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How are contracts usually signed
Electronic Signatures

How Are Contracts Usually Signed?

Will Cannon

Last updated on February 28, 2024

Contracts represent crucial formal agreements between parties that outline bilateral obligations and promises governed by law. Traditionally, print copies were manually signed in ink to bind contracts legally. However, digital transformation has revolutionized modern contracting. As interactions globalize, contract lifecycle management digitizes, and e-signature adoption accelerates across enterprises and SMBs, contract executions are becoming primarily electronic.

How Are Contracts Usually Signed?

In the past, contracts were signed by hand with “wet ink” signatures. The interested parties would meet to review and sign a printed contract, which was the only way to make the agreements legally enforceable. However, as business interactions become increasingly digital, there has been a gravitation towards electronic signatures. With contracts now existing as legal digital documents, e-signatures provide a convenient way for parties to express their approval and acceptance without being physically present. This allows deals to progress faster while still meeting legal standards. 

While wet signatures were once the sole option for signatories, today’s increasingly remote, mobile workforce across many industries favors the reliability and accessibility of e-signatures. Solutions like Signaturely makes the contract signing process intuitive using a blend of approachable user experiences for signers and pro-grade security protections like identity verification and audit trails. This caters to all demographics while guaranteeing legal standards. Ironclad records mean more straightforward dispute resolution.

Templatized workflows allow faster execution of recurring contract types such as sales orders. Ultimately, modern tools preserve what matters most – unambiguous consent captured via different types of signatures – while optimizing for flexibility and scalability. Small and large businesses benefit from automating contractual agreements electronically thanks to extensive template libraries suited to their needs. This widens access to stress-free contracts.

Different Ways to Sign a Contract

Two or more parties promise to fulfill certain obligations when entering a business agreement. These contracts must be formally signed and executed correctly to make them enforceable and legally binding. There are now two primary methods used for signing contracts – wet signatures and electronic signatures.

Wet Signatures

Wet signatures represent the traditional handwritten way of approving written agreements. This process involves printing a physical copy of the contract, reviewing it, and manually signing with a pen. Wet signed contracts provide a tangible record with original signatures. They can reassure some parties that they still view this as the standard, accepted contract signing style. However, wet signatures require all signers to be physically present, slowing the process. They also introduce risks around storing and filing paper documents.

Electronic Signatures

Electronic signatures provide a digital way to sign contracts that is more efficient but equally secure and binding. With e-signatures, all parties can review and sign the same document online without being in the exact location. Solutions like Signaturely remove the logistical challenges of gathering handwritten signatures. Some options, like digital seals, also add encryption and verification.

Legal electronic signatures save time, reduce costs, and create searchable contract records. Most countries legally recognize their validity for business agreements. However, some individuals still view wet signatures as more personal and familiar. Facilitating global business agreements or contracts with many signers favors electronic over physical signatures.

What’s the Best Way to Sign a Contract?

For most contracts today, electronic signatures provide the best overall online signing experience. They make finalizing business agreements faster and more convenient without compromising legal validity. Once agreements are in digital formats, e-signatures enable everything to be managed online for signers in any global location. Solutions like Signaturely remove logistical delays by allowing simultaneous signing from multiple places instead of needing to collect wet signatures in person sequentially. This flexibility also reduces travel costs associated with traditional written contract executions.

Other vital benefits include simplified tracking of document versions, less risk of losing paper contracts, access to user-friendly analytics on signature workflows, the environmental perks of going paperless, and time savings promoting faster signing of more contracts. With digital storage and built-in audit trails that add verifiability, customizable branding capabilities, and encryption options for sensitive agreements, signatures boosted by nimble software promote business velocity. Large and small enterprises can optimize agreements at scale with these accessible tools.

However, occasionally, using old-fashioned wet signatures may still be preferred when signing of PDFs and agreements. Some view these as more personal, especially momentous contracts like home buying. Wet signatures also establish the physical presence of signers as reliable proof in some legal jurisdictions. If verifying identifiable handwriting is critical or contracts must adhere to stricter industry regulations, ink signatures could provide greater assurance.

Additionally, specific demographics like senior executives may perceive them as more proper for fancy agreements. But for most modern agreements, properly executed e-signatures promote efficiency without sacrificing legal validity or enforceability. The conveniences of electronic contracting usually outweigh any perceived benefits of traditional wet signatures.

Are Electronic Signatures Legally Binding on a Contract?

Yes, electronic signatures can be legally binding for contractual agreements in most countries, creating enforceable obligations for participating parties. While some individuals still view wet signatures as necessary to appropriately approve agreements, that is no longer the legal standard. E-signatures can carry equal weight according to contract law in most jurisdictions today, including the United States and members of the European Union. Parties providing an electronic signature consent to be bound just as they would with a physical signature.

When executed using secure technology that authenticates signer identity and consent, e-signatures create equivalently valid and enforceable contracts. Specific advanced protocols even exceed the affirmation possible with ink signatures by adding encryption, proof of identity, and detailed audit logging of approvals. Within legal and regulatory guidelines, signing contracts online legally binds signers.

More Elements to Ensure Your Contract is Legally Binding

While signatures formally agree to enter a binding contract, other crucial elements are needed to enforce that contract. Here are vital aspects to guarantee legal bindingness:

  • Offer and acceptance – One party must make an offer with defined terms, and the other parties sign and accept under those conditions. This establishes mutual consent.
  • Consideration – All parties must exchange something of value by making pledges within the agreement. This can be goods, services, money, etc.
  • Competent parties – Those entering contracts must have total legal capacity and mental competence to understand their choices.
  • Lawful objectives – The purpose and subject matter cannot facilitate illegal activities or enable unlawful objectives for any involved parties.
  • Precise wording – Terms should be clearly defined without extensive ambiguity or contradictions.

Along with signatures or e-signatures capturing formal assent, these elements ensure contracts can be legally enforced if breached. Integrating each aspect makes the obligations binding for all participants under governing contract law. Leveraging step-by-step guidance and pre-built templates guarantees you draft securely binding agreements.

Conquer Your Contracts With Signaturely

Signaturely provides the most efficient way to manage every stage of contract execution using leading e-signature technology optimized for binding agreements. Its intuitive platform guides you through document creation, signing workflows, and ironclad record storage with best-in-class versatility. Signaturely combines ease of use with rigorous legal compliance, multi-layered verification, and top-tier security. It also offers one of the largest libraries of pre-built contract templates covering every common business need to accelerate drafting legally enforceable documents. 

Sign up today for Signaturely’s 7-day free trial to streamline your contract process. Conquer any agreement and delight signers with simplified signoffs, no more logistical delays, and airtight post-signing records using enterprise-grade signatures fully optimized for modern contracting.

FAQs About How to Sign Contracts

Questions often arise around proper contract signatures. Here are some frequent legal questions:

Is a contract valid without a signature?

Generally no. An unsigned contract is typically unenforceable because signatures show legal consent between parties. Some exceptions exist in contexts like ongoing business relationships governed under established master agreements. But signatures remain the best practice for ensuring a valid contract. 

Does a contract need to be signed by both parties?

As a rule, every party mentioned in the contract text should formally sign to demonstrate their agreement and bind themselves to the terms. Limited exceptions apply where power of attorney agreements authorize surrogate signing.

How binding is a signed contract?

Fully executed, signed contracts are extremely binding and carry the full weight of governing contract law. Per the terms, financial penalties, legal judgments, and other consequences apply if any party breaches without valid legal justification. Only narrow technical flaws, incapacity, or unlawful objectives provide avenues to contest contracts once duly signed.

What signature is legally binding?

Both ink (wet) and electronic signatures can legally bind parties equally. Modern e-signature laws recognize digital signatures as carrying equivalent weight and enforceability. Advanced online contract signing also improves accountability and security compared to traditional handwritten signatures.

What You Need to Remember About How Contracts Are Usually Signed

While wet ink signatures were once the sole contract standard, today’s agreements increasingly leverage more efficient signatures enabled by compliant technology platforms like Signaturely. Their advanced verification options raise accountability beyond paper trails. Ultimately, proper contracts integrate lawful objectives and consideration beyond signatures exhibiting mutual assent. Crafting agreements with balanced exchanges of value helps guarantee courts enforce your rights if breached. You can conquer everything from sales deals to complex global partnerships by mastering these facets of binding contracts.

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