Business contracts and other kinds of legally binding documents typically require the signatures of two or more parties. In most cases, the parties will not be able to sign the documents at the same time. The first party reads and signs the papers if they’re comfortable with the terms of the agreement. The other parties then sign the documents to indicate that they’re also happy with the contract.
The process of appending a signature to a document that has already been signed is what is referred to as countersigning.
Why is countersigning important?
In the case where multiple parties are required to sign a document, if it is not countersigned, it remains invalid. Countersigning is a way to indicate mutual consent to an agreement and means that all the parties involved in the contract agree to the set terms. However, that’s not the only time countersigning is done. Here are other instances where documents might have to be countersigned:
1) Countersigning for authentication
In certain corporate settings, a document might need to be countersigned to indicate approval or authentication. For instance, an employee at an organization might need to request authorization from their superior to make a financial requisition. Typically, the requisition form will have to be countersigned by the superior officer to show that they have authorized or approved the request.
2) Countersignature as certification
Countersigning is also used to certify that an incident took place. If you’re required to provide a healthcare document for a tax rebate, your doctor would have to countersign it to prove its authenticity. Typically, when you present a financial instrument for payment, you will be required to sign it before receiving it. You may also be required to countersign it after the payment has been made to confirm that the same person that presented the instrument received the payment.
3) Countersign as witness
In certain countries like the U.K., your passport application has to be countersigned by a third party that is of good standing in society. The person who countersigns the form is typically required to have known the applicant for at least two years. In this case, the countersignature is used to confirm the details you have written on your passport application form. The U.K. even has a list of occupations that can be countersignatories for an applicant.
Are E-Signatures a Good Option for Countersigning?
Many times, contracts need to be signed by people who are not in the same physical location. This can be a bit complicated, especially as there needs to be back and forth communication between both parties before and after the documents are signed. Electronic signatures, also known as e-signatures, are simpler and faster for all parties involved.
The main question people have about the use of e-signatures is its legality. In most countries around the world, E-signatures are recognized as valid and legally binding for countersigning documents. In the U.S., the laws guiding the use of E-signature can be found in the U.S. E-SIGN and UETA Acts.
E-signatures are also easy to setup. In just a few minutes, you can upload, e-sign, and send the document to every party involved. If you’re using an online e-signature service like Countersign, it gives you the ability to also add text and remarks to the document. You can send the documents directly from the e-signature platform to the recipient’s e-mail. And the service will notify you when the other parties have viewed and signed the document.
Important tips before countersigning documents
Documents that need to be countersigned are typically legally binding. As such, they have to be treated with care. Here are a couple of tips to consider when countersigning documents:
- Read the contract to understand the rights and responsibilities it dictates for you. If you do not understand any part of the text, seek clarification from the appropriate parties.
- Ensure that all the parties are correctly identified, including their contact information. Any discrepancies should be addressed before you sign.
- Review the document’s terms to make sure that it identifies with the agreement you had with the other people involved in the contract and that they have already signed.
- If there are any documents referenced in the contract, make sure you repeat the previous processes for that document.
If you’re new to signing contracts, the concept of countersigning might seem a bit complicated. However, now that you’ve read this article, you should have a pretty good idea of what it’s about. You can sign up with Countersign to create your own e-signature for countersigning documents for free.