Signing a contract over email?
July 23, 2008 10:03 AM   Subscribe

What is the accepted procedure for signing a contract that will be sent back as an email attachment (.doc)?

I received a contract for renting out a hotel space (HS Prom, advice earlier solicited here) via email (MS Word attachment), and can return it via fax or email. Not having my own fax machine, email would be better...but how exactly do I go about signing it? I know that some businesspeople have .jpg's of their signatures, but I can only remember seeing them used in letters, not official contracts. I could see printing, signing, and scanning in the whole page again, but that would change it away from .doc, which sounds weird.

Basically, I want to get this done in a way that makes me look like I actually know what I'm doing, following proper legal and that's-the-way-people-do-it procedures. If it comes to it, I can print, sign, and fax from a copy shop, but keeping everything through email would be easiest.

I'm in New York (City and State) if that affects anything. Thanks!
posted by bah213 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Print it out and sign it. Then scan it and send it back as a PDF. I've done this a lot.

To save time only print to paper and scan the page you sign. Then print the rest of the .doc straight to .pdf. Just replace the signature page before attaching.
posted by wmeredith at 10:10 AM on July 23, 2008

I've always gone the print, sign, scan route and never had any problems with it. In fact, I think that would be better than including a jpg signature in the .doc file because of how easily that file can be changed. A pdf (and more so a fax) leave less room for accidental mistakes to happen.
posted by Grither at 10:11 AM on July 23, 2008

Nthing print, sign, scan, send (pdf). I'm not a lawyer, but I've done it a lot and everyone accepts it as a valid signature (including lawyers).
posted by burnmp3s at 10:13 AM on July 23, 2008

If you do want to use fax instead, just go to Office Depot / Office Max / Staples and fax the signed page for $1
posted by jesirose at 10:23 AM on July 23, 2008

They will be used to getting it back in PDF format, and will print it and stick it in a file.
posted by yohko at 10:28 AM on July 23, 2008

The method of PDFing your signature page detailed above me is the way to get pages signed in the business/law world.
posted by chan.caro at 10:44 AM on July 23, 2008

I have a tablet and have just signed digitally right on a contract before so I don't have to bother printing it out. Check out Drop.Io for free faxing capabilities too. It is a pretty neat offering that I've been checking out and it's useful for faxing documents for places that insist on faxes.
posted by perpetualstroll at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2008

Nthing pdf. AFAIK it hasn't been tested in court, but once we have a pdf version of a signature we can do whatever the signature entitles us to do, even though it might take a few weeks to get the paper copy. Word is not acceptable for signed documents (for the company I work at and their partners).
posted by jeather at 11:55 AM on July 23, 2008

I scanned my signature once into a jpeg. In Acrobat professional, I saved it as a stamp. Now I just print doc to pdf, then type out my information, and choose and place signature on the bottom of the document. It's that simple.
posted by special-k at 12:01 PM on July 23, 2008

I would strongly second the recommendation to use PDF for this.

While it's been my experience that almost everyone will accept the "print, sign, scan" process, you can actually do better than that if you like. Acrobat supports the use of actual digital signatures that can be placed in a PDF. When a digital signature is applied, the signer can configure the PDF so that subsequent changes can't be made without invalidating the signature. The signature provides information about when the document was signed, and by whom, in a way that's essentially tamper-proof.

You can get a personal digital signature file from Verisign for about $20 per year. A digital signature isn't just the appearance of a signature graphic, although that can be combined with the digital signature.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:12 PM on July 23, 2008

PDF it. The Verisign signature is the way to go if you're going to be doing lots of digital signatures. For a cheaper (free) route, try this method.
posted by webhund at 3:30 PM on July 23, 2008

The sign-scan-PDF route is probably fine. The fax route may be better, because it HAS been tested in court. Digital signatures are probably ok as well, for those who accept them, but don't bet that a given correspondent is tech savvy enough to know what is going on. Fax is the only method here that has been confirmed to pass the legal tests, AFAIK. Silly, perhaps, but true.
posted by lhauser at 4:16 PM on July 23, 2008

Sign and Scan PDF is best so the terms are set. Why they sent you a contract in .doc format is beyond me, unless they expect you to change or add terms to it.

I've seen some people do "/s Tom Stevens" in place of handwritten signatures and I think the /s denotes that its an electronic signature, but I'm not sure.
posted by abdulf at 1:32 AM on July 24, 2008

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