Acknowledgment in United Kingdom

Definition of Acknowledgment

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Acknowledgment :

  • The admission that a debt is due or a claim exists. Under the Limitation Act 1980, a written acknowledgment by a debtor or his agent causes the debt to be treated as if it had accrued on the date of the acknowledgment, provided that the limitation period is still current at that date. The result is that the limitation period of six years for bringing an action to recover the debt runs from the date of acknowledgment, rather than the date on which the debt in fact arose. See also limitation of actions.
  • Confirmation by the signatory to a document that the signature on the document is his ow For example, the Wills Act 1837 requires that the testator’s signature on the will be made or acknowledged in the presence of at least two witnesses present at the same time. Since January 1983 it has also been possible for a witness to acknowledge his signature in the presence of the testator.

Meaning of Acknowledgment

The following is an old definition of Acknowledgment [1]: Owning to; avowal, admission. 1. A statement by a debtor that a claim, barred by the statute of limitations, is still a valid obligation. Takes the case out of the statute, and revives the original cause of action. An acknowledgment which will revive the original cause of action must be unqualified and unconditional. It must show positively that the debt is due in whole or in part. If connected with circumstances which affect the claim, or if conditional, it may amount to a new assumption for which the old debt is a sufficient consideration; or if it be construed to revive the original debt, that revival is conditional, and the performance of the condition, or a readiness to perform it, must be shown. A new promise, as a new cause of action, ought to be proved in a clear and explicit manner, and be in its terms unequivocal and determinate; and, if any conditions are annexed, they ought to be shown to be performed.

If there be no express promise, but a promise to be raised by implication of law from the acknowledgment of the party, such acknowledgment ought to contain an unqualified and direct admission of a subsisting debt, which the party is liable and willing to pay. If there be accompanying circumstances which repel the presumption of a promise or intention to pay; if the expressions be equivocal, vague, and Indeterminate, leading to no certain conclusion, but at best to probable inferences, which may affect different minus in different ways, this ought not to go to a jury as evidence of a new promise to revive the cause of action.

Any other course would open up all the mischiefs against which the statute was intended to guard innocent persons, and expose them to the dangers of being entrapped in careless conversations, and betrayed by prejudices. It may be that in this manner an honest debt may sometimes be lost, but many misfounded recoveries will be prevented. No case has gone the length of saying that there must be an express promise to pay in terms. A clear, distinct, unequivocal acknowledgment of a debt as an existing obligation, identifying it so that there can be no mistake as to what it refers to, made to a creditor or his agent, takes a case out of the statute. “I will pay the debt as soon as possible” constitutes a new and sufficient acknowledgment. Acknowledgment does not necessarily imply words. See further New Promise.

The act of a grantor in going before a competent officer and declaring that thee instrument he produces is his act and deed. Also, the official certificate that such declaration was made. The acknowledgment or the proof which may authorize the admission of a deed to record, and the recording thereof, are provisions for the security of creditors and purchases. They are essential to the validity of the deed as to those persons, not as to the grantor. An acknowledgment, regular on its face, makes the instrument evidence, without further proof, and fits it for being recorded. The exact words of the statute need not be followed: it is sufficient if the meaning be clearly and fully expressed.

In the case of a wife, the certificate must show that she was examined separate and apart from her husband; that she was of full age; that the contents of the deed were first made known to her; and that she acted of her own free will. Otherwise, although recorded, her acknowledgment constitutes neither a record nor notice. Conveyance of the estates of married women by deed, with separate examination and acknowledgment, has taken the place of the alienation of such estates by ” fine ” in a court of record under the law of England. For fraud in levying a fine, the court of chancery would grant relief, as in the case of any other conveyance. And so now, her deed of conveyance does not bind her if her acknowledgment was obtained by fraud or duress, or if, by reason of infancy or insanity, she was not competent to make the contract. Statute of 18 Edw. L (1290) enacted that if a feme covert should be a party to a fine, she was first to be examined by certain justices; and if she dissented, the fine was not to be levied. This was held to mean that the fine ought not to be received without her examination and consent; but that if it was received, neither she nor her heirs could be permitted to deny that she was examined and freely consented; for this would be contradicting the record, and tend to weaken the assurances of real property.

The object of statutes requiring the separate examination of the wife to be taken by an officer, to be certified by him in a particular form, and to be recorded in the public registry, is not only to protect her by making it the duty of such officer to ascertain and to certify that she has not executed the deed by compulsion or in ignorance of its contents, but to facilitate the conveyance of the estates of married women, and to secure and perpetuate evidence, upon which transferees may rely, that the requirements of the law have been complied with. The duty of the officer involves the exercise of judgment and discretion, and so is a judicial or quasi judicial act. The conclusion is that, except in case of fraud, his certificate, made and recorded as the statute requires, is the sole and conclusive evidence of the separate examination and acknowledgment, and that, except where fraud in procuring her execution is alleged, extrinsic evidence of the manner in which the examination was conducted is inadmissible. Whenever substance is found in a certificate, obvious clerical errors and all technical defects will be disregarded, and, in order to uphold it, the certificate will be read in connection with the instrument and in the light of surrounding circumstances. See Examination, 5; Notice, 1. 3. Admission of a fact; confession of guilt. See Confession. [1]

Acknowledgement of married women and acknowledgement of an account

The formal admission of some fact—e.g. acknowledgement of indebtedness. The “acknowledgement of an account” in commercial language is equivalent to the “account stated” of legal language, which is an admission by one party who is in account with another that there is a balance due from him. Such an admission in our law imports a promise to pay upon request. “Acknowledgement of married women” is the technical expression for the particular method which must be adopted whenever a married woman alienates real property which is not included in her separate estate. The deed conveying the property must be acknowledged by the woman on being examined by a judge or commissioner apart from her husband. As the sphere of the separate estate has been considerably enlarged by the Married Women’s Property Acts, the opportunities for adopting this procedure are less frequent.[2]


Notes and References

  1. Concept of Acknowledgment provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889) (Dictionary of Law consisting of Judicial Definitions and Explanations of Words, Phrases and Maxims and an Exposition of the Principles of Law: Comprising a Dictionary and Compendium of American and English Jurisprudence; William C. Anderson; T. H. Flood and Company, Law Publishers, Chicago, United States)
  2. Robert Harry Inglis, Sir, Dictionary of Political Economy, Vol. 1, 1915

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