A person’s signature is their indication that they will abide by the terms of a document. These days, legal documents are now often signed with electronic signatures in an attempt to make it easier to conduct business from remote locations. The days of using couriers to quickly move documents from one location to another are mostly over.
E-signatures can make business seem easier and more convenient. There’s a question though. Are these signatures legal? Does the law support electronic signatures on every document or is it only valid on a couple of different forms? There’s a lot of misinformation floating around about e-signatures and it’s time to get questions answered.
Answer: Electronic Signatures Are Legally Binding in Most Situations if Both Parties Want Them to Be
When it comes to electronic signatures, most legal situations can take advantage of electronic signatures. The first important requirement is that both parties actually intend to be bound to the contract at the time of signing. This is also true for standard signatures of course, so it's not surprising that it’s a requirement for e-signatures. In addition to both parties intending to be bound, they need to consent together that e signatures are a valid form of signature. In this year, people signing a document have control over their signatures. If they want the electronic signature to be valid, it can be!
There’s more required to make them valid however. Software needs to be used to create an e signature. That software has to actually record that the signature was created. These electronic records are important. They need to be preserved. If there’s any request for the record, it needs to be given and the electronic signature needs to be reproduced if necessary.
While e-signatures have become a huge benefit to businesses and records, there’s plenty of documents which unfortunately can’t feature e-signatures. Typically these are documents which require multiple forms of authentication. These are the documents which require notaries to officiate them or witnesses as well. These are the biggest of corporate documents that some people have to deal with, as well as people’s personal wills and power of attorney decisions. This also includes marriage certificates as they require appropriate witnesses.
Software can offer up different types of electronic signatures. A basic version is one in which an electronic signature is created, then is simply stamped onto electronic documents. Another option allows signatures services to use a stylus and sign a document digitally. This will create a signature with slight differences similar to physical signatures.
Since electronic signatures can be complicated, it's good to take advantage of any additional sources of information possible. What follows are a few experts that can help explain the legal significance of electornic signatures.
- Docusign - Docusign offers up software to allow people to perform e-signatures on documents. Docusigns’s article relates to the specific legal rules of online signatures and what counts. It also goes into the history of e-signatures and changes to the law over time.
- RightSignature - Right Signature is another software offering which will allow people to use e-signatures. This article discusses their validity, but also discusses security and how electronic signatures are kept safe and legal.
- Validated ID - This signature service can provide software for e-signatures as well. This article discusses the different types of signatures and what the difference is between an e-signature and digital signatures. It also discusses legality and the various types of e-signatures that can be chosen.