certain legal instruments such as a deed or will. When in doubt, have the individual sign in front of a notary and include a clause which reiterates that the signor intends for the particular signature to be legal and authentic.

If you or someone you know needs further assistance with real estate, wills, trusts or estate law in Virginia, please click the “Schedule a Consult” link above and a receptionist will assist in connecting you with an attorney. Hanger Law serves the following cities and counties in the greater Hampton Roads and Richmond areas: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News, Yorktown, Seaford, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County, Isle of Wight County, Smithfield, New Kent County, Toano, Gloucester, Hayes, Richmond, Henrico County, Mechanicsville, Ashland, Hanover, Midlothian, and Chesterfield County.

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