Business Law, Estate Planning, Probate & Estate Administration

Do you know how to sign your name?

When signing a document on behalf of someone else or an entity, make sure you sign in that capacity – As an Agent.  The list is not an exhaustive list of roles agents can hold , but these examples can help you sign in any agency capacity.

How to Sign your name

How to sign as an Attorney-in-fact

Your loved ones go through the steps to get a Power of Attorney and Healthcare Power of Attorney to make sure everything is taken care of. They name you as their attorney-in-fact and you will take care of them to the best of your ability. You have the document and the time comes when you need to use it. They go to the hospital and need your assistance. The hospital gives you a stack of documents to sign. You sign. Did you sign correctly? Did you make yourself personally liable for the hospital bills by signing your name? When singing as an attorney-in-fact it is best to sign "Dorothy Doe, by John Smith under Power of Attorney" or "John Smith, attorney-in-fact for Dorothy Doe."

Takeaway: When singing as an attorney-in-fact it is best to sign "Dorothy Doe, by Your Name under Power of Attorney" or "Your Name, attorney-in-fact for Dorothy Doe."

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How to sign as a Manager or Owner of a LLC or Corporation

Business owners risk eliminating the primary reason -- limited liability -- for using this company structure by signing legal documents incorrectly. You must make it clear that you signed documents and agreements for the company, not yourself personally. The contract language should clearly specify that the agreement is between the other parties and the business entity, not you personally. When you sign the agreement, use your name and appropriate title within the organization. This establishes that you're signing on behalf of the company, not as an individual.

Should you sign an agreement with only your name, you risk exposing all of your personal assets to attack if something goes awry with the contract. For example, if you sign simply as "John Smith," you have effectively signed personally. Should a default occur, the other party may sue you personally, not as an officer or owner of the company. If you have assets – house, car, bank accounts – your assets may be at risk if the court determine that you, not the company, had liability for the loss.

The proper signature is “Name, Title, Name of Company.”  For example "Brandon Haubert, Manager, Wilson & Haubert, PLLC." Because companies cannot sign for themselves, this signature identifies the person signing, the title and authority of the person, and the name of the contracting party.

Takeaway: Whenever you sign any document on behalf of the business entity, always sign as “Your Name, Title, the Name of Company.”

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How to sign as a Trustee

When signing anything on behalf of the trust, always sign as “John Smith, Trustee.” By signing as Trustee, you will not be personally liable for that action as long as that action is within the scope of your authority under the trust. If the trustee does not sign as “trustee” and the contract does not specifically exclude liability, then a trustee may be personally liable on contracts entered into in the trustee’s fiduciary capacity.

Takeaway: Whenever you sign any document on behalf of the trust, always sign as “Your Name, Trustee.”

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How to sign as an Personal Representative (Executor or Administrator)

First we need to talk about the different kinds of personal representatives: 1) if there is a Last Will & Testament, then you can be the Executor (male) or Executrix (female); 2) if there is not a Last Will & Testament, then you can be the Administrator (male) or Administratrix (female). I don't like the confusing language, so I tend to call everyone the personal representative because it works whether or not there is a Last Will & Testament and regardless of the gender of the person. It just makes life simpler.

When signing on behalf of the estate the proper signature is "Name, Title with regard to the estate." Depending on the language you want to use or the language the the document appointing you use it could be John Smith, Personal Representative; John Smith, Executor; Jane Smith Executrix; John Smith, Administrator; or Jane Smith, Administratrix.

Takeaway: Whenever you sign any document on behalf of the estate, always sign as “Your Name, Personal Representative.” (Or whatever role you are assigned)

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