After reading this post, I realized that a significant percentage of my friends and family could go to prison for forgery. Many couples I know sign one another's names all the time, including on the backs of checks. My wife and I have given one another blanket permission to sign for one another, and I know many other people with a similar understanding.

In the United States, is it in fact illegal to sign someone else's signature on the back of a check if one has permission to do so? How about signing my wife's signature on our IRS forms?

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    I don't think we can fully answer you question on this forum because the likelihood of being prosecuted for a particular crime is an opinion and does not call for an answer that involves the law. Check out this post from the Stack Exchange folks: blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/01/real-questions-have-answers – Mr_V Aug 5 '16 at 17:05
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    @Mr_V: Thank you for your comment. I have changed the question at the end of my post to hopefully make it more answerable. – James Aug 5 '16 at 17:12
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    Good edit! If you list a particular state/jurisdiction and clarified what you mean by official document, that would make it easier for us to give you a precise answer. For example, the law looks at checks differently than a permission slip for school field trip. – Mr_V Aug 5 '16 at 17:33
  • Good question; presumably the legions of administrative assistants with pdf copies of executive signatures are not committing fraud wholesale. – user662852 Aug 6 '16 at 2:04

Take the laws of Washington to be typical. RCW 9A.60.010 defines crucial terms:

To "falsely complete" a written instrument means to transform an incomplete written instrument into a complete one by adding or inserting matter, without the authority of anyone entitled to grant it;


"Forged instrument" means a written instrument which has been falsely made, completed, or altered

Forgery then requires a bad intent:

(1) A person is guilty of forgery if, with intent to injure or defraud:


(a) He or she falsely makes, completes, or alters a written instrument or;

(b) He or she possesses, utters, offers, disposes of, or puts off as true a written instrument which he or she knows to be forged.

In the scenario described, there is no intent to injure of defraud, and furthermore the document is not forged, because a forged document is one made / completed without authorization.

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    @Mr_V: Just curious, would it be fraud against the bank if the bank isn't harmed by the faked signature? – James Aug 5 '16 at 17:39
  • Why would you think that signing on behalf of a customer constitutes fraud? What makes you say that they "think" anything about signatures on checks? – user6726 Aug 5 '16 at 17:40
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    @Mr_V - Nothing in what you describe invalidates this answer, nor constitutes an exception. Look at the canonical answers to signature. The only exception I can imagine to this answer would be a statement signed under penalty of perjury in which one of the affirmations made in the statement is that the signature is being applied by the person named. – feetwet Aug 5 '16 at 18:28

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