Is It Legal to Sign on Someone Else’s Behalf? (2019 Update)
Have you been asked to sign something for someone in their absence? Read this article to find out how you can legally sign for someone else.
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. 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?
Different documents are treated with a varying degree of seriousness if you sign for someone else. 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 by someone else if authority is provided. 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 that ‘procurement’ is occurring, with ‘p.p’ standing for ‘per procurationem’. Per procurationem means ‘through the agency of’, signifying an acknowledgement that another person is signing the document, but that they are doing so with authorisation.
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.
You work for a lawyer who is currently in Court. They need to send an urgent letter, and it needs to be delivered in person. The lawyer has asked you to sign for them, above their name and position title. Your write ‘p.p’ in the signature space and sign your name after it. This validates the letter, in informing the reader the letter has been signed on behalf of the lawyer with authorisation.
When does this become illegal?
Section 253 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) states that the falsification of a document is a crime. Further, it 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 is unaware that you’re signing something for them and you’re gaining something, then you’re committing forgery. This is based on you having had the ‘intention to defraud’ someone. This is why 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 extremely common these days. 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 for someone else has become less common, you may still be required to do this. If you are unsure, check with the person who you are signing on behalf of or consult a lawyer.
Jackie is the Content Manager at Lawpath and manages the content team. She has a Law/Arts (Politics) degree from Macquarie University and is an admitted solicitor in the Supreme Court of NSW. She's interested in how technology can help shape the future legal landscape.