Checking your understanding
One of the essential requirements is that a person who is signing a document must understand the nature and effect of it. Generally this will mean you will need:
- to know what the document is intended to achieve; and
- to know what its contents are (and that they correctly record factual and other details); and
- to understand why the document is necessary (or why you need to sign it).
What I must do
I need to check whether you understand the document and whether are willing to sign it and be bound by it
How do I do this?
To make sure you understand what you are doing, before you sign a document, I need:
- to look through the document you wish to sign (so I know what you are supposed to understand);
- to ask you to provide a short (verbal) explanation as to what the document is intended to do or achieve;
- to note any particular points or things which are obviously wrong or need attention;
- to ask you questions based on the 3 points under the heading “Introduction”
- to ask whether you are willing to be bound by the document
What I am not trying to do (or will be doing)
When I check that you understand the document and that you are willing to sign, I will not be:
- providing legal advice as to the nature and effect on the document and whether it have the (legal) effect or result you are wishing to achieve. This is the job of others (such as the lawyer who is helping you).
- checking or determining whether the document is correct, complete or complies with any formalities for a document of that type.
There are a number of reasons why I will not be doing this. Primarily, because the document you will be signing is going to another country and I do not have the appropriate legal qualification for giving legal advice other than matters that affect the law of England and Wales.
When I look through a document if I spot anything which is obviously wrong I will bring this to your attention (such matters as whether your name is spelt correctly, or address details are correct).
Examples of what amounts to a client not understanding a document
The following (based on numerous real events) are examples of clients who have no understanding of what they are doing:
- a client not reading the document at all
- a client not being willing to read the document
- a client not caring what the document contains because they have no choice or it is not important what the document contains
- after reading the document, a client continuing to believe it is intended to do so something else
- a document containing incorrect or false details (and the client does not wish to change them)
- a client not wanting to read the document or me or the client spending any time on the matters mentioned on this page because the client does not want to the time spent or to pay for it