Suppose you are asked to sign a document (a will, marriage certificate, deed poll, etc.) as a witness. You secretly disapprove of the thing taking place and therefore attempt to sabotage the document by signing incorrectly: for example, not using your proper signature, or using a fake name (if they don't know your name -- e.g. pulled off the street to witness a marriage).

Does this actually invalidate the document (as not properly witnessed)? And are you committing a crime by doing it?

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    In what jurisdiction, please? Different places in the world have different laws. Please add this to the text of your question, and add an appropriate tag as well. (And welcome to the site! It's an interesting question.) Commented Oct 7, 2018 at 22:48
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    If you don't agree with it, don't sign it. Refusing to sign is not a crime, signing it fraudulently may be, so why expose yourself?
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 4:13
  • @RonBeyer: Remember, I want to sabotage the document, therefore it might make sense for me to deliberately leave them with an invalid document (which they think is properly signed, but isn't). I can't achieve that by merely refusing to sign.
    – equin0x80
    Commented Mar 6, 2020 at 23:17
  • Falsifying a legal document is a crime, what does it buy you to make them think it's legitimate, versus not signing it at all?
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Mar 7, 2020 at 0:27
  • @RonBeyer: If having a document signed by witnesses didn't matter then nobody would bother doing it, or finding witnesses. The point here is trying to fulfil the witness criterion in a broken way. Sure it's crime, people sometimes commit crimes, you speak as though there's some sort of inherent impossibility about breaking the law!
    – equin0x80
    Commented Mar 8, 2020 at 0:05

1 Answer 1


as a witness. You secretly disapprove of the thing taking place

Does this actually invalidate the document (as not properly witnessed)?

No. In regard to the substance of a contract, witnessing does not imply, entail, or require approval thereof by the witness. The meaning or relevance of a witness's signature is nothing more than him or her certifying that the act of "2+ other parties entering a contract" took place indeed.

And are you committing a crime by doing it?

I highly doubt it, regardless the country or jurisdiction. The witness's [bizarre] act of acquiescence falls short of criminal conduct such as (1) forging someone else's signature, or (2) fraudulently "acknowledging" the presence of the contracting parties when in fact at least one of them was totally absent.

Only if the witness subsequently acts in a way that hinders the purposes of the contract, thereby causing harm, the harmed party(-ies) might sue the witness for tortious interference with business or relation (or its equivalent in other non-U.S. jurisdictions).

For instance, suppose a contract-based transaction requires involvement by a third party, who is hesitant to perform the transaction because suspects that the witness's signature was forged. That suspicion may prompt the third party to inquire of the witness whether he actually signed as witness to the contract. If the third party rejects the contract-related transaction due to the witness's [false] denial, the harmed party(-ies) in the contract may sue the witness for any losses (examples: bounced checks, costly delays, missing of deadlines, provable loss of business opportunities) that his false denial caused.

  • Just to add, for this effort to have an impact, the witness would likely have to commit fraud by stating that this was not his or her signature when it was in fact his signature. Also, the notarization (if any) would afford the signature of the witness presumptive validity regardless of what name was written.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 18:24

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