What Is a Countersignature?

A countersignature is an additional signature added to a document that has already been signed. The countersignature serves to provide confirmation of the document's authenticity. In most cases, countersignatures are provided by an official or professional, such as a doctor, an attorney, a notary or a religious leader.

A countersignature is undertaken to certify that the action or provisions in the document have been approved by both the signer and the other party in question. When two parties sign a contract, the first party will sign, then the second party will countersign to confirm their agreement with the contract.

Most legal documents need to be signed and countersigned. But the signatures only apply to what's in the contract at the time of the signing. Amendments to a contract that are added later have to be signed and countersigned as well, or they may not hold up legally.

Understanding Countersignature

Countersignatures are prevalent in many types of business transactions. Most formal agreements or contracts between two parties will have two signatures on them. The first party reads the document and signs it if they agree to the terms of the agreement, the second party then countersigns the document by providing their signature confirming their agreement with the terms of the contract.

Countersignatures are required on many different types of documents. Some countries require countersignatures on passports, such as in the U.K. Many types of domestic health and legal documents require countersignatures as well. Rental agreements for homes usually require countersignatures. Mortgage paperwork often requires countersignatures in various situations.

Key Takeaways

  • A countersignature is an additional signature added to a document that has already been signed.
  • The countersignature serves to authenticate the document, or in the case of a check, to deposit or cash it.
  • Countersignatures are often required on rental and mortgage applications, health documents, and passports and visas in certain countries.
  • Countersignatures can be provided by the other party in a deal, by accountants, lawyers, notaries, doctors, religious leaders or other professionals.

Countersignature Example

For example, if XYZ Company wants to buy 1,000 widgets from ABC Widget & Co. there might be a written contract detailing the method of delivery and any maintenance package offered by ABC Widget & Co. to help their client maintain their widgets throughout their useful life. After the contract is drawn up, a representative from XYZ Company would sign it. After XYZ Company's representative signs the document, the representative from ABC Widget & Co. would then countersign the document, sealing the deal.

Most legal documents require multiple signatures, including most housing documents. For example, if an individual wants to sign a lease for an apartment with a rental agency, but doesn't earn enough or have good enough credit, he might need a guarantor—someone who earns more money and has better credit who can co-sign a lease or vouch for the renter. In this case, the renter would sign the lease, the guarantor would co-sign or countersign the lease, and the building owner would then countersign the lease, making it official.