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Medallion Signature Guarantee - FAQs and Helpful Tips

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By Wilford Crenshaw

How does a signature guarantee work?

A financial institution can place a special stamp on a document called a medallion signature guarantee. This stamp is usually used in financial transactions that involve a transfer of assets, though it can also be used for other things. A signature guarantee stamp shows that the agent at the initiating institution has reviewed the identity of the signor and that the signature is authentic. This is different in a couple of ways from a notary public, which authenticates the identity of the person signing the document and states that there was no undue pressure to sign the document.

Where can I get a signature guarantee?

The majority of big banks issue medallion signature guarantees. When a need arises for a guarantee stamp, the best place to go is the institution that currently holds the assets or account in question. If that bank will not issue a guarantee, it is possible to approach other banks or brokerage houses (preferably those where an existing banking relationship exists) to get the guarantee stamp.

How long is the medallion stamp process?

The process should not take more than a few minutes if an authorized agent is available. The process of completing the entire transfer of assets can take several days or even longer, depending on the complexity of the transaction, the amount of the transaction, and how quickly the two banking institutions can communicate with one another.

What requires a medallion signature guarantee?

There are relatively few items that need a signature guarantee. When transferring assets from one bank to another, conducting complicated forms of account maintenance (e.g. closing large accounts), and performing other risky transactions a signature guarantee will usually be required. Other transactions that are more straightforward may only require a simple signature or possibly a notarization. The institution where the account currently resides will determine what paperwork and authentication is necessary.

What happens if an institution won't give a medallion signature guarantee?

At times, some banks do not conduct signature guarantee transactions or they do not have an office in the area. Small banks may have trouble justifying the effort to maintain the proper credentials to remain licensed to issue a signature guarantee. Still others have the resources, but opt to avoid the liability associated with signature guarantees. In this situation, insurance companies, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions can be helpful. Start by contacting those with which you already have a relationship, as this increases their likelihood to cooperate. If receiving a signature guarantee stamp is impossible or very difficult, there may be other options. Some banks that require a signature guarantee for a given transaction may be able to accept a signature in person or a notarization under certain circumstances.

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