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Are eSignatures as Legal as Handwritten Signatures?

Are eSignatures as Legal as Handwritten Signatures?

Think eSignatures are new thing? Think again. This time-tested and legally binding technology has been around longer than the iPhone or Gmail. 

Technology is constantly revising the way things get done. Just as email has replaced traditional mail for most business communications, traditional pen and paper signatures are quickly being replaced by electronic signatures

More commonly known as “eSignatures,” this technology is not necessarily new. It’s been over 10 years since the ESIGN Act was put in place, giving eSignatures the same legal weight as traditional signatures, but there are still handful of people who are still hesitant to use them. 

Regardless, ink autographs are being replaced by their digital counterparts, and eSignatures are here to stay. To help ease your transition to using eSignatures, we’ve broken down the legality of eSignatures below:

First off, what are eSignatures?

Put simply, an electronic signature is an electronic marker that indicates that a person is agreeing or approving a contract or the contents of a document.

Are eSignatures as Legal as Handwritten Signatures?

Yes, eSignatures are completely legal, and they have the same legal weight as handwritten signatures. Want to know how? Read on! 

According to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, otherwise known as the "ESIGN Act,”electronic signatures have the same legal standing as signatures using pen and paper. A contract or document cannot be denied its legal effect, validity, or enforceability because it’s it electronic form. 

This is great news because it means that people no longer have to sign documents in-person. Using eSignatures, a person could be halfway around the world and sign a legally binding document. eSignatures have been a huge modern-day convenience for many individuals.

What are the laws that govern eSignatures?

Electronic Signatures are governed by the federal ESIGN Act of 2000. This law grants eSignatures the same status as written signatures. At the state level, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) was signed in 1999. This act is more comprehensive than the ESIGN Act, and is different state by state. If you want to check to see if your document is covered by your state’s UETA, consult with an attorney.

What’s not covered by eSignatures?

It’s important to note that eSignatures have some limitations. There are specific exceptions in the ESIGN Act that you should be aware of. The following types of records and documents that aren’t covered include:

  • Adoption and divorce paperwork
  • Court orders and notices
  • Wills, codicils, and trusts
  • Cancellations of utility services (includes power, water, and heat)
  • Notices of repossession, foreclosure, eviction, or the right to cure
  • Product recalls or material failure
  • Documentation that accompanies hazardous materials, pesticides, or other toxic or dangerous materials

So rest assured, eSignatures are perfectly legal in most cases, and is protected by federal law. Don’t hesitate the next time you get an eSignature request!

 

Want to learn more?

Download a copy of "eSignatures 101" today!

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