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Should I Initial Every Page when I Sign an Agreement?

Photo of hand holding a pen, symbolizing the decision to initial every page of an agreementWhen my European clients execute agreements, they routinely initial every page, usually at the bottom, in addition to signing at the signature blocks. Here in the U.S., I see that approach rarely; it is customary merely to sign at the signature blocks.

Several weeks ago I posted a LinkedIn question about this difference. [September 2013 update: Link to question no longer available because LinkedIn removed its Q&A feature.] Here are some of the insights that I gained from my colleagues:

  • The obvious reason to initial every page is make it difficult for a party to change the content of an agreement once it is signed. However, with widespread exchange of agreements as e-mail attachments and indefinite storage those e-mails, it usually is easy to reconstruct the final version of an agreement in just a few minutes.
  • In the U.S., it is common to initial every page of real property agreements and estate planning documents – perhaps because the likelihood of a dispute years later is relatively high.
  • Conversely, attorneys with securities or mergers and acquisitions practices, or other commercial practices with lengthy agreements, rely solely on signatures because clients do not want to waste the time required to initial every page.
  • Nowadays, some agreements are signed digitally, i.e., there is no human signature at all, let alone initials, on the document.

My conclusion: There are some types of agreements that should be initialed. However, in most business transactions, to initial every page is a waste of time.

Related post: How detailed should a legal document be?

Photo credit: Luiz Fernando Pilz via stock.xchng

Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law  +1 510 547-0545  dana [at] danashultz [dot] com

This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.