2020 Resolution: Date Documents With The Full Year

As we begin 2020 and many have committed to (and already broken?) New Year‘s resolutions, we recommend one that is easy to keep: when dating documents from now through December 31, use the full “2020” to denote the year, as opposed to just writing/typing "20".

Doing so will not only generate a sense of accomplishment for keeping at least ONE resolution by year's end, it may also protect you from potential fraud. Signing documents with an abbreviation (e.g. 1/20/20) may make them more susceptible for manipulation, resulting in a greater risk of the signer falling victim to deceptive practices. Consider the following scenarios:

-You write a personal check to your new boyfriend or girlfriend in the amount of $5,000 on February 14, 2020 as an intended "shopping spree" Valentines Day gift. You date the check 2/14/20. Several month pass --and you realize this is not the person you want to spend the rest of your life with-- so you part ways. If the check was not cashed within a reasonable time frame, it would not be honored by your bank so, no big deal. Fast forward to the year 2021 when your ex finds the check and decides to edit the date to 2/14/2021 (by tacking the final two digits onto the end of the date) so the bank will cash the check. Since the bank was unaware that the check was altered, you are now out $5,000 a full year after writing the check.

-You provide your shady landlord, with whom you've had several disputes, a document of notice for intent to vacate his property (i.e. You’re finally moving out!). You sign and date the document using the abbreviation 4/25/20. Now, assume the landlord refuses to return your security deposit, so you take him to small claims court. There, the landlord claims you overstayed your lease and remained on the property long after you informed him that you would vacate, which would allow him to retain the good faith deposit you paid in the beginning of your contract with him. He produces the document that you signed, but has altered the date to read 4/25/2019, thus “proving” that you stayed a full year after you told him of your intent to vacate. Assuming you did not keep a copy of the signed document, you will likely have a hard time proving the actual date on which you officially signed the notice. This may end up costing you your deposit, not to mention court costs.

While these scenarios may seem exaggerated, they both highlight how easily documents can be manipulated, especially this year. Clearly, in both scenarios writing out 2020 in reference to the date would have protected these documents and rendered them much harder to change.

The simple addition of a few pen strokes --by writing the full year of 2020 when dating documents-- can save you potential headaches, and maybe even considerable money, down the line. Also, it will give you added peace of mind that your documents are secure. This is one New Year's resolution that is definitely worth keeping.

About the Author(s)
Sarah Nicole Gaymon, CPA is a Senior Manager in the Tax Advisory Group at HBK CPAs & Consultants located in the West Palm Beach office, specializing in trusts and estates. Sarah’s background includes tax compliance and tax consulting for high net worth individuals, family groups, trusts, estates, and gift tax issues. Sarah aids her clients in the year-end planning process as well as assisting with family wealth, succession and estate planning. She also has experience in US planning and compliance related to foreign trusts, foreign estates, and individual foreign tax compliance and residency issues. Sarah has completed extensive research in the gift and estate tax area and has contributed to the publication of an international estate and gift tax planning handbook for the DFK group. She was also published in the Naples Daily News Estate Planning Insert for two consecutive years.
Hill, Barth & King LLC has prepared this material for informational purposes only. Any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or under any state or local tax law or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding the matter.