Initialling a document means to add in the initials of one or all of the parties at the end of each page or on certain pages of the document. Initials on a document are representative of the signing parties’ consent to the content on the page they have initialled.

What Does It Look Like?

The initial is a marking on the end of the page. For physical documentation, it is done by ink. Much like a signature, the initial is not something generic but rather, exclusive to the individual using it. 

It’s a small personalisation to acknowledge you have read the page and agreed to the terms on it.

Am I Legally Required To Initial My Contracts?

Initialling the pages is not a legal requirement. Initialling is done by contractors as it can have a number of benefits which are discussed below. Namely, it can help with ensuring the documents legal validity is intact.

Signing each page (or selected pages) prevents anyone from replacing those pages with other terms. In other words, it clarifies that these were the terms that were agreed to, and any page that isn’t initialled was not validly signed. 

Additionally, it is also a secure way to ensure all signees of a contract have agreed to any new terms or adjustments made to a contract in the event of changes being made to a document. This may have been a common case for businesses during the peak of COVID. 

Initialling pages is a useful mechanism but in Australia, it is by no means legally required.  

Why Do We Initial Documents?

People may initial documents for different reasons. However, a common reason is where the contract is subject to change. 

Parties may initial certain pages of a document for additional security. This way, in case someone changes those details or terms in the contract, you can refer to those pages as the original document or before those changes were made. 

Put simply, it can be used as a way to confirm the original terms of the agreement in the potential event that someone tries to change or alter those terms. 

Another reason is to mark the important pages of a contract. So, if there are a few pages with the key details that need to be highlighted for parties, you may choose to initial those pages for reference later on. 

When Would I Need To Initial A Contract?

Formal contracts are written contracts that explicitly state the duties and obligations of two or more parties to one another. 

You may choose to initial a contract if you are a contractor and wish to add more security to your agreement. 

Not every contract uses the system of initialling their pages. However, there are some instances where it can be advised to do so.

Let’s go through these in detail.

On Important Pages

Contractors may choose to have their documents initialled at certain pages only. For long contracts where only a few pages contain the ‘main information’ this approach may be used. In some instances, agreements may not have initials on all pages.

For example, a Commercial Tenancy Agreement may have a long number of pages in the agreement. However, only a few selected pages (usually the most important ones) will require an initial (to clarify its enforceability). 

Therefore, instead of initialling all the pages in a contract, some contractors may decide to just have the most important pages initialled.

When Changes Have Been Made To The Contract

In some contracts, crucial changes are made to the document after they have been drafted and viewed by the parties but before they have been signed on. In the instances of changes being made to a contract, having initialled pages can avoid back and forth or confusion regarding the final agreed terms.

Let’s say Andy has agreed to work for 3 days for $1,500, but suddenly negotiates an increase in their pay rate prior to signing the final agreement. He decides he wants to be paid $,1800 instead. This is where initialling document pages could come in handy. 

Once the page or pages stating the price changes are adjusted, it’s best to have a signature so later on, neither one of the parties can backtrack on the changes that were made to the initial agreement.

At What Point Do I Initial My Contracts?

There is no hard and fast rule on when to initial your contracts. It is not necessarily something you need to have done at the beginning of your contract, but as you go along or make adjustments, it’s a useful tool to keep in mind. 

Do I Need To Initial Every Page?

No, not every page needs to be initialled. Certainly, you can initial every page if you have decided this is the best course of action to take, but there is no obligation.

Initialling can be done to some of the more important pages on a document or pages where changes have been made. This can aid in guaranteeing all signing parties have the same understanding regarding the final terms.

Is It Legally Binding?

Initialling a document is generally not legally binding. This may vary depending on jurisdiction. However, in Australia, initialling a document is usually not enough for it to be considered legally binding.

Initials, however, can demonstrate intent. Overall, the legality of the initial will depend on the type of contract, circumstances and other variables. When it comes to contracts and their precedents, there’s multiple variables that need to be considered.

As a general rule, a contractor and a signee should aim to have a formal signature at the end of their agreement whether or not they have initialled the pages of the document.

Is Initialling Considered The Same As Signing The Document?

No, initialling the pages does not equate to signing the contract. At the end of each contract, there will be an option to formally sign the contract. That is the signature which will legally bind you and any other parties to the contract.

However, if you find yourself in court, initials on a document may be used as evidence to prove that you understood the terms of  the agreement and agreed to those terms even in the absence of a formal signature. So, it’s still worth considering the effects of initialling a document in Australia. 

Can I Initial Documents/Contracts Online?

Yes! In fact, electronic signatures are growing in popularity for their ease, convenience and security. Electronic signatures are much harder to tamper with and thus, the legal validity of the document remains intact. With a Sprintlaw Membership, you can have unlimited access to our e-signature tool for all your documents.

Key Takeaways

The choice to initial documentation is up to the creators of the agreement.

Documents do not need to contain initials, although the option is always there if you want to guarantee some extra security for those important agreements. As someone who’s creating a contract, you may consider initialling a few pages or all of them. 

It’s always best to discuss this option with an expert lawyer when drafting a contract.

If you would like to look further into having initials on your documents, our legal team is available to discuss this with you. 

If you would like a consultation on initialing a document, you can reach us at 1800 730 617 or for a free, no-obligations chat.

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