More and more companies, businesses and individuals operate exclusively online. There are now several software options that make scanning and sending digital documents much easier and faster than mailing hard copies. The convenience and cost benefit of digital documents has changed the way people do business, including signing contracts. It is now a common practice to finalize contracts with electronic signatures.
However, what happens when a dispute arises about an electronic signature? Can you enforce an electronic contract? What happens if there is a question about a contract and all you have is a scanned copy sent to your email?
The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act
Virginia adopted the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act in 2000. This code states that electronic contracts and records have the same legal standing as paper records. An electronic signature, whether it is a scanned image of a paper signature or a typed signature, is as valid as a hard-copy signature. If the contract would be enforceable as a hard-copy document, it is also enforceable as a digital document.
There are a few documents that cannot be bound with a digital signature:
- Testamentary trusts
- Certain bank deposit and transfer documentation
If you are not sure about using a digital contract for a certain purpose, a lawyer who has experience with contract disputes can offer advice.
Written contract requirements
The Commonwealth of Virginia requires that parties create a written document to legally bind certain agreements, such as the following:
- Any real estate sale
- A lease that lasts longer than one year
- Any agreement that shall last longer than one year
- Any agreement involving loans or credit greater than $25,000
Digital documents are acceptable for any of these purposes, as long as they include a scanned or digital signature. For the bulk of your business needs or transactions, you no longer need to save hard-copy records as long as you have a digital version of the contract.