Understanding the Proper Execution of Property Deeds: A Guide for Everyone 


When dealing with property transactions, one of the most important steps is the execution, or signing, of deeds. This process can seem daunting, but it’s simpler than you might think. Here, we’ll explain the various methods of executing deeds to ensure your property dealings are legally sound. 

What is a Deed? 

A deed is a legal document that’s used in property transactions. It’s a formal statement of intent or an agreement, especially relating to property or land. The way a deed is signed and witnessed is crucial to its validity. 

Methods of Executing a Deed 

Individuals Signing: If you’re an individual signing a deed, your signature must be witnessed. The witness should be present when you sign and must then add their signature to the document as well. 

Companies Signing: Companies can execute deeds in several ways. One common method is by affixing the company’s seal to the deed. Alternatively, two authorised signatories (like directors, or a director and a company secretary) can sign on behalf of the company. 

Partnerships: In the case of partnerships, the signing process depends on the nature of the partnership. Typically, a partner or partners who are authorised to sign on behalf of the partnership would execute the deed. 

Electronic Signatures: With advancements in technology, electronic signatures are increasingly accepted for executing deeds. However, the same principles of witnessing apply, and electronic signatures must adhere to specific legal standards to be valid. 

Witnessing the Signature 

The role of a witness is to confirm that the correct person has signed the deed. The witness should be over 18 years old and not a party to the deed. They must physically observe the signing and then sign the deed themselves, adding their name and address. 

Who can be a witness? 

A witness should have clear mental capacity to understand the act of witnessing a signature. The age and mental fitness requirement should mean that the witness understands the nature and significance of the document they are validating (although they do not need to, and are not entitled to, know its contents). 

While it’s common to think of family members, including spouses, as convenient witnesses, it’s important to consider the aspect of impartiality. An ideal witness is someone who is not directly involved in the document’s contents and does not stand to benefit from it. This impartiality helps in maintaining the document’s credibility, especially in cases where the legality of the document might be questioned. 

The witness needs to be physically present at the time of signing or to follow the rules for remote (sometimes called Mercury) execution or some other method of digital witnessing. They must witness the act of signing, ensuring that the signature is authentic and willingly given.  

The credibility of a witness is another important consideration. Choosing someone with a stable background and no history of legal issues can be beneficial, particularly if the validity of the witness’s signature is ever scrutinised. This is where professional witnesses, like solicitors or notaries, often come into play. Their involvement as witnesses adds a layer of formality and trust to the document, particularly for those with significant legal implications. 

In property transactions, where the stakes are high, the choice of a witness becomes even more critical. While family members, including spouses, can legally act as witnesses, it is often advisable to choose someone outside the immediate family. This approach minimises any appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest, preserving the integrity of the transaction. 

Electronic Execution 

Oh, all right, we have to modernise ourselves, and the way we sign important documents is evolving with the times. Traditionally, the signature process required a physical pen-and-paper signature, often witnessed in person. However, with advancements in technology, electronic signatures are becoming increasingly accepted and popular. 

An electronic signature is essentially a digital version of a traditional signature. It can be as simple as typing your name into a document, using a mouse or a touchscreen to draw your signature, or using more advanced methods that provide additional security features. 

Here’s how it typically works: 

Receiving the Document: Instead of receiving a physical paper document, you’ll get an electronic version, usually via email. 

Signing Digitally: You can then sign this document using a digital tool. This might involve typing your name, using a stylus or your finger to draw your signature on a touchscreen, or clicking a button to insert a pre-made digital signature. 

Witnessing: Just like with traditional signatures, some documents still require a witness. The witness will observe the signing (this can also be done electronically) and then add their signature as well. 

Finalising the Process: After signing, you’ll typically email the signed document back to the solicitor or relevant party. In some cases, the whole process can be completed within a dedicated digital signing platform, which manages and records these steps for legal compliance. 

The acceptance of electronic signatures is a significant step towards streamlining legal processes. It offers convenience, especially in situations where it’s difficult to meet in person or when parties are in different locations. However, it’s important to ensure that the method of electronic signing used is compliant with legal standards, especially in property transactions where the accuracy and security of document execution are paramount. 

For property buyers or sellers, this means a simpler, faster process without the need for physical meetings for every signature. It’s a part of how the legal world is adapting to our increasingly digital lives, making legal processes more accessible and efficient. 

Remember, when in doubt or if you have any questions about the process or its security, it’s always a good idea to consult with your solicitor or legal advisor. They can guide you through the process and ensure everything is done correctly and securely. 

Why Proper Execution Matters 

Executing a deed correctly is crucial. It ensures the document is legally binding and enforceable. Incorrectly executed deeds can lead to disputes, legal challenges, and potentially invalidate the agreement. 

Understanding the proper execution of deeds is a critical part of property transactions. While the process is straightforward, it’s vital to get it right to ensure everything is legally binding and runs smoothly. At Newport Land and Law, we have a dedicated team ready to assist you through every step of signing your paperwork. Our experts are here to guide you, ensuring that your property dealings are executed correctly and efficiently, giving you peace of mind. So, whether you’re buying, selling, or involved in any property transaction, you can rely on our professional support for a hassle-free experience. 

For further technical information in respect of the execution of documents please see Practice Guide 8 and Practice Guide 82.  

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