What makes a signed document legal?

In a nutshell, a legal document is a paper that has been created with the intention of being enforceable in court. The document can be regarded as legal only if it complies with the legislation of the jurisdiction where it will be enforced. Equally important are the signatures of the parties involved. This is how both parties express their consent with all the terms and provisions of the agreement/contract or any other type of legal document. Therefore, if one party violated any provision, they can be sued which might result in financial penalties or even a prison sentence.

What is an electronic signature?

An electronic signature, or a more common term: e-signature, is a legal way to provide your approval on e-documents. It can be generated via special online tools like signNow, DocuSign, Adobe Acrobat and many others. They offer you several ways to create an electronic signature:
  • with the help of stylus (or finger);
  • using a cursor;
  • by uploading a photo of your hand-written signature;
  • by typing your name (you can change fonts to make it look more like written on the paper).

Due to the fact that ‘signature’ is associated with something created exclusively with one’s hand and ink, it took a while for the electronic analog to take root in modern society. However, as soon as it did, people noticed its indisputable advantages.

electronic-signature

Benefits of e-signatures

If we compare electronic and ink signatures, it’s obvious why e-signatures are growing in popularity:
  • 1. Time-savingSigning things the old fashioned way can take up to 5-6 days depending on who and where the signers are, while e-signing only takes a few minutes.
  • 2. Cost-efficientThink about the amount of paper, ink and other supplies that are spent on hard-copy documents every day, not to mention the logistic expenses.
  • 3. ConvenientThere are situations when someone cannot physically be present when something needs to be signed and the need to do it remotely arises. Sending documents there and back with a courier is time-consuming and costly. This is why e-signing tools like signNow are so valued among companies.
  • 4. Secure If anyone wants to look at your documents without your consent or forge your electronic signature, good software for e-signing your papers will surely alert you.

A digital signature vs. an electronic signature: the same or different?

The two terms ‘digital’ and ‘electronic’ seem to be synonyms. However, it depends on the nouns they are combined with. In the case with signatures, these are absolutely different terms. Check out the information below in order to not mix up these two notions.

digital-signature

A digital signature is a mathematical mechanism used to verify the authenticity of an e-document. Digital signatures are based on public-key cryptography. Using its algorithm a user can create two mathematically-linked keys: public and private. The one who creates a digital signature uses their private key to protect the data in the signed document. Data decryption is possible only by means of the second. The public key.

An electronic signature (a more detailed explanation has already been outlined at the beginning of this article) indicates that the signer accepts the content of the document. The nature of the e-autograph is not so important. The only thing that matters here is who put the signature there and that the paper hasn’t been altered in any way afterward.

The main and key difference between the two is that a digital signature is primarily focused on the document’s security while the aim of the electronic signature is verifying the document or showing your intent to sign it.

Is an e-signed document legally-binding?

This question often gets asked because the ink never actually touches the paper with your own hand. However, in the modern world, an electronic signature imposes the same obligations as a hand-written signature. E-signatures are legally binding in the USA, thirty states of Europe and a lot of other countries around the globe.

legally-binding

There are three main items the legal status of an e-signature depends on:
  • Content of the document;
  • Who the signees are;
  • If the document has been altered after signing.

How to add an electronic signature to a document?

There are two cases of working with e-signatures: creating a paper for signing or receiving a doc that requires your signature from someone else. In both situations, you will need a software tool. signNow helps cope with the task quickly and easily. Here are the steps you should take to create a document for signing using signNow:
  1. Open the tool online in any browser.
  2. Upload the document (contract, agreement, etc.) you need to get signed.
  3. In one click insert a fillable field(s).
  4. Add signers in the order the document has to be signed.
  5. Add your signature and send the e-document to the other parties.
  6. Add two-factor verification to improve your file’s security (optional).
In a world where everything gets transformed into an electronic form, hand-written signatures become a sort of old school. Don’t waste your time and money on printing, shipping and other stuff connected with hard-copy documents. Use signNow to create and sign papers from home in just a few clicks.
Yana Kryvosheina
Yana Kryvosheina
Digital content writer at signNow
May 07, 2020