In the digital age, electronic signatures have become commonplace for signing documents. However, there are instances where a wet signature, also known as a wet ink signature or handwritten signature, remains essential.
This article aims to explore what a wet signature is, when to use it, its benefits and downsides, and how you can switch to online signing options.
What is a wet signature
A wet signature is a handwritten mark of approval on a physical document, such as a contract, agreement, or proposal. Generally, “wet signature" is known under various names, such as:
- Handwritten signature
- Physical signature
- Wet ink signature
- Wet sign
- Manual signature or manually written signature
- Pen and ink signature
Wet signatures have been used consistently throughout history as a trustworthy way to confirm identification and establish the validity of documents. The term “wet" in a wet signature is particularly used to signify the time taken for the ink to dry on paper. For the purpose of representing a wet signature, people have used many modes like a stamp, personal seal, or thumbprint.
Back in the past wet signature was the only reliable mode to verify the identity of signers and execute documents. However, in today's digital era, the reliance on wet signatures has gradually given way to more efficient and secure online signature options like electronic signatures.
Electronic signatures are legally accepted in most jurisdictions and offer a streamlined process for document signing. They eliminate the need for physical printing and scanning, reducing time and resources. And for more secure transactions, digital signatures that use encryption technology can provide enhanced authenticity and tamper-proofing.
When to use wet signatures
While electronic signatures or e-signatures are widely accepted, there are specific scenarios where wet signatures remain essential to certain types of documents. These include:
1. On specific legal documents
Documents, such as wills, adoption papers, property deeds, or certain banking and investor contracts, often require wet signatures to make them legally binding. While wet signatures are commonly used in these documents to ensure credibility and reduce the risk of dispute, it is important to note that the requirement for wet signatures may vary depending on the jurisdiction and applicable laws.
The above-mentioned are some of the more common use cases of physical signatures. However, depending on your jurisdiction and the applicable laws, the scope changes. For instance, in the United States, the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) effectively mandates the use of wet ink signatures in certain documents such as:
- Wills, testamentary trusts, and codicils
- Adoption, divorce, and other family law papers
- Contracts governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), such as letters of credit, investment securities, secured transactions, etc.
- Court orders or notices or official court documents.
To learn more, check this detailed list of documents that calls for the use of a physical signature even today.
If you have any questions or concerns, do consult an attorney.
2. To satisfy regulatory and compliance requirements
Industries such as finance, healthcare, and government often have strict regulations that mandate handwritten signatures for specific types of documents.
3. For non-digital signatories
Some individuals may not have access to the necessary technology or be comfortable with electronic processes. In such scenarios, one can accept wet signatures as an inclusive solution that accommodates a diverse range of signatories, irrespective of their technological literacy.
What are the benefits of using a wet signature?
In a world that is increasingly relying on online tools and digital documents for the signing process, a handwritten signature still holds an old-world charm.
While using a wet signature, signers can incorporate their original signature in their style and flair that reflects their identity. This personal touch often adds a sense of pride and ownership and fosters a deeper connection to the document being signed.
Another advantage of relying on wet signatures is the assurance that the contract/agreement will be closed or processed since the involved signers are physically present during the signing. This is particularly crucial for certain notarized documents, where a wet signature must be executed in front of a notary. In most cases, the authenticity of the involved parties' signatures is further confirmed by the signature of witnesses. By ensuring the signers' and witnesses' physical presence, wet signatures can eliminate doubts regarding the validity and authenticity. This added level of verification enhances the overall trustworthiness and makes the document legally valid.
Challenges of wet signatures
In today's digital world, electronic signature technology offers a convenient alternative for most day-to-day business transactions. Unless you are legally obligated to use wet signatures for your documents, relying on them can present operational challenges.
Some of them are:
Obtaining wet signatures can be time-consuming, especially when signers are located in different geographical locations. The coordination and collection of physical signatures can cause delays in your business processes.
Storage and retrieval
Physical documents with wet signatures require proper storage and organization, which can be cumbersome and may lead to difficulties in retrieval. Maintaining a physical filing system for documents can be space-intensive and prone to misplacement too.
Reliance on paper documents for wet signatures contributes to deforestation and environmental degradation. In an increasingly eco-conscious world, the excessive use of paper raises concerns about sustainability.
Vulnerable to theft, forgery, and loss
A physical paper document with a wet signature is prone to external manipulation or damage. Unauthorized access to such documents can compromise the integrity of the signature and the document itself.
Switch to alternate online signature options
Considering the challenges associated with paper documents and handwritten signatures, many individuals and businesses are now embracing electronic signing methods as a solution for their varied document signing requirements. According to a Forrester report, conducted in 450 organizations across North America, Europe, and APAC, 62% of sales departments, 57% of marketing, and 53% of finance departments have transitioned fully to digital documentation processes. It shows that businesses are relying more on electronic documents to conduct their day-to-day business transactions.
However, to authenticate an electronic document, you need dynamic signature options that are legally valid, secure, convenient, and save valuable time. This is where electronic and digital signatures come into the picture.
An electronic signature or e-signature is a digital representation of a person's wet signature that can be used to sign electronic documents. Along with bringing operational efficiency, e-signatures eliminate the need for physical paperwork and allow for remote signing.
Whether it's a PDF or Word document, e-signatures provide a convenient way to sign a range of document types, including contracts, agreements, and forms. However, it's important to note that the legal validity of e-signatures is subject to compliance requirements based on the jurisdiction in which they are used. For example, in the U.S., the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) provide the governing legal framework for the use of e-signatures.
If you're looking for a comprehensive e-signature solution, use LegalZoom's eSignature service that allows individuals and businesses to sign documents electronically with ease.
Digital signatures are another alternative to wet signatures that offer an additional layer of security and verification. While an electronic signature focuses on the intent to sign, a digital signature is its more secure subset, as it utilizes cryptographic technology to ensure the integrity and authenticity of the entire document. Compared to electronic signatures, a digital signature employs encryption and public-key infrastructure (PKI) technology.
In PKI, each signer is assigned a pair of cryptographic keys: a private key and a public key. The private key remains confidential and is used by the signer to digitally sign documents. The public key, on the other hand, is made publicly available and can be used by others to verify the authenticity of the digital signature.
The shift towards online signature options, such as electronic signatures and digital signatures, has revolutionized the way we sign documents. Whether you choose electronic signatures or digital signatures, selecting a reliable and trusted platform or software provider is crucial to ensure the integrity and legal compliance of your signed documents.
As the digital age continues to reshape our practices, traditional wet signatures are no longer the sole method for signing documents. Alternative options have emerged, presenting new possibilities and advantages. While wet signatures hold their own merits, it is essential to embrace the digital landscape and explore the potential of electronic and digital signatures.
How do you create a wet signature?
You can create a wet signature on any paper document with a pen or any other tool which helps you to create a physical mark. These physical marks can be created with the help of an ink seal, or stamp. Alternatively, you can also put your thumb impression as your wet signature.
What is an example of a wet signature?
A thumbprint or thumb impression added to a physical document is an example of a wet signature. Wet signatures can also be seen when signers of a document use a stamp or a personal seal or sign the document in a particular style.
Can I do a wet signature electronically?
Yes, it is possible to add your wet signatures to your electronic documents. To do that, click a picture of your signature, save it as .jpeg or .png file on the device from which you're accessing the document, and insert it into the document as needed. Another way is to use the LegalZoom eSignature service and easily create a handwritten signature online.
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