All You Need to Know About Wet Signatures

Sealing a contract or agreement with a mark or name dates back to ancient times. Signing a document took various forms until a wet ink signature became the standard way to ensure a signee’s intention.

What’s a wet signature, how do you make one, and is it really the only way to sign a document? Keep reading to find out. 

What does wet sign mean?

A wet signature is a physically generated mark made with ink, pen, or other writing means on a paper document. 

Usually, a wet signature means signing a copy of a document with your name using an ink pen. Yet as this wet signature definition suggests, parties don’t necessarily need to sign their name or use only ink. Leaving any mark with any writing device will do as well. 

A wet signature is a physically generated mark made with ink, pen, or other writing means on a paper document. 

When do I need a wet signature?

Nowadays, electronic and digital signatures are widely used since they provide a fast and secure way to sign most legal documents. 

However, in some cases, a wet ink signature is still a must. These cases vary from country to country. For example, UK law requires wet ink signs for documents that need to be filed with the tax authorities or land registry. Similarly, the US requires them for mortgages, deeds of trust, and other collateral documents. And the list goes on. 

The takeaway? While electronic means will do for most business affairs and contracts, you should check your national laws to find out when wet signing is mandatory, just to be on the safe side. 

How to make a wet signature

To make a wet signature, you only need a physical document to sign and a writing tool to sign it with. The process takes just two steps:

  1. You download and print out the document that needs to be signed. 
  2. You physically sign the document. 

And that’s it! Often, you’ll also need to scan the document and then send it back to the other party. In this case, your wet signature becomes something else.

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Wet vs digital vs electronic signature

It’s no wonder that there are now online alternatives for wet signing. You’ll often see electronic and digital signatures talked about as if they’re the same thing, but this is not the case. 

In a nutshell, electronic signatures can substitute wet signing in most cases, but different electronic forms have different levels of security. 

The simplest way to create an electronic signature is to scan a wet signed document. However, this offers a very low level of security, as the identity of a signee can’t be verified. This makes a scanned signature unsatisfactory for most important deals. 

Electronic signatures can substitute wet signing in most cases, but different electronic forms have different levels of security. 

Advanced and qualified electronic signatures offer a higher level of security as they’re linked specifically to the person and verify their identity. Just bear in mind that for the highest level of security, you need a dedicated device to create qualified electronic signatures. 

If you need an advanced e-sign solution, plenty of software providers offer such services. Even better, an all-in-one solution like AXDRAFT CLM offers e-signing built into your document management platform, so you don’t have to switch between tools in your workflow. 

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Meanwhile, a digital signature is a piece of code attached to a document. Taken alone, a digital signature doesn’t have a legal status (but is legally recognized) because it only aims to increase document security, not display the intent of a signee. However, the code enhances the security of the signing process and is an essential part of advanced and qualified electronic signing. 

The bottom line

For centuries, wet signing was the standard way to seal deals and agreements for personal and business affairs. As times have changed, electronic signatures have become the most convenient way to sign documents. Nevertheless, wet signing is still a must in some situations. 

E-signing saves time and money, as it’s more secure and allows you to sign documents from anywhere. Both AXDRAFT and our QuickDocs self-service contract management solution offer built-in eSign with an automated workflow that makes contract paperwork a breeze, even for non-legals.

If you’d like to see the power of document automation for yourself before you sign on a dotted line, we invite you to try out our super-fast demo and find out what you’re missing! 

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Do we still need wet signatures?

For the most part, electronic signatures have replaced wet signing in business affairs, as they speed up the signing process and allow you to seal deals regardless of your location. Yet wet signing is still mandatory for some documents. For instance, in the US, mortgages and deeds of trust have to be physically signed to be legally binding.

Why is it called a wet signature?

A wet signature usually takes some time to dry because it’s signed with ink. This is why it’s called ‘wet’.

How do I create a wet signature in PDF?

You need to have the right tool for signing a PDF document. Adobe Acrobat Reader is the most common one. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can sign a document in a few simple steps:

  1. Open the PDF file in Adobe Acrobat Reader.
  2. Tap the Tools icon and choose Fill & Sign.
  3. Tap Sign, then Add Signature.
  4. Choose Type, Draw, or Image depending on how you want to add your signature.

The procedure is similar in other PDF tools.

Can a wet signature be electronic?

Technically speaking, a wet signature is one that’s created in ink or something similar on a hard copy of a document. You can turn it into a simple electronic signature if the signed document is scanned and sent via email or other electronic means.

What documents require wet signatures?

Some things such as title deeds and mortgage and tax-related documents may only be legally binding with a wet sign. The list of such documents varies from country to country. If you’re in doubt about the requirements, ask a local legal expert.

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