Although handwritten signatures aren’t used nearly as often as they used to be, in instances where handwritten signatures 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. Basically, it all comes down to whether the person you are signing on behalf of has given their authority. If they have not, signing as someone else becomes fraudulent.
Here, we will outline the circumstances where this is legal, and what you should do to make sure you’re not inadvertently committing fraud.
What is the document?
The significance of different documents mean that they are treated with a varying degree of seriousness if you happen to Sign on Someone Else’s Behalf. For instance, when signing for a parcel from Australia Post, they normally allow you to sign for someone else if you tell them that you have permission to do so but this would not be acceptable if you were applying for a bank loan. More formal documents such as a contract for sale of land require an original signature under the Statute of Frauds, however these can be signed on someone’s behalf if they give their authority. 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. There are also particular documents, such as tax returns, which require the signature of the person who’s taxable income it is and cannot be signed by anyone else.
What is ‘p.p’ and when should I use it?
In company documents or more formal correspondence, the prefix ‘p.p’ is written before the signature of the person who is to Sign on Someone Else’s Behalf. This signifies the action that is being done which is known as ‘procurement’, with ‘p.p’ standing for ‘per procurationem’.
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?
Section 253 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that the falsification of a document is punishable by 10 years imprisonment. Signing a document as someone else without that person’s permission falls under this category as forgery. There are similar provisions in the criminal legislation of other states.
If the other person does not know that you are signing something as them, and you are signing the document to gain something, then you are guilty of forgery having had the ‘intention to defraud’ someone. This is why it is important to always have the permission of the person who you are signing on behalf of.
Electronic Signatures (eSignatures)
Electronic signatures (eSignatures) are widely used these days, and they can take many forms. Whether this be by way of an image of a persons signature, simply typing a person’s name or using an eSignature platform such as HelloSign, 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.
Whilst signing on someone else’s behalf has become less common, there are still many instances where you may be required to do this. If you are unsure, check with the person who you are signing on behalf of or consult a criminal lawyer.
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