It is as if some black-robed man with a curly white wig slammed down the gavel and proclaimed, “All men witnesseth that heretofore law shall no longer move like a snail, but rather shall transpire at the speed of light!”
In 2000, Congress actually made such a proclamation; it passed a law making electronic documents and electronic signatures valid in almost every legal fact, except wills, certain trusts, and some relatively esoteric commercial transactions.
You might be asking – if the law has been in place for 16 years, then why are you just writing about it? The answer – originally, the law was largely applied to online contracts; however, today, more and more real estate documents are being produced and signed completely electronically, never being reduced to paper.
This trend has been raising some concerns for real estate professionals, especially the conservative ones. Here are a few notes from the Florida laws on electronic documents that should alleviate most of these concerns:
- Electronic documents are as good as paper documents, unless the document needs to be recorded in a county without an electronic recording system;
- Electronic signatures are as good as ink signatures. As long as the person makes the mark on the document with the intent to “sign” it, it counts as a signature; and
- Electronic notarizations are as good as ink notarizations. Just make sure all of the notarial laws are complied with, such as the requirement that the notary witness the person sign the document.
While there are still some outliers where old school paper and pen are required, as a real estate professional, you can be confident that the law backs the validity of the electronic documents and signatures you come across during the course of your normal business day.