Legal Requirements for Signing an Agreement

by Mary Jane ; Updated July 27, 2017
Signers must be mentally competent to sign the agreement.

An agreement is a legal binding contract that presents a list of terms and conditions of the agreement. Each person bound in the agreement must sign it at the end to signal they understand the requirements and expectations of being part of the agreement. This can include performing work tasks or a consulting job, for example.

Understanding

Both parties must fully understand everything listed in the agreement. This includes the fine print, the contract clauses and the terms and conditions presented within. If one of the signers does not understand the content within the agreement, he should not sign it. Rather, he should ask a lawyer to read it over with him, so he understands the legal ramifications of signing the agreement.

Capacity

Both signers must also have the capacity to sign an agreement. This means that both individuals must be mentally competent, while understanding the ramifications of signing. Another legal matter is the maturity of the signing parties. Both parties must be of legal signing age, which is usually 18 years of age. If the individual is younger, a parent or guardian must step in to sign on behalf of the minor.

Voluntary Signing

No person can legally be forced to sign an agreement or contract. The signing must be voluntary. This means that no person can be forced, tricked or duped into an agreement he must adhere to. If this occurs, the contract cannot be used to enforce the terms and agreements. The agreement is often voided or labelled unenforceable. This is where a witness plays a role.

Witness

Although it is not a legal requirement, some people prefer having a witness present when both parties sign the agreement. The witness must also sign the agreement, stating that she was a witness to the signing of the parties. The role of the witness is to prove that both parties signed voluntarily and without force. If the parties end up in legal action due to a broken agreement in a he-said she-said debate, the witness must testify that both parties agreed to the agreement with the given terms and conditions.

About the Author

Based in Toronto, Mary Jane has been writing for online magazines and databases since 2002. Her articles have appeared on the Simon & Schuster website and she received an editor's choice award in 2009. She holds a Master of Arts in psychology of language use from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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