There are conventional German equivalents of numerous fixed expressions in English legalese. Dietl-Lorenz, for example, has:
in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand: zum Zeugnis dessen habe ich diese Urkunde eigenhändig unterschrieben
in witness whereof: zu Urkund dessen
I prefer ‘zu Urkund dessen’ – I think it’s closer to the meaning.
Does anyone use a simpler translation?
The question of plain English is indirectly raised by the TransLegal Legal English blog, which suggests an improvement:
Try a straightforward closing like this:
THE PARTIES, INTENDING TO BE LEGALLY BOUND, have executed this agreement on the date first set forth above.”
This still looks pretty unstraightforward to me (set forth is a normal American expression, British set out, but it still sounds rather lawyerly to me). But yes, being legally bound is the main point. There is also a criticism that ‘the year of our Lord’ is objectionable for religious reasons, and that ‘witness’ implies that there were witnesses (this is a misunderstanding of ‘in witness whereof’)
Doonan and Foster, in Drafting, 2001, (an impression of an earlier version is given in Google Books) recommend:
These incantations may be revised to:
Executed as a deed on …
Signed and delivered as a deed on…
The parties have signed this document as a deed on …
(This assumes English law, where a deed has a special meaning)
Plain English books can be useful where they make it clear whether the two words in a doublet are synonyms or not, or what the meaning of fixed expressions is. (I’m not so sure that law can be written completely in plain English).