What is a legal signature?
How do you legally sign a binding contract?
What are the important elements that you must know!
In this article, we will break down the legal definition of “legal signature”, so you know all there is to know about it!
Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!
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Table of Contents
What is a legal signature
What constitutes a signature?
Based on contract law signature rule, a legal signature is a mark or notation placed by a person on a document, contract or legal document to give it a legally binding status.
In other words, a person will use a legal signature to demonstrate his or her acceptance of the terms and conditions outlined in a contract or validate the content of a letter.
So what is an acceptable signature for legal documents?
A document can be legally signed by someone merely by apposing a mark on the document.
In most cases, when people sign, they do it so fast that it looks like someone scribbled something on a piece of paper.
Others will sign their name by neatly writing their name in full clearly and legibly.
No matter how you sign a document, your signature will be binding when you expressed your consent by placing your signature on a document.
The law does not dictate how your signature should like or its shape.
However, signature law requires that the mark you use be the mark you use to express your agreement with the content of what was written on the document.
Is a contract binding without a signature?
Bear in mind, a contract can legally be formed if it is expressed in writing or orally.
An oral contract will not have a signature on it quite naturally.
As a result, a signature makes a document legally binding and official but it can be proven in court that a contract was formed event without the actual signature.
Types of legal signatures
There are various ways a document may be signed.
The traditional way to sign is to print a document and originally sign it using a pen.
Typically, a person’s original signature is done by writing his or her name, placing a mark or using a stylized signature unique to the person signing.
Signatures generally appear on the signature block or signature page in a contract or at the bottom of a letter.
An alternative option to signing is to sign electronically.
An electronic signature has the same legal weight as original signatures.
An electronic signature can be made:
- By typing your name at the bottom of an email
- By placing an image of your actual signature on a digital document
- By using a digital signature software to generate a unique signature and reference code
- Scanning an originally signed piece of paper and sending it by email
You may also recall not long ago we used to use fax machines!!
Many contracts and documents were signed and exchanged between parties using a fax machine.
We called such signatures as fax signatures or facsimile signatures.
Finally, a signature can be legally binding when done by someone else or a third party.
You can appoint someone as your agent or power of attorney to represent you.
A company may have an employee sign on its behalf.
Legal signature requirements
What constitutes a legal signature?
Does a signature have to be legible?
A signature is a mark, pattern, writing, shape or any form of a notation unique to a person apposed on a document to show consent.
There are many ways a person can sign a document, namely:
- Writing their name
- The drawing of a symbol
- Use a special character
- A unique handwritten manner of writing one’s name
- Even literally an “X”
- Digital signature
The objective of a signature is to identify a person and demonstrate his or her consent.
What the person signs is not relevant per se.
What’s relevant is that the person uses the same symbol, pattern or mark to validate and sign documents.
Keep in mind, a person’s signature may evolve over the years.
As a result, if your signature today does not resemble what it used to be ten years ago, it does not make the past documents invalid, unenforceable or non-binding.
What’s important is that when you sign a document, you used that mark or shape to express your consent.
Legal signatures on documents
What constitutes a signature?
- Is typing your name a legal signature
- is a printed name a legal signature
- Does a signature have to be your full name
In the United States and Canada, you can sign a document by physically apposing a mark or writing your full name on a piece of paper or do the same thing digitally.
In fact, electronic signatures (also known as e-signature or e-sign) are as valid and as legally binding as a person’s physical (original) signature.
In fact, under the Electronic Signatures and Global and National Commerce Act of 2000, the law recognizes electronic signatures as a valid and legally binding expression of a person’s consent.
In essence, a document or contract achieves a legally binding status when the person signing it (no matter how) expresses consent.
How can documents be legally signed
How do you sign a document?
Is a typed signature legally binding?
When you appose your mark on a document showing your consent or approval, you have legally signed a document.
Typically, you’ll sign the document yourself using your unique signature (stylized or cursive) using a pen.
It’s ideal to avoid signing with a pencil so your signature is not erased or tampered with.
You can also sign a document in other ways:
- A person can sign on behalf of someone else
- A person can sign on behalf of a legal entity
- A person can sign electronically (digital signature)
- Typing your name on a digital document
- Scanning a digital image of your actual signature on a digital document
- Placing a digital signature along with a unique serial code
- Clicking an “accept” button on a digital document or e-form
So what are legal signatures?
A legal signature has the following characteristics: