Yes, Electronic Signatures Are Legally Binding
The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a greater reliance on electronic signatures for a wide variety of legal documents, including estate planning documents. Some people might not have experience in using e-signing tools, and thus might wonder if they are legally binding. The answer is yes: documents signed electronically have the same legal protections as documents signed physically with a pen.
There are certain rules that must be followed for an electronic signature to be legally binding and enforceable in court. Here’s an overview of the criteria for these signatures to be admissible:
- Security: Any e-signature system used should have high standards of security to ensure signatures and records will never be able to be accessed by anyone with authorization, or tampered with in any way.
- Authentication: Higher degrees of authentication make it more likely the judge will allow the document to be admitted as evidence in court. It is important to use methods of authentication that are not overwhelming. Usually there will be a combination of signature certificates, biometric authentication and audit logs.
- Audit logs: Timestamped audit logs are crucial, as they provide verification of the times at which a document was created, viewed, signed and then archived. These logs should be thorough and have a digital signature or other similar method to ensure they cannot be tampered with.
- Access to email and IP address: E-signature systems can be made more secure by restricting access to only certain email accounts and IP addresses.
- Biometric authentication: Biometric authentication technology can be used by these services to capture specific unique characteristics of a person’s signature, including speed and timing.
- Wills: It is important to know that at least in Florida, electronic signatures have not been authorized for signing wills, although remote witnessing and, sometimes, remote notarization are allowable.
For more information about electronic signatures and the criteria they must meet to be legally binding, contact an experienced Florida estate planning lawyer at BaumannKangas Estate Law.