AdvisorHandwritten Signature

Every day, thousands of contracts are concluded with a handwritten signature on paper. Nevertheless, it is often unclear exactly what signatures should look like in order to be legally binding. This guide explains how a signature should look like and what are the advantages of using a digital signature instead.

What is a signature?

A signature is a handwritten name drawing of a natural person. People use signatures to make a declaration of intent or to confirm something. Particulary, they are used for legal transactions that require written form. The term “signature” derives from Latin language and means “the drawn”.

Areas of application for signatures

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Verbindliche Willenserklärung

In general, you use your signature for a binding declaration of intent. That makes a contract legally binding.

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Testifying to truthful statements

Often, you use your signature to testify to truthful statements, e.g. when signing your CV and additional documents. This proves that your information in the documents are true.

Requirements for a legally binding signature

For a legally valid signature, it is obligatory signing with your surname. If you like you can add your first name or academic degree but is not relevant for the legal validity of the signature. The general rule is the longer the signature, the more forgery-proof it is.

It is also important that you can assign the signature to the respective signatory. The length of the signature should be comparable to the name and individual letters of the name should be recognisable. You should also make sure that the signature always looks similar when it is signed; this prevents any misunderstandings. 

Digital signatures as facilitation

Application possibilities of digital signatures

It is often easier and less time-consuming to sign documents digitally. A classic example in the HR sector is the signing of employment contracts. Here, people often still rely on paper-based signing of contracts. However, this is not effective and is also very costly. The use of digital signatures can facilitate the work of the HR team. Documents no longer have to go the long way by post, which greatly reduces the waiting time for contracts.

There are also many other areas, such as the financial and banking sectors or the health sector, for which the use of digital signatures is a real facilitation.

Legal security of digital signatures

The digital signature is a true enabler for more effectiveness in a wide range of industries. In terms of legal security, the digital signature also offers the same legal security as the handwritten signature.

There are three types of digital signature, which differ in their complexity and thus also in their legal security. The qualified electronic signature is the most complex of the three signatures and has the same legal validity as a handwritten signature. This is followed by the advanced signature, which is less complex and therefore offers somewhat less legal certainty. The simple electronic signature has the simplest structure and offers no legal security.

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