Electronic Signatures

Guidance Note: Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts

CO.ES.01

This Guidance Note: Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts provides an explanation of the legal basis for creating and executing certain types of contracts, deeds and other documents electronically, taking account of the Law Society’s 2016 and Law Commission’s 2019 legal opinion and guidance on the subject.

In view of the effects of COVID 19 on the practical ability to execute documents using manual signatures, you might wish to actively consider using virtual execution (including the use of e-signatures) as highlighted in this guidance note. Please click here to see the Law Society’s guidance on Covid-19 and execution of documents.

As explained in this Note, in certain situations, not only will many documents in electronic form be valid and binding as if they were in hard copy form, but also an “electronic signature” appended to them will be as valid as a traditional signature. This Guidance Note: Electronic Signature of Deeds and Contracts also defines what is meant in law by “signature”, “electronic signature” and “in writing” for present purposes.

As an exception to this guidance about electronic documents, the Land Registry has its own requirements for documents to be filed with it. You are advised to check the Land Registry’s guidance at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/execution-of-deeds, or seek advice from a legal professional, before drafting and executing any document that is to be submitted to the Land Registry.

It is also important to note that where a deed needs to be signed in the presence of a witness, the witness should be physically present for the signing of the document, even where the signature is made electronically.

This Guidance Note refers to, and in effect supplements, the Guidance Note: Formalities for Signing Contracts in this subfolder. If you read both Notes, that will help you to decide whether and how you can validly create and sign a particular document electronically.

Once you have subscribed to the appropriate document folder click on the “Download Document” button below. You will be asked what you want to do with the file. It is recommended that you save the document to a location of your choice prior to viewing. 

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