Assisted Signatures: How to Execute a Document When the Client Needs Help Holding the Pen

Suppose we have a Client who is mentally healthy but physically weak and the following happens: The Client’s hand is guided while placing his name on the document and the person guiding his hand writes the Client’s name in a way that does not look like your usual “signature” from long ago. There is no problem regarding the mental capacity of the Client; In the opinion of the witnesses present, it is your intention to sign. Is the signature valid?

What constitutes a “signature”?

The legal definition of “firm” is found in New York General Construction[1] Law §46, which establishes:

The term signature includes any memorandum, mark or sign, written, printed, sealed, photographed, recorded or otherwise placed on any instrument or writing with the intention of executing or authenticating said instrument or writing.

The jurisprudence that applies this statute makes it clear that any trademark is an acceptable form of signature.[2] and that the key element of a “signature” for New York law is not the appearance or form of the writing or the characters written or affixed, but rather the intention of the signer to sign.[3]

Likewise, the legal treaties that discuss the issue echo this point of view. For example, the discussion in Corpus Juris Secundum emphasizes that the writing of one’s name by oneself is not necessary for a valid signature and that any character, symbol, or figure can be adopted as a signature. Of particular importance is Volume 80, Firms, Section 6, address signatures “hand in hand”:

Generally, a signature can be made by the hand of another, acting in the presence of said person, and at his direction, or request, or with his acquiescence … A signature thus made becomes the signature of the person for whom it is fact, and has the same validity as if it were written by him … When a signature is made in this way, the person who writes the name is considered a mere instrument, by which the person whose signature is written exercises their own discretion and he acts by himself, and not through an agent. So a brand made for one person [by another person] at your address can be considered as your signature.

The writing of a name or the realization of a trademark by someone other than the person whose signature claims to be the name or trademark may constitute a sufficient signature of said person, where he touches the pen or pencil used in the process while the alleged signature is being made, but touching the pen or pencil is not essential for the validity of the signature.

It applies to all types of documents.

This analysis is also valid for deeds, wills and other documents. For example in Koo v. Robert Koo Wine & Liquor, Inc.[4], a brother signed the name of another brother in a deed; A lawsuit followed in which the objector to the deed alleged that the signature of the absent brother’s name was a forgery, particularly in the absence of a written authorization to sign as agent. However, the Court held that since the brother had the authorization and consent of his brother, the signature of the absent brother’s name was not a forgery, it was the signature of said absent brother and constituted a valid signature for bonding purposes. legal writing.

The policy that a “signature” includes any mark or symbol is also evident in the statutes governing the enforcement of negotiable instruments. Uniform Commercial Code §3-410 (2).

New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law §3-2.1 analyzes signatures and provides guidance from the testator:

The valid signature can be by personally signing your name, or having a third person sign it for you at your request, or by having a third person guide you in the deed. The signature of a testator is sufficient and complies with the law if, not being able to physically sign his name, he calls another to help him, even to the point of holding and guiding his hand, as long as it is his wish that his signature be done and accept it or adopt it.

Please note that contrary to common belief, the mere act of writing someone else’s name on a document is not a forgery. All counterfeiting statutes state that a mandatory element is the “intention defraud, cheat, or hurt “(emphasis added).[5] The tricky part, of course, is making sure you have enough evidence that the execution of the document was definitely the intention of the signer.


The document in our example was duly signed by the Client in the sense that a mark or signature was placed on the document in such a way that it constituted the Client’s act. Specifically, the client placed an ink mark that, with the help or assistance of another’s hand, wrote the client’s name, while holding or touching the pen or writing instrument and the other person’s hand stabilizing, guiding, or assisting to the client, in the Client’s request and / or with their consent, constituted the Client’s signature and was lawful, valid and binding. Furthermore, the act does not constitute a forgery, or any other infringement, especially in the absence of a fraudulent or deceptive demonstration of intention.

Disclaimer: This article is based on New York law. It is for general information and is not legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship. Each situation is unique and you should not infer from the situations discussed, but you should consult an attorney to discuss your particular situation.

Final notes

1. The meaning of the word “Construction” here is how the words are to be “interpreted” or interpreted in relation to the bylaws.

2. See, for example, In re the will of Mark, 21 AD2d 205, 250 NYS2d 177 (1964).

3. See, for example, People v. Market, 123 Misc. 2d 775, 474 NYS2d 950 (1984); People v. I paint it, 27 AD2d 63, 275. NYS2d (1966).

4. 170 AD2d 360, 566 NYS2d 63 (1991) (the signatory of the deed transferring real estate may, with the necessary intention, adopt any mark or sign as his own signature, without recourse or need a written agency agreement).

5. Section 170 of the New York Penal Law.

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