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#1
Old 04-18-2005, 10:54 PM
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Is a signature forged with permission still a forgery?

Today my wife wanted to deposit a check, but as it was made out to me, it required my endorsement, which I had forgotten to provide. I told her over the phone to save another trip to the bank and just forge my signature. She insisted she could not. I figured forgery with permission must be legal, but she wasn't going to risk the wrath of the authorities.

Well, presuming she would have gotten caught, (which I doubt), would she have comitted some form of legal or ethical infraction by forging my signature on a check, even with my express permission and instruction?
#2
Old 04-18-2005, 11:05 PM
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My Dad used to man a bank branch in rural England someplace every now and again - just him and a security guard. He says that sometimes he'd get a cheque from Mr. Such & Such w/o a signature, and had to have them come in to sign it. Mrs. Such & Such would show up, sign it, and when he checked it with the records it would match. ('cause since the Mrs. knew how to write, she was the one to do all that stuff).

This helps you because... well... it don't. But I figured I tell you anyway.
#3
Old 04-18-2005, 11:33 PM
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I am not your lawyer, not licensed in your jurisdiction, this is not legal advice, etc.

Fraud can be generally defined as holding something out to be true when it isn't, with the intent that someone will rely on it, so that you can get something of value. Here, you asked your wife to hold out her signature as yours, so that the bank would part with some cash on the belief that you had signed the check. What happens if you later came by and said, I never signed that! Your poor wife would be left hanging out to dry.

Now -- if the account had your name on it, I don't think you needed to endorse the check at all. Or, you could execute some form of power of attorney to give her the right to sign your checks, but that would likely need to be filed with the bank.

In other words, your wife was right.
#4
Old 04-18-2005, 11:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Campion

In other words, your wife was right.
I'm not an attorney either but I certainly agree with that part of your answer. I
do have lots of experience being a husband
#5
Old 04-18-2005, 11:44 PM
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Unless you ever complained about the forgery, no one would know. The only way the police would get involved is if you complained to them your wife had forged your signature on a check.
#6
Old 04-19-2005, 12:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Campion
Fraud can be generally defined as holding something out to be true when it isn't, with the intent that someone will rely on it, so that you can get something of value. Here, you asked your wife to hold out her signature as yours, so that the bank would part with some cash on the belief that you had signed the check. What happens if you later came by and said, I never signed that! Your poor wife would be left hanging out to dry.
Well, you could argue that your wife is holding it to be true, not that you signed the check, but that you gave permission for the specified amount of money to the specified person. Because that's what the signature is really FOR, after all.
#7
Old 04-19-2005, 12:14 AM
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What if the wife signed it "Her name" for "His name"? Would that be acceptable in terms of a check? I know it is acceptable on other legal documents, but I don't know if it is for checks or not, or what conditions must be met ahead of time for it to be acceptable.
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#8
Old 04-19-2005, 12:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJdude825
Well, you could argue that your wife is holding it to be true, not that you signed the check, but that you gave permission for the specified amount of money to the specified person. Because that's what the signature is really FOR, after all.
Sure. You could argue that there's no fraud because you intended your wife to take the money out. But I really doubt that you could get a court to agree with you. The fraud is that she signed his name, and held that signature out to be authentic.

rfgdxm is likely right that the police are unlikely to detect the forgery because no one is likely to complain, but the OP asked us to presume that she would get caught. In that case, the police are likely to take the position that it wasn't his signature and therefore it is a forgery. The DA may drop the case as "no harm, no foul," but who knows?

Zabali_Clawbane, I haven't the first clue, but I'm interested in the answer, too.
#9
Old 04-19-2005, 12:27 AM
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Couldn't she have written "for deposit only" on the back?
#10
Old 04-19-2005, 12:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Campion
rfgdxm is likely right that the police are unlikely to detect the forgery because no one is likely to complain, but the OP asked us to presume that she would get caught. In that case, the police are likely to take the position that it wasn't his signature and therefore it is a forgery. The DA may drop the case as "no harm, no foul," but who knows?
The only person in a position to file legal charges in this case is the husband. If someone steals my bicycle, and I say "the thing was just a piece of junk, and I don't care", and never report it, the police won't consider it a crime.
#11
Old 04-19-2005, 01:01 AM
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IANAL, but I don't think she would have committed either a legal or an ethical infraction. Probably nobody would have noticed.

I assume she was not depositing it into your joint account, in which case I don't think it would have even needed your signature.

I used to have this account for my kids, and I was supposed to endorse checks made out to them that went into this account as something like, "Hilarity N. Suze, as trustee for Kidlet N. Suze," which I actually did a couple of times--then I just scrawled my usual illegible HS..... and that worked, too. (I suppose my kids could sue me. Don't tell them, okay?)
#12
Old 04-19-2005, 03:31 AM
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I think I heard this on this board in another thread that if the check is for deposit, the bank is allowed to 'fill in' the required endorsement. That is, if the check isn't signed the bank is allowed to act as if it was and transfer the funds into your account.

I could easily be wrong here.

(Maybe this will jog some memories.)

(And yes, it is a tangent to the purpose of the thread, but it might save someone a bit of hassle later on if it's true.)

(Third parenthetical's the charm!)
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#13
Old 04-19-2005, 04:06 AM
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The crime of forgery generally refers to the making of a fake document, the changing of an existing document, or the making of a signature without authorization.
#14
Old 04-19-2005, 04:32 AM
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Just a WAG, but the problem from the bank's POV with this innocent transaction, is what about couples who are not being straightforward with each other? Wife filches check from sleeping hubby's wallet, rushes down to the bank, deposits it, then withdraws the cash in an hour or a day, and the hubby complains to the bank (that the check is drawn on) that his check has gone missing, and they investigate. I suspect the bank where the check was deposited has some 'splainin' to do, especially if they have the hubby's signature on file. So they have a rule, and need to enforce it unless they want to go into the marriage-evaluation business.
#15
Old 04-19-2005, 06:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zabali_Clawbane
What if the wife signed it "Her name" for "His name"? Would that be acceptable in terms of a check? I know it is acceptable on other legal documents, but I don't know if it is for checks or not, or what conditions must be met ahead of time for it to be acceptable.
What legal documents do you mean? The only time I've ever seen this, the signer must have some form of power-of-attorney for the signee.
#16
Old 04-19-2005, 06:27 AM
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Hmmm... Isn't the wife generally regarded as her husband's agent?
#17
Old 04-19-2005, 06:28 AM
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muttrox it's more common with children, but it is also used in the case of accident for hospital billing purporses and authorization for treatment. Example, the family's medical insurance is through the husband's job, (the "account" is in his name, not hers) so he has to sign as the person to be billed, but he's been in an accident and is in the ER. The wife can legally sign "Mrs. soandso" for "Mr. soandso" on the acceptance of billing, and can sign for her husband authorizing treatment too. Those are considered "legal" documents. I'm pretty sure there are other examples in which this can be used, but I can't bring them up. Does anyone else know of one?
#18
Old 04-19-2005, 07:58 AM
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I don't know what banks you are all dealing with, but over the years I've had accounts with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, First Interstate, and several smaller banks. I virtually never endorse checks I'm depositing. My business checks get stamped (the stamp lists the business name, account number, and the words "deposit only"). With my personal checks, for the most part, I or my wife just write the account number and the words "deposit only" on the back.

There are a few checks I've received that have "endorsement required" (or words to that effect) printed on the back, and I do sign those.

Cashing checks, on the other hand, always requires an endorsement.
#19
Old 04-19-2005, 08:20 AM
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I guess I should clarify that most of the check was to be deposited, but a portion of it was to be cashed.
#20
Old 04-19-2005, 09:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Campion
I am not your lawyer, not licensed in your jurisdiction, this is not legal advice, etc.

Fraud can be generally defined as holding something out to be true when it isn't, with the intent that someone will rely on it, so that you can get something of value. Here, you asked your wife to hold out her signature as yours, so that the bank would part with some cash on the belief that you had signed the check. What happens if you later came by and said, I never signed that! Your poor wife would be left hanging out to dry.

Now -- if the account had your name on it, I don't think you needed to endorse the check at all. Or, you could execute some form of power of attorney to give her the right to sign your checks, but that would likely need to be filed with the bank.

In other words, your wife was right.
Doesn't there have to be an intent to defraud?

And I think with checks enforcement is up to the writer of the check. I once gave my son a check. He later called to tell me that I had forgotten to sign it. So I told him to sign my name and I would tell my bank that I authorized it. When I went to the bank I was told that my signature was an unessential detail for all practical purposes. As long as the check had an amount, the magnetic identifiers printed on it and any sort of scribble on the signature line it would clear.

The importance of the signature card used for the purpose of confirming that a check is genuine by the bank is apparently a thing of much simpler past-way past.
#21
Old 04-19-2005, 09:26 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Simmons
Doesn't there have to be an intent to defraud?
I rather thought this was the crux of the issue. Of course, if I chose to besmirch my wife and claim she handled my check in a fraudulent matter it's up to the courts to decide who is the criminal. But where there is no claim of malfeasance, what's the harm, in a strict legal sense?
#22
Old 04-19-2005, 09:39 AM
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No, it's not a forgery and its not fraud. The signature was authorized, which makes it valid.

That's not to say that the bank would reject the check if it knew of the method in which it was signed, because the bank has no proof that the signature was authorized. The bank doesn't want to have to worry about proving that the husband orally authorized the signature if someone disputes that later on.

But that's not the question that was asked.

As I recently said in another thread, fraud is a term that gets thrown around a lot by people who don't know what they're talking about. Under common law, fraud generally requires a knowing misrepresentation of a material fact by the defendant, which the defendent intends the plaintiff to rely upon, which the plaintiff does rely upon, which reliance is reasonable under the circumstances, and which results in damages to the plaintiff. Under the circumstances here, there are no damages, because the money ended up where the husband wanted it to go. (Also, it's doubtful whether the authorized signature would be considered to be a misrepresentation.)

Also, as someone said in a previous reply, the bank can supply a missing endorsement if it chooses, and usually does in these kind of cases. See
http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...ighlight=fraud
#23
Old 04-19-2005, 09:45 AM
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I suppose I should be a bit more careful. I'm not recommending that anyone sign anyone else's name to anything without clear authority (preferably written) to do so. If the person who gives the authority later denies that he did so, you might have a problem. If he dies soon after, and his heirs don't like you, you might have a problem.

Also, I can't rule out the possibility that some odd jurisdiction defines forgery differently. Although IAAL, I'm probably not one in your state. I'm not your lawyer, and you're not my client. This is general information and not meant to be reliable legal advice. See a lawyer licensed in your state for that.
#24
Old 04-19-2005, 09:46 AM
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...the bank wouldn't reject the check....
#25
Old 04-19-2005, 09:51 AM
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Got it, and thanks for responsible disclaimer.

All-in-all, it really does appear that the major issue here is simply one of bank discretion, vs. legality; and that problem could easily be circumvented by simply taking steps to avoid making them privy to the nature of the authorized signature. That should effectively render the issue none of their responsiblity or concern should no subsequent claims of fraud be made.
#26
Old 04-20-2005, 10:10 AM
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The Credit Union that Mrs Butler and I use, and the Co-operative bank that my parents use would probably be confused if either my, or my father's signature (our REAL, actually signed buy us, the men) appeared on a check.

While this may not be "technically" legal, I'm sure it's a VERY common event. In my household, I'm aware of our financial transactions, but I'm not involved other than going to work to earn the paycheck, then spending some of it.
#27
Old 04-20-2005, 12:33 PM
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In one of my early careers, I worked in a Government Office. One of my jobs was affixing a rubber stamp of the Big Cheeses signature, for which i was offically "delegated" to do so, which made that signature his for all legal purposes. I was told that if the stamp was lost, i could simply sign his name and append my little tiny initials after it, and that would be the same.

So- yes, there are circumstances where the 'forging" of a signature is perfectly legal, and valid.

In the case of a couple who file Joint and have a Joint bank account, my guess is that it'd be fine for a deposit. If she was terribly worried about "forgery' just write- "For deposit only, Account # 123456 (the real number of course!) and drop it in the ATM without any signature. The bank will deposit it 99.99% of the time (sometimes they will put a stamp "Endorsement guarenteed" or something like that) as Random said. There won't be a problem unless YOU come back and say "Hey, I didn't endorse that!".
#28
Old 04-20-2005, 12:37 PM
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All she had to do was write For Deposit Only and the account number on the back of the check. No signature required.
#29
Old 04-20-2005, 12:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clothahump
All she had to do was write For Deposit Only and the account number on the back of the check. No signature required.
Every bank I've dealt with has required me to endorse the check with my signature before it would accept it for deposit.
#30
Old 04-20-2005, 01:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acsenray
Every bank I've dealt with has required me to endorse the check with my signature before it would accept it for deposit.
Interesting. As I mentioned earlier in this thread, I've never dealt with a bank that required that, and I've dealt with both large banks and small ones. Which banks are have you dealt with that require the endorsement?
#31
Old 04-20-2005, 01:16 PM
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Now, I don't doubt that some some dopers somewhere out there indeed can deposit cheques without signatures, but it seems to be rather odd that a bank would do so. What would be the dfference between depositing such a cheque and cashing it?
#32
Old 04-20-2005, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat
Now, I don't doubt that some some dopers somewhere out there indeed can deposit cheques without signatures, but it seems to be rather odd that a bank would do so. What would be the difference between depositing such a cheque and cashing it?
What's already been discussed on this point goes beyond the anecdotal. See my link above. (I'm not going to rehash all this again here.) One difference, though, is that the bank knows the money is being put in the hand of the payee if it's deposited into his account, and that money isn't going anywhere further without a valid order from that payee. In other words, there still a paper trail for the bank to point to.

There isn't a paper trail if the bank hands over the money to some random person who presents an unsigned check for cashing.
#33
Old 04-20-2005, 04:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat
Now, I don't doubt that some some dopers somewhere out there indeed can deposit cheques without signatures, but it seems to be rather odd that a bank would do so. What would be the difference between depositing such a cheque and cashing it?
Depositing a check into an account increases that account. It's a completely safe transaction from the bank's point of view because even a false or forged check does no harm to that account. The only point of possible harm would come if and when somebody falsely tried to take the money out of that account.

Cashing a false or forged check on a particular account creates a possible liability for the bank and for that account. Even if no money is taken out, the chain of fraud leads back to that account and may create problems for it. Banks require proof of identity even for known depositors to limit liability.

I've also never seen a bank or credit union that would refuse to accept a check written For Deposit Only. Some other issue must have been involved.

I also don't think a wife is assumed to be a husband's agent or the reverse, in U.S. law. Too many people have separate accounts for that to be a valid assumption on the part of a bank.
#34
Old 04-20-2005, 04:30 PM
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I'm not sure I'm getting this... If say, I steal someone's chequebook, and write a cheque for any amount, deposit it without a signature, withdraw the money and run, what then?
#35
Old 04-20-2005, 04:42 PM
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You could only deposit the check into an account that bore the same name as the payee. If you forged a check, you would be committing forgery, and the check would not be properly payable, so the bank upon which the check was drawn would have to replenish the account. The bank that accepted the check over a forged drawer's signature would be liable to the bank that accepted the check because of some warranties made under the Uniform Commercial Code, and the bank would have a claim against you, assuming that it could find you. If caught, you would be convicted of larceny, fraud, and forgery, among other things.



This is a great article about how a modern teller might respond if you tried to exercise various rights afforded you under the UCC.

http://law2.byu.edu/lawreview/ar...1992/2/jen.pdf
#36
Old 04-20-2005, 05:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat
I'm not sure I'm getting this... If say, I steal someone's chequebook, and write a cheque for any amount, deposit it without a signature, withdraw the money and run, what then?
Are you talking about without the signature of the person who wrote the check, or without the signature of the person the check is made out to? If a check is made out to me, it can be deposited to an account in my name without my signature on the back.

If someone steals my checkbook, writes him/herself a check and tries to deposit it without a signature on the front, the bank probably won't accept the deposit. Some businesses stamp it "lack of signature guaranteed" so that the bank will aceept it. Assuming that you somehow get the bank to accept the check, the bank will hold the funds for some amount of time. You won't be able to withdraw the money immediately. Even if you wait until it clears, if you don't close the account altogether, the bank will just deduct that amount from your account when the check is returned unpaid.
#37
Old 04-20-2005, 05:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gfactor
You could only deposit the check into an account that bore the same name as the payee. If you forged a check, you would be committing forgery, and the check would not be properly payable, so the bank upon which the check was drawn would have to replenish the account. The bank that accepted the check over a forged drawer's signature would be liable to the bank that accepted the check because of some warranties made under the Uniform Commercial Code, and the bank would have a claim against you, assuming that it could find you. If caught, you would be convicted of larceny, fraud, and forgery, among other things.



This is a great article about how a modern teller might respond if you tried to exercise various rights afforded you under the UCC.

http://law2.byu.edu/lawreview/ar...1992/2/jen.pdf
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#38
Old 04-20-2005, 05:20 PM
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Wait, so what you're saying is that a cheque needs the signature of BOTH the payee AND the person who makes out the cheque (generally) to be deposited?

Whoa. Seems like there really are far more differences than a few extra "u"s.
#39
Old 04-20-2005, 08:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat
Wait, so what you're saying is that a cheque needs the signature of BOTH the payee AND the person who makes out the cheque (generally) to be deposited?

Whoa. Seems like there really are far more differences than a few extra "u"s.

You're surprised that a check needs a maker's signature?
#40
Old 04-20-2005, 08:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loopydude
Today my wife wanted to deposit a check, but as it was made out to me, it required my endorsement, which I had forgotten to provide. I told her over the phone to save another trip to the bank and just forge my signature. She insisted she could not. I figured forgery with permission must be legal, but she wasn't going to risk the wrath of the authorities.
Well, presuming she would have gotten caught, (which I doubt), would she have comitted some form of legal or ethical infraction by forging my signature on a check, even with my express permission and instruction?
Not likely to be a cause for concern IF the party issuing the check doesn't raise a question.
I assume that there is full trust and condidence between you and your spouse. If so get mutual full powers of attorney and you can then sign for each other legally. While you are at it get wills, living wills, and medical wills or instructions.
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#41
Old 04-20-2005, 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Random
You're surprised that a check needs a maker's signature?
Not at all. But people here seem to be saying that in order to deposit the cheque, a signature is needed as well, which I find very strange.
#42
Old 04-20-2005, 09:30 PM
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I don't know how legal it is, but I have to say that the day I actually sign one of my own tax returns, CCRA is going to be surprised.

(Actually, CCRA is simply not going to notice or care, just as they haven't noticed or cared that I haven't signed my own tax return, ever, but it's a far more amusing image to imagine them caring, calling out a forgery and finding out it was the first time it wasn't one.)
#43
Old 04-21-2005, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tabby_Cat
Now, I don't doubt that some some dopers somewhere out there indeed can deposit cheques without signatures, but it seems to be rather odd that a bank would do so. What would be the dfference between depositing such a cheque and cashing it?
Random already answered this quite well, but there's one more point. Bank of America, for example, put a three-day hold on the funds for a large check that I deposited once without endorsing it. Those three days gave them an opportunity to make sure the check was valid.

Bottom line: It's made out to me, and it's going into my bank account. Wire transfers go into my account without my signature. Why not checks?
#44
Old 10-13-2011, 06:09 PM
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What about....

What about if my parents said I could sign a form for them. It was a thing for being Drug Free. They said I could sooo??
#45
Old 10-13-2011, 06:24 PM
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As a general rule, you can pretty much sign anything for another person as "His name/XYZ" where "XYZ" are your initials. I'd very much doubt the bank would have a problem with that. But it's up to them, as they're the ones who would be on the hook if the signature is fake. The nearly sacrosanct rule of negotiable paper is that if there's a thief somewhere in the chain of possession, the person who deals with the thief is the one who bears the loss. In this case, that would be the bank.

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#46
Old 10-13-2011, 07:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CopperPennyBaby View Post
What about if my parents said I could sign a form for them. It was a thing for being Drug Free. They said I could sooo??
I assume this is something for school.
Your school probably wants your parents' signatures on the form to prove that you showed the form to them and that they agree to (or are at least aware of) the terms of the school's drug policy. Your signature on the form, even with their permission, would not establish this.

I also have questions about the validity of appointing a minor as a legal agent.

Things are probably different today, but back in my day (when we walked to school ten miles up hill barefoot in the snow both ways), even if a parent were foolish enough to grant such permission (which wasn't likely), getting caught signing your parents' names to a school form would have led to prompt expulsion.

Ask your principal if it would be OK with them. The school is free to make its own reasonable rules. If they say it's OK, then it's OK with us, too.
#47
Old 10-13-2011, 07:17 PM
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I once forged a document to the Medical Examiner's Office, asking that a suicide friend not be autopsied for (Jewish) religious reasons. The widow was almost completely incoherent that night, and the Rabbi and I proposed to her that it be done (GD not appropriate here). She agreed.

A year later she dragged my ass into court for this, that, and the other, and after $20,000 of lawyer time it was dismissed.
#48
Old 10-13-2011, 07:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Campion View Post
...
In other words, your wife was right.
I found this.

forgery.uslegal.com/elements-of-forgery/

Quote:
Originally Posted by USLegal
...
There can be no forgery where authority is given to sign the name of another to writing[xix]. Moreover, where one makes or alters an instrument in good faith, there can be no forgery[xx]
...
#49
Old 10-13-2011, 07:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Random View Post
I suppose I should be a bit more careful. I'm not recommending that anyone sign anyone else's name to anything without clear authority (preferably written) to do so. If the person who gives the authority later denies that he did so, you might have a problem. If he dies soon after, and his heirs don't like you, you might have a problem.

Also, I can't rule out the possibility that some odd jurisdiction defines forgery differently. Although IAAL, I'm probably not one in your state. I'm not your lawyer, and you're not my client. This is general information and not meant to be reliable legal advice. See a lawyer licensed in your state for that.
And also, it's possible that the rules making it legal to give someone permission to sign your name may only apply to checks, ordinary contracts, and other similar legal documents. If I authorize my brother to go to the DMV and sign a driver's license application in my name, that might still be illegal (though, possibly for a reason other than forgery).

Also, on many occasions, I've myself gotten checks that had an obviously machine-printed signature on them. Certainly that must have been authorized, and my bank didn't bat an eye regarding them.
#50
Old 10-13-2011, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Gfactor View Post
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