Signatures are a common way to indicate agreement towards a contract. In the past, signing was a matter of a person writing their full legal name. As time went on, people began to stylize their names, signing only with a surname or initials. Nowadays with modern online signatures, signing has gone beyond just writing your name on a piece of paper.
So, should you still use your full legal name on legal documents? And how can you make sure your signatures are legally binding?
Let’s find out.
Can you type your name as a signature?
Yes, you can type your name as a signature, as long as you are using the right tools to capture information about when and where you signed. Some e-signing platforms actually invite signees to type their name as their electronic signature.
The Electronic Signature and Records Association Act allows for electronic signatures to be legally binding as long as all parties are in agreement. E-signing tools capture the agreement of all parties as they add their signature, making the decision about typing, drawing, or scanning your signature merely cosmetic.
Does my signature have to match my legal name?
Not always and not necessarily. However, in general, an ink signature should resemble your legal name. This will avoid any compliance or validity issues that can become very bothersome, and even costly in court.
Signing with an inconsistent or completely illegible signature may make it harder to prove the legality of a document, especially if you’ve used a different signature on official identification, such as a driver’s license or passport.
This is because signatures on important legal documents may be checked against your official ID.
Online signatures, however, are generally easier to trace back to the signer regardless of what they look like, making them a bit more flexible in this area.
When can you skip signing altogether?
Sometimes, a legally-binding document doesn’t require a signature. In some circumstances, such as an already formed business relationship under an existing contract, a pre-establish agreement between parties is sufficient. If everything is documented in writing, the presence or lack of signatures will likely have little effect on the contract’s validity should a legal issue arise.
As long as there’s a way to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that all parties were in agreement for a certain contract, the signature’s shape or even presence might not be a factor at all.
Electronic Signatures and the E-SIGN Act
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce (E-SIGN) Act was passed in 2000 as a response to the growing need for electronic signatures in legal and business matters. According to this law, all electronic records, contracts, and signatures are as legally binding as their physical counterparts.
The law essentially recognizes that electronic records, contracts, and signatures are as valid as those that appear on paper, and that individuals have a right to choose which format they’d like to use.
The validity of electronic signatures is not determined by how much or how little they resemble one’s name or ink signature. Instead, the signature is considered legal when the document “reasonably demonstrates that the consumer can access information in the electronic form that will be used to provide the information that is the subject of the consent.”
Although ink signatures are still a prevalent way of signing for rentals or credit card companies, the increasing use of e-signatures along with their approval by the E-SIGN act is quickly making electronic signatures the preferred method for many organizations.
What’s the point of signatures anyway?
Signatures exist to prove a specific person or entity agrees to abide by a specific contract. Therefore, the validity of the signature relies more on whether it can be proven that all signers were in agreement, and less on how closely the signature relates to the person’s name.
A similar idea is at play when making a credit card purchase, where you’re often required to input your PIN instead of sign your name. Since signatures can be forged, electronic signatures, like your PIN, are becoming a better way to prove agreement, and hence, to sign contracts.
With modern electronic signatures, contracts are easier to make, sign, and enforce, than ever before.
Digital signatures capture a unique print of the signee’s device, location, and other data points to show it’s an authentic signature. Once one signature has been received, an online contract will prevent the contents from being modified. Even if the contract is somehow tampered with, other signees can save copies of the contract with the timestamps to prove their validity.
Since users can sign from any device, and since the contract’s contents are “locked” after the first signature, documents can be signed from anywhere, anytime, without the need for witnesses.
Besides the obvious reduction of paper waste, online contracts save a lot of time and money that would otherwise be spent mailing documents or traveling to other locations to sign them. In sales and other industries where time is of the essence, reducing the time it takes to sign contracts can translate into money saved.
Get started with online signatures
Ready to start using electronic signatures?
You can create your electronic signature for free with Signaturely’s Signature Maker. This tool allows you to draw or type your full name, initials, or anything in between. Once created, you can use it for all your online signature needs.
If you want to easily create and send online contracts, there’s no better platform than Signaturely. With Signaturely, you can upload all of your contracts, add online signing fields, and send them via email to be signed anywhere, anytime.
Sign up for Signaturely today, for free.