New Year - but can I back-date?

As contracts and professional appointments, sent out for signature last year, start to make their return to the office we find ourselves making sure, when dating the documents, that we date them 2012 and not 2011! When it comes to dating documents the distinction is a fairly important one and raised an issue that often crops up.

For one reason or another, professional appointments do not always get signed straightaway and time can lapse from when the work commenced to when the appointment was signed.  Consultants will often ask - can we backdate the appointment?

The date of a document is normally the date from which the parties have agreed to be bound.  As such, it should reflect accurately the date on which the parties signed it, or if signing on different dates, the date the last signature was added.  There are very few occasions where backdating a document may be permitted and documents should only be backdated if it can truthfully be said that the parties intended to be bound on the stated date, but for practical reasons did not sign the contract until later.  Cases where this apply will be rare but an example might be where an original contract is signed and then lost with a replacement being signed later.

A deed on the other hand should never be backdated.  Remember a deed must be in writing and as such the legal obligations created in a deed can only come into effect on (or after) the date of execution.

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