Legal Q&A: Name and Signature Inconsistency in Documentation
Banks should consider document type, purpose, relevant issues
By Scott Birrenkott
Q: What name should banks use for customers when completing documents?
A: The name that should appear, and be signed, on documents depends on a few things. Primarily, the type of documents being signed, the purpose for which the customer’s name is appearing, and any relevant rules.
Typically, a customer has a single, consistent name which will appear on documents, disclosures, and other communications and match their signature. However, there are situations where this is not the case. A customer might use inconsistent capitalization, or go by different names, such as a “nickname,” or perhaps use their middle initial in some situations, or a “Jr.” or “Sr.” designation. There may also be situations where a customer changes their name, either because of a marriage, or other situation — such as a change in identity or gender transition — and a change from an individual’s “deadname.”
Banks should consider how various types of documentation can be affected. For example, if opening a checking account, the specimen signature is important to verifying transactions on the account. If a customer provides a specimen signature which does not match the signature they intend to use on checks, that can result in a question as to whether certain items are authorized. For this reason, the signature card should match the name the customer intends to use when authorizing transactions and should be updated if a change occurs.
When entering into a contract, best practice would be using the customer’s legal name, as provided by customer. The customer should sign in a manner by which they intend to be bound. There are no specific standards for a signature, other than that it reflects the party’s intent to be bound. For example, a customer might sign in a manner different from the way their name otherwise appears on documentation, such as whether they use a middle initial in their signature or not. Or how they capitalize their signature, or whether they are able to sign their name at all and perhaps can only make a mark or symbol such as a checkmark or “X.”
Banks must consider whether the documents properly identify its customer, and whether the signature affixed to the document reflects a valid contract. In this regard, it is ultimately a matter of policy and preference, but a best practice recommendation would be for the bank to be consistent in how the name appears throughout all the documentation, and the signature itself.
However, when it comes to Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) financing statements, there are specific rules which must be followed. This article does not delve into the specifics, but banks should consider that for filing UCC financing statements, the filing should reflect the debtor’s exact name as required by Wis. Stat. section 409.503.
For any questions regarding customer names, accuracy of UCC financing statements, or other topics, contact WBA legal. Additional compliance resources can be found at wisbank.com/resources/compliance.