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How A Legal Document Can Be Signed Electronically

In the current world, almost everything has been modernized. From the automation of complex business functions to online shopping, almost everything is nowadays digitized. One of the things that have come up is electronic signatures, also called eSignatures. However, since it’s easy to sign a document online, many have been so worried about the legality of the signatures and whether a legal document can be signed electronically.

But, just like your ink signatures, electronic signatures give you away through which you can sign the documents. There are electronic signature legal services that give you the ability to sign documents with just the click of the mouse or some that are used to draw your signature. The presence of such a signature may or may not give it stronger legal status depending on several factors. While you could use eSignature to sign any other documents, how do you use them to legal eSign a document? If used well, electronic signatures can carry the same legal effect and weight that traditional signatures have.

Here is how a legal document can be signed electronically

For a legal document to be signed electronically, the following elements must be put into consideration.

1. Who has signed?

This is where the identity of the person who has signed the document must be verifiable. There are several ways that this can be done including using verification through SMS, Electronic ID, email, bank ID, among many other things.

2. Security

While appending the signature, it should be fortified with a bank-level security protocol to ensure that the legal documents cannot be tampered with or even accessed by any an authorized person. If there is any security issue which may provide credence to an argument that the signed document integrity is in question, a judge may raise an issue.

3. Authentication

The eSignature for a legal agreement should also be easily authenticated and made in such a way that it can be accepted in the court of law by the judge. However, authenticating documents might be a slippery slope with some of the measures being even burdensome. The key is to find ways through which the signatures can be authenticated while being signed. The best practices that can make this possible are through the use of audit logs, biometric authentication, and signature certificates.

The document should not have been changed or tampered with

It’s also important to ensure that the legal document being signed has not been changed or tampered with in any way. After the parties have signed the document, it must be kept intact and not be tampered with or modified in any way. By using some of the best eSiganture software, the legal document can be signed with asymmetric encryption key pair or get hashed. This implies that the integrity of the document is protected such that even a slight change would create huge value.

As you have seen above, not every eSignature software that can be used to sign a legal document. It’s apparent that you cannot just take a picture of your signature and paste it on legal documents to make them legally binding. This method of signing legal documents will not provide any evidence since someone else can simply do the same in the document. The legal value of any electronic signature will generally depend on its ability to prove the identity of the person who applied it and to show that the data that has been included has not been changed in any way.

What makes electronic signatures legal

For almost every transaction in most countries, electronic signatures are nowadays legally binding. Some of the criteria that are commonly used to check this require that:

  • The person who has signed the document can be linked to the signature after being uniquely identified.
  • The person who has signed the document must be the only party who has access to the private key that has been used to create the signature.
  • The signature must be able to show whether it’s been tampered with or altered after signing. Remember, if at all this has taken place, it means it’s no longer secure.
  • If any data on the signature has been changed, then it means the signature must be voided. Just like the normal signature, no bank or any other institution can agree to accept a document with a signature that has been altered in any way. This is usually checked by the eSignatures legal department.

Summary

Electronic signatures are not only time savers but also legally binding as long as they follow the guidelines and the requirements put in place. Some of the top electronic signature brands will help you to follow the rules of your contracts and to ensure that the legal documents that you are signing are secure. Nowadays document and signature security are some of the most important things when it comes to electronic signatures.

About The Author
Paula Williams
Paula Williams

Advising new businesses on formation of corporations and business structures, drafting privacy policies and structuring commercial transactions. Strategic Consulting, including business plan & sales strategy development.

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