There is a lot that has been written concerning electronic signatures.
While the use of these signatures is on the rise, several companies are still hesitant about adopting them and saying goodbye to the traditional mode of signing documents.
In today's modern world a lot of systems have gone digital, from online shopping to automation of functions, everything has taken the digital turn. Industries like the health, financial, and the business sector are all changing their systems to digital. After all, it is what lays a foundation for the future.
One of the digital systems that have become popular is electronic signatures. The freedom, ease of use, and flexibility, of e-signatures are making them popular every day. These signatures make signing documents easy because it can be done online.
However, when it comes to electronic signature solutions for legal services, one question that stands out is, does e-signatures or a legal agreement give it any legal status? Well, to answer this question let us take a deep dive into what these signatures are, their legality and how they can help process legal agreements easily.
What is an electronic signature?
Just like with inked signatures, electronic signatures are just a way of signing documents online without using pen and paper. E-signatures negate the need to print, sign and scan documents. It allows users to sign the necessary documents remotely on their talents, PCs, laptop's or smartphones.
Electronic signature tools give users the ability to sign using a mouse, stylus, finger, or it can also be as simple as just typing your name. Whichever method you use, you will still able to sign documents electronically.
It is important to mention that, copy-pasting your handwritten or traditional signature to a document ad sending it can also mean that it is an electronic signature. However, this does not make it legally binding. There is a lot more that goes into creating e-signatures for them to be considered legal.
Digital signature tools that are used to create e-signatures are encrypted, coded, and creates a legally binding digital footprint. Such a signature is what we are going to refer to in this article.
The Legality of Electronic Signatures
The question of whether or not electronic signatures are legal is not uncommon. Mainly because, people are still used to the old method of signing documents ad are not sure how signing an important document online can be legal.
These signatures are legally binding in the European Union, which contains a total of thirty countries, the United States of America, India, and several other countries across the globe. E-signatures carry the same legal effect and weight as the traditional signatures.
When using eSignature for a legal agreement in countries where these signatures are legal, they can help process legal agreements easily and legal when the following three elements are present:
1. Who Has Signed The Document
To help process legal agreements easily, the identity of the signatory should be verifiable. There are several ways that can be used to verify a singer’s identity:
- A verification SMS
- electronic ID like bank ID in that country
- verification email
If the identity control is strict, the level of security will be high. To add to this, the information concerning requests made to the document are saved. Even though these methods might not be 100% secure, digital signatures are still better than the analog signatures and with this and other security features the system can be deemed safe.
2. What Document Was Signed
Now that we can verify the identity of the singer, the next step is knowing what was signed. This is the next thing that can affect the legal status of a document and to make the process rather difficult. First, it is important to make the singers aware of what they are signing.
Here, the content of the contract or agreement matters, all parties should be made aware of any changes to the document before signing it. This way, there will be no disputes whatsoever. The new wording of an agreement becomes the final offer, all parties need to agree.
Electronic signature tools can track all the changes made in a document, and who made the changes, it also gives the dates when each party signed the document and with this information, you can know who was not aware of the changes.
3. Has The Document Been Tampered With After It Was Signed
The last step is integrity. To process legal agreements without much fuss, the document should not be tampered with. Tampering with a legal document is an offense and to build trust all legal agreements signed electronically should remain as it was when it was signed.
This means, once all required parties have signed the agreement, it must remain intact. The good thing about electronic signatures legal services it gives proof of foul play. The integrity of every document signed is therefore protected. The system tracks all changes no matter how small or insignificant it may seem. For example, should you change a comma with a full stop, this change will be documented.
What qualifies an electronic signature to be legal?
From the above, it is safe to say that to every electronic signature will be deemed legal and if an agreement has been tampered with after signing it can also be declared null and void. For an electronic signature to be legal, it first must be created as per the set regulations by the governing body.
You simply cannot just crop and paste your signature of choice to a document and declare it legal, this method has no digital footprints and it is possible to tell if you or some else signed the document. The legality of an electronic signature depends on its ability to prove who used it and that the content of the agreement has not changed after it has been signed.
To process legal agreements without much fuss, the signing process should be error-free. Everything should be done transparently. To make sure that you take the right measures to process legal agreements, check all applicable laws and requirements.
To ensure that you process legal agreements with no fuss you need to make sure that you:
- Obtain approval from singers: the signers have to consent to use an electronic contract. They can do this by agreeing in an email or e-signing an emailed contract. In some cases, the law might require an agreement to conduct business electronically.
- Inform singers what their signatures mean: the singers should receive a clear indication that they are about to enter into a legal contract and that the sign does not simply mean that they have received the document.
- Inform them that they can withdraw: the option to withdraw from a contract must be made clear before the agreement is signed.
- Keep copies of the document: with electronic signatures, you can store copies of the contract digitally. Make sure all parties involved have a copy of the agreement too.
Why Electronic Signatures Help the Legal Process
- They are traceable: electronic signature leaves a digital footprint that helps to trace the origin of the document, who signed it ad where it was signed.
- They track changes: e-signature tools allow users to track any changes to the document. With it, it is possible to know if a document has been altered and this allows for a more trustworthy process.
- It is fast: paperwork takes time and resources. Electronic signature streamlines such process and makes it easy and fast to sign an agreement. Signers can sign the agreement in a matter of minutes without going to the office.
- Electronic signatures are safe: even in the era of cybercrimes, using these signatures are quite safe. Some software offer encryption that goes a long way to make secure the signatures and the documents.
- Simple to use: though they sound a little complicated at first, these signatures are very easy to use. Users can sign a document at the touch of a button.
When Not to Use Electronic Signatures
Electronic signatures have a lot more to offer various institutions. Processing legal agreements is much safer, faster and transparent with legal esign. There are some instances, however, where you should not use these signatures.
In the United States of America for example, you still have to use the traditional mode of signing to print and sign your tax forms. Lawyers also recommend that documents like wills, death notices, health insurance, and mortgages should have a written signature.
If your country has not declared electronic signatures as legal, then you should also not use them. All in all, it is worth it to use an electronic signature where the law allows it. You will save yourself a great deal of time and money.
Signatures have evolved. Technology is shaping several systems and signatures have not been left behind. With several advantages over traditional signatures, e-signatures are fast, cheap, traceable, environmentally friendly and are very versatile.
Embracing electronic signatures in processing legal agreements and other contracts is taking a step toward the digital future that is inevitable.