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Risk alert – Don’t shorten the year ‘2020’ on documents

A brief word on abbreviation

It is an easy and usually fairly harmless habit to abbreviate.

We often shorten dates when writing. For example, today is Tuesday 21st January 2020. That could be reduced to a number of shorter versions all of which are going to be well understood such as:

  • Tues, 21 Jan’ 2020
  • 21/01/2020
  • 21/1/20

But this particular year 2020 brings with it a unique risk (or opportunity for the unscrupulous) when abbreviating the year from ‘2020’ to ’20’.

The last example 21/1/20 is the one that carries the risk alert.

Date alteration made easy

By using the shortened version of ’20’ we run the risk of someone dishonestly adding two digits so as to change the year. The range of years is of course from 2000 to 2099 and depending on the document this could have the potential for serious legal consequences.

If a date is changed back in time this might for example cause a limitation period to have already run out. Or it might make a later Will pre-date a very different earlier one.

If the date is changed into the future it might mean that something doesn’t have to happen for years – imagine a loan agreement where repayments are deferred for decades.

Avoid the risk – write the year 2020 in full

Although the contexts and nature of many documents might make changes appear illogical and obviously wrong it is not worth taking the chance. If there is a disputed date this could perhaps lead to litigation and the time, expense and uncertainty that can entail.

To avoid presenting the erstwhile forgers out there with an easy option may we suggest that, for this year at the very least, writing the year 2020 in full is the way to go.


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Please note that this brief article was prepared by Alex Wynn, Senior Associate of Bell Legal Group  for information purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Law can be complex so always get legal advice tailored for your circumstances.

Alex Wynn