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What are the Rules Regarding Signatures in Contracts?

The signature is the most common way to indicate that you have read and agreed to a contract. But are there any rules to help determine whether a signature is valid, or even if a signature is necessary? Actually, there are a few, and this article will review some of the rules.

Make Your Mark

Usually, a signature is simply someone's name written in a stylized fashion. However, that is not really necessary. All that needs to be there is some mark that represents you. It can be -- as many signatures end up -- a series of squiggles, a picture, or historically, even the traditional "X" for people who couldn't read and write.

Usually this mark is made by a pen, but not necessarily. The signature can be made by anything that marks the paper. Pencil is not favored because it can smudge and be erased, but a signature made with a pencil is equally valid as a signature in pen. Signatures can also be made with stamps or with electronic means, since these are all different forms of writing implements.

If you are unable to sign the contract yourself, you can always give someone, called an "agent," the authority to sign on your behalf.

No Signature Required

Sometimes, signatures aren't even required. Business people with existing relationships can be considered to be in agreement when they exchange form contracts. A simple assent from your email account may also be considered a "signature" because it indicates your personal agreement to something.

Whatever method you choose, courts will consider whether you made the "signature," intended to make the signature, and whether you intended the signature to signify your agreement to the contract. If the court can find these three things, that it will consider your contract binding.

For more information on contract law, see FindLaw's Small Business section.

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