Transitioning to an electronic signature doesn’t have to be complicated.
There are numerous use cases for electronic signatures that span a wide range of document types and circumstances. Fundamentally, eSignature was created to speed up the contract signing process and foster a better customer experience.
It’s likely your business deals with sales contracts and customer forms, from vendor and supplier agreements to non-disclosure agreements and more. All of these documents require a signature and could benefit from a modern way to sign that ditches the pen and paper.
Below, we take a look at some common (and uncommon) use cases for electronic signatures.
1. Electronic signature for real estate documents
You’ve likely had experience signing real estate documents, be it a mortgage agreement in principle or a rental agreement. These documents can be complex, with multiple signatures signatures from landlords, renters and estate agents being necessary.
This process usually takes some time and can be complicated, given the need for multiple signatures.
These documents are also often based on dated and arcane boilerplate language, making them offputting and incomprehensible at times. So any modernization - like electronic signature - that can make these documents a little friendlier is more than welcome.
The manual signing process
Let’s take a short-term rental agreement as an example. The contract itself will outline the terms and conditions under which the renter can occupy the property for a brief period, typically less than six months.
Once you’ve read the agreement and decided that the terms suit you, you’ll need to sign the document. Traditionally, this means going to your estate agent's office to deliver a wet-ink signature and hand over various documents such as your passport.
This process can be long-winded, especially if you are moving to a new area.
Using eSignature to sign real estate documents
This process can be made a lot simpler with eSignature, as people can sign wherever they are. Usually, this will be sent over by the estate agent handling the property via email and a deadline for signing will be given.
Users can then attach images or PDF scans of their documents and sign their rental agreement as and when they are ready. Platforms such as DocuSign are frequently used during this process.
Benefits of eSignature for real estate
- Sign from anywhere. Put simply, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing eSignature gives you the ability to sign on any device, in any location.
- Time-saving. eSignatures are faster than handwritten ones, it only takes a couple of seconds to sign documents.
- Multiple signatories. Making sure that multiple people are in one place to sign a document takes time to organise, if multiple people can access a document to sign it remotely, this issue is solved.
Best platforms for eSignature in real estate
As there are multiple real-estate documents to be managed, we would recommend using a tried and tested platform.
- DocuSign. DocuSign is a market leader and is used by many real estate agencies across the UK and the US. Its ease of use makes it a good platform for business-to-customer contracts, like rental agreements.
- Adobe Sign. Another eSignature platform rated highly for its ease of use, Adobe Sign is a good option for this type of agreement.
- DropBox sign. For those already using a platform like DropBox, a native eSignature feature can be a good option.
- Juro. Juro's secure, native eSignature means you don't need to switch tools to agree terms, store or track all your real-estate contracts in one place
2. Electronic signature for probate
Probate grants you the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they pass away.
This process is sensitive and requires several documents to be signed, as large amounts of money can be changing hands. This could be in the form of signing documents for HMRC (in the UK) or a Grant of Representation.
The manual signing process
Multiple people can apply for a Grant of Probate, which means you might need multiple signatures. If you’re dealing with a larger estate, it is common to have a lawyer help with probate.
This process typically requires all individuals applying for probate to sign the same original document. This can cause issues, as people need to travel to one specific location (usually their lawyer's office) to sign.
The government form states: ‘Please send the original form signed by all applicants and required documents with payment to…’. This process could become complex if multiple parties are in different places.
Using eSignature to sign probate documents
Luckily, this process is open to the use of eSignature in the UK, according to the government website which states: “Either email the statement to them to add their typed signature or print for them to sign in pen.”
The website suggests that a typed signature is also acceptable, which simplifies the situation. You could also scan your signature and add it to the form, though this is more complex.
Benefits of eSignature for probate
- Ease. In a situation which is already emotionally difficult, being able to easily sign the documents easily and quickly can help.
- Time-saving. Probate is time-sensitive, as you should not make any financial plans or put property on the market until you’ve got probate.
- Convenience. Put simply, it is more convenient to sign documents that require multiple people to sign them online.
Best platforms for eSignature for probate
Typically, you’ll be signing pre-written documents from an official source. Below are some lightweight eSignature tools to make the signing process easier.
- SignRequest. Offers a free, legally binding signature for those who don’t mind their branding and process under ten signatures a month.
- eSignly. Also offers a very lightweight free option that has protection in place for use.
- Microsoft Word. Technically, users can create a digital signature using Microsoft Word, as explained here (though it’s not a great experience!)
3. Electronic signature for witnessing
Not all signatures can be made behind closed doors. Some require a witness to be legally valid.
A witness needs to be a neutral third party who watches the parties sign the legal documents. Some documents that commonly require a witness include:
- Last will and testaments
- Prenuptial agreement
- Power of attorneys
- Mortgage deals
This can make the use case for electronic signature more complicated.
The manual signing process
For any of the documents mentioned above, a valid witness is needed and they may have to meet certain requirements. They may be required to:
- not possess a criminal record
- be over 18
- not be a beneficiary
- be of sound mind
If you are in the US, these may vary state by state. This may include a background check, entering a surety bond, receiving training and passing a state-administered exam.
With technological innovation and digitalization gaining momentum, the acceptance of electronic signatures has surged over the years. Getting the signer, sender, and witness in one place can be time-consuming and costly. This is why electronic witness signing has picked up pace in the last few years, though it isn’t yet commonplace.
Using eSignature to sign witnessed documents
Electronic signatures now provide a digital alternative to physical signatures when it comes to witnessing. This can be particularly helpful in an increasingly globalised world, as people won’t have to travel as much to get documents verified.
It is worth noting that it depends on the jurisdiction, but in many countries eSignatures are now legally recognized as a valid form of signature for specific documents. Some will even allow witness signatures to be done electronically - a feature offered by some eSignature platforms.
In practice, this may be done by the signatory receiving the document for signature by email, specifying the name and email address of the witness and the witness receiving a separate email asking them to add their signature. A form of ID verification may also be required as part of this process.
Benefits of eSignature for witnessing
Finding a witness to sign documents in a timely fashion can be a tall ask, so what are the benefits of witnessing online?
- Accessibility. Digitising this process means that anybody can witness a document, even if they can’t physically be present.
- Speed. Finding the time and space for a signatory and a witness to be in the same place can be difficult - eSignature solves this issue.
- Reduced risk. A digital process can mean the addition of verification steps to confirm the identity of the signatory and witness.
Best platforms for eSignature in witnessing
Not every platform will offer this capability, so it is important to choose one that facilitates this option.
- DocuSign. There is a special feature, DocuSign eWitness, that enables users to identify individuals to witness the execution of deeds and other important agreements.
- Adobe Sign. Though there is no built-in capability for witnessing, as DocuSign has, there is a workaround that allows you to use a delegation role to fulfil this need.
4. Electronic signature for succession
Succession doesn’t come around too often, but when it does, you’d best believe it involves a lot of paperwork. In the UK, the new monarch must partake in a series of traditions and events before they are officially crowned.
In the case of King Charles III, this included a ‘not very regal frustration involving fountain pens’ according to New York Magazine.
Before being crowned King officially, the Accession Proclamation must be signed and witnessed followed by taking an oath relating to the security of the Church of Scotland. This has been since the act of 1707 by which Scotland joined with England and Wales to form Great Britain.
The manual signing process
After taking the oath, the new monarch then signs two copies of the oath with a wet-ink signature. This proved, in September 2022, to be a challenge for the new king as an ink pot got in the way of the physical signing.
But what if this process (and the memes that followed) could have been avoided?
Using eSignature to sign the Accession Proclamation
This problem could be solved by using digital signatures. In the case of the King, whose signature needs to be witnessed by numerous people, a digital signature on a tablet could be an option.
This would create a similar traditional experience, in keeping with the royal family’s image while saving the embarrassment of spilt ink.
Benefits of eSignature for succession
- Environmental. eSignature saves paper and creates less waste, an important cause for the King.
- Security. These are incredibly important documents which could be protected with modern technology like encryption and secure eSignature to offer a heightened level of identity assurance.
- Media. In this case, eSignature may have saved the new King a few memes, though he doesn’t seem to mind!
H4: Best platforms for eSignature in succession
In this case, we’d recommend some high-security solutions for such an important set of documents.
- SignEasy. The platform highlights its advanced security features and a detailed digital audit trial. The platform is rated 4.6 stars on G2, fit for a King.
- OneSpan Sign. An easy-to-use platform that allows users to request different verification and authentication methods from document viewers and signatories.
5. Electronic signature for employment contracts
This translates to a lot of signatures and plenty of documentation to keep track of. In a modern working world, hybrid working is common and some workers may even be fully remote - automating this use case is a no-brainer.
The manual signing process
Let's take a look at a simple situation. You’ve hired a new member of the team. In the manual process, new employees have to sign their offer letter and their employment contract physically.
This means either asking them to meet physically, to sign the document, or more often posting it to their home address and waiting for them to send it back. This can be a time-consuming process and may even put candidates off accepting the offer.
Using eSignature to sign employment documents
Usually, eSignature platforms allow you to send out employment contracts via email, either with a PDF and a link to sign or as one unified document. You can then download and store them in your existing HR system.
Benefits of eSignature for employment contracts
- Saving money. If you’re sending out multiple contracts it can be expensive to post and return them. This cost can be very high if you’re hiring people who live in a different country.
- Storage. Safely storing signed employment contracts is important for you and your business to ensure you are legally compliant.
- Document tracking. With eSignature, you can get instant notifications when the agreement is opened and signed.
Best platforms for eSignature in employment contracts
- DocuSign. From onboarding to offboarding, DocuSign offers a signing experience built for HR teams.
- Juro. Draft employment contracts from automated templates refine them with Juro’s AI Assistant and sign them all in one place.
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