Mercury signing

3 min read
Mercury Signing your legal documents with Parachute Law Solicitors

Mercury signing refers to the use of digital signatures in virtual signings or closings.

Back in 2008 there was a legal case between Mercury Tax Group and HMRC. Following the high court ruling, The Law Society issued some practise notes on the execution of documents by virtual means. They were first published in 2008, then updated in 2016 and in 2020 to account for the new circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic.

There are 3 options concerning virtual signing:
    returning by e-mail the entire document and the signed signature page
    returning by e-mail only the signed signature page
    creating a pre-signed signature page in advance of finalising the document

Option 1 is the only form of mercury signing acceptable in executing deeds or real estate contracts. Options 1, 2 & 3 are acceptable in signing stand alone guarantees or guarantees contained in simple contracts, and simple contracts not incorporating deeds or real estate contracts.

For any of the options it is important to have prior approval and cooperation of all parties. Particular attention should be paid to any documents which must be presented to a notary and sent overseas.

Parachute Law currently uses mercury signing option 3 for our independent legal advice certificates in respect of director's personal guarantees.

As with all of our clients and transactions we take every reasonable precaution to verify the identity of all signees and ensure that they are not under duress or coercion to sign. Our virtual meetings are recorded.

Can deeds be signed electronically UK?

Currently HM Land Registry accept deeds executed by mercury signing option 1. They give an eight step process using a transfer as example. These steps apply similarly to other dispositionary deeds.

    Final agreed copies of the transfer are emailed to each party by their conveyancer
    Each party prints the signature page only.
    Each party signs the signature page in the physical presence of a witness.
    The witness signs the signature page.
    Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which are attached the final agreed copy of the transfer (see STEP 1) and a PDF/JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page.
    The conveyancing transaction is completed.
    The conveyancer applies to register the disposition and includes with the application the final agreed copy of the transfer and the signed signature page or pages in the form of a single document.
    The application is processed by HM Land Registry following standard operating procedure.

You can read HM Land Registry's practise on Mercury signing at GOV.UK

Who can be a witness to a deed?

You must sign your deed in the presence of a physical witness. This can be any person over the age of 18, who is not related to the signee or a party to the deed.

In order to comply with social distancing requirements, consider witnessing through a closed window, or outside in open space, at a safe distance. If you are witnessing the signee at a distance, collect video evidence of your witnessing the signature (subject to obtaining data protection rights consents from parties captured in video).

Frequently Asked Questions

According to HM Land Registry's Practise guide 8:
"A deed may be validly executed by an individual if it is signed at their direction and in their presence and the presence of 2 witnesses who each attest the signature (section 1(3)(a)(ii) of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989)."

You can find in depth FAQ's regarding witnessing, methods of electronic signature and more at The Law Society

Need an electronically signed deed?

We carry out all our meetings by video conferencing and ensure signatures are compliant with HM Land Registry's practise notes and the law.

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