We all know that it is important to read the documents that we sign, but how many of us really do that every time we sign something? And when we do read it, do we really take the time to think about every consequence that can follow from a signature? When providing a signature on a document, there are three simple steps to follow that can prevent civil or criminal problems in the future.
First of all, reading the entire document is critical. It sounds simple, but very often people sign documents without reading through them. Prior to signing the document, one needs to know that every part of the document is correct and true. For example, an affidavit is an attestation to certain facts, and the person who signs it (the signatory) is swearing to the truth of the statements made in the affidavit. The failure to ensure the truth of the statements may result in criminal perjury charges.
In addition to reading the document, it is important to understand its contents. While this may seem obvious, there are times when people sign documents, such as a contract, without fully understanding the terms therein. A failure to understand every part of a contract may become problematic if the matter ever results in litigation. When a document, such as a contract for work, a lease, a non-competition agreement, or any other document contains unfamiliar terms or subject matter, it is important to consult with an attorney who specializes in that particular subject area. The people who take the time and spend a little money to understand the agreement fare much better than those who simply sign and hope for the best.
Finally, after ultimately making the decision to sign a document, it is important to make a copy and keep it in a file in a safe location. The copy will be helpful in the future if any kind of legal activity occurs, or if you need to review the document’s terms in order to govern your own behavior. Once a person has read, understood, signed, and maintained a document, she is in a position of confidence, rather than fear or nervousness, regarding the both the document and the signature.
Michelle Estlund is a criminal defense attorney practicing in Florida since 1995. She can be reached at 305-448-0077. For more information go to www.estlundlaw.com.