Businesses that sign (or ‘execute’) contracts and documents virtually, using email or fax, can now refer to a new Law Society guide on how to avoid the legal problems that can arise. The guide, 'Guidance on execution of documents at virtual signing or closing', sets out suggested ways to deal with electronic or virtual execution of simple contracts:
- The parties email or fax the contract to each other. The signature page is printed and signed at each end. Final versions, including the signature page, are circulated afterwards.
- Signatories can email signed signature pages for a final document, and give authority for these to be attached to the final approved version of the document.
- Signatories can email signed signature pages before the final document, and give authority for these to be attached to the final approved version.
The guide specifies the steps required for each (including that all the parties’ lawyers agree in advance which route to take, and that all documents are Microsoft Word or Adobe .pdf files) to make sure that the parties can prove the document was validly signed. While it is not legally binding, it provides valuable guidelines for company officers and their advisers. Only the first option can be used with other documents – such as leases or documents disposing of land, guarantees or other documents that have to be executed as deeds - but there are also additional legal formalities for deeds that mean they should not ordinarily be executed without legal advice in any event. Download the guidance at the City Solicitors website.