Once a contract is signed can it be changed?

Once a contract is signed can it be changed?

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So you’ve realised too late that you need to make amendments to a signed contract. Don’t panic, it happens! But now you’re wondering, once a contract is signed, can it be changed?

Understanding the dynamics of altering a contract, whether before or after signing, is a common challenge that many individuals and businesses face. So, what do you do when you need to make changes to an electronically signed contract? Let’s dive into the intricacies of contract modifications and how you can navigate through them.

Can a contract be changed after signing?

In short – yes it can! 

As a contract exists as a legally binding agreement between interested parties, it can be legally modified after being signed. But this happens only with the agreement of all the parties and by adding an extra section, called a ‘rider’.

With electronic signatures, it works a little differently, but you can still achieve the same outcome. If a contract has been signed electronically via eSignature software and amendments are required after the fact, that contract must be formally terminated and a new one must be made and re-sent to all parties. 

If consent among all parties has not occurred, then it is illegal to alter a signed contract. Most of the time, however, a contract will include how to change, extend, or terminate itself as standard practice.

Can you change a contract before signing?

If you need to make changes to an unsigned contract, this process is fairly straightforward. 

For a contract that has not yet been sent, simply add any amendments necessary whilst the contract is in draft before sending a final version to all parties for review. 

With electronic signing software, if your contract has been sent but not yet signed by any party, it can be retracted and cancelled. 

How to get out of a contract if you change your mind

So what if you simply change your mind after signing a contract? Requesting the termination of a signed contract for no other reason than you’ve simply had a change of heart can be a tricky situation. However, there are strategies and considerations that can help you navigate through the process of extricating yourself from a binding agreement.

Have a conversation

Depending on the nature of your contract, and your relationship with the sender, you may be able to get out of your contract without penalties simply by having an open and honest discussion. Don’t count on this working for all signed contracts though – your energy company for example is unlikely to let you off that easily! 

Read the terms and conditions

Most contracts have a clause telling you what to do if one of the parties wishes to terminate it. Depending on the type of contract you might also have an “express right to terminate” clause or a cooling off period so be sure to read the small print for anything that could help you here. In the UK, consumers have 14 days to cancel a contract under the Consumer Contracts Regulations and the Consumer Credit Act.

Make sure you haven’t signed based on a mistake

You might be able to get out of a contract if you and the other party believed something to be true which turns out not to be. For example, say you bought a diamond ring believing it to be of the highest clarity but it turns out to be a fake and the seller themself was not aware. As both parties believed the product to be real and of higher value, you would no longer be obligated to go through with the contract and it would be terminated with no penalties on either side. This is called “rescission” based on “innocent misrepresentation”. 

Ensure the contract is valid

It goes without saying that the contract you sign should be legally valid. Your agreement should have been given with full consent, and all the terms of the contract should be clear.

What would make a signed contract invalid?

Understanding the elements that can invalidate a contract is crucial. Identifying these aspects early on can provide insights into the possibilities of modifying or terminating the agreement.

  • Forged signature – Forgery is a serious offence and can cause a contract to be null and void. If you suspect a forged signature, legal action may be necessary. Take a look at our dedicated blog post on what to do if you think your signature has been forged. 
  • Illegal subject matter – Contracts that involve illegal activities or subject matter are not enforceable. 
  • Ambiguity – Ambiguous language in a contract can lead to misunderstandings. Addressing unclear clauses is essential to ensure both parties are on the same page.
  • Contracts formed under duress – Contracts signed under duress, coercion, or pressure are not legally binding. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking legal advice is advisable.
  • Lack of capacity to enter into a contract – Certain individuals, like minors or those lacking mental capacity, may not be legally capable of entering into a contract.

How to rescind your signature from a signed contract

The surest way to retract your signature from a signed contract is to have it terminated. This goes back to having a potentially awkward conversation with the sender. To avoid these types of situations, here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to sending contracts:

✓ Do make all the changes to your contract before sending it

✓ Do always send off the complete and final draft

✓ Do terminate a contract electronically if it is both signed and incorrect

✓ Do always communicate with all the parties involved about any and all changes to the contract

Χ Do not try to amend a contract online after it has been signed

Χ Do not make changes without receiving the official and written agreement from signers

Final thoughts

Amending contracts is never an easy task but following these simple steps when modifying your contract electronically will help to keep you on track. Keeping your contracts lawful is always important and so if you’re unsure on the best approach for your situation, it’s advisable to reach out to a legal professional. 

Send contracts with Signable

If you’re ready to embrace electronic contracts, sign up for a 14-day free trial with Signable and start sending contracts today.

Legal disclaimer

The above information is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal advice. If you wish to confirm the validity and legality of electronic signatures and contracts in your country of residence, you should seek professional legal advice.