SIGNATURES ON DEEDS

Mass. Gen. L. c. 4, §7 (Clause 38) provides that if "the written signature of a person is required by law, it shall always be his own handwriting or, if he is unable to write, his mark."  Despite the provisions of this statute, Massachusetts courts have held that a third-party may sign a deed in the grantor's name, if this act of "forgery" is authorized by the grantor and undertaken in the grantor's presence.

Finnegan v. Lucy, 157 Mass. 439 (1892) involved a dispute over the validity of a legal notice bearing the plaintiff's name, but signed by another person at her request and in her presence.  The court found that despite the wording of Mass. Gen. L. c. 4, §7 (Clause 38), the statute was not enacted to prohibit this method of execution.  "But, in giving a construction to a rule of this description, regard must be paid to the state of the law in respect to signatures, as it was at the time the rule was enacted, and to the usages which then prevailed.  It was and still is very generally held that, when a document is required by common law or by statute to be 'signed' by a person, a signature of his name, in his own proper or personal handwriting, is not required."  Based on these principles, the court ruled that a deed signed with the grantor's name in his or her presence and at his or her request, even though actually executed by a stranger, is sufficiently well executed.  See also Omaha Flour Mills Co. v. Santarpio, 240 Mass. 375 (1922).

Massachusetts courts have also held that a third-party's execution of a deed or other instrument may be authorized even if the act of forgery was not authorized by the grantor at the time of execution, if the grantor later ratifies the instrument.  See Bartlett v. Drake, 100 Mass. 174 (1868); and Bartlett v. Tucker, 104 Mass. 336 (1870).