Best Electronic Signature Software 2021

Are Electronic Signatures Legal?

Are electronic signatures legal? We've written this guide about electronic signature qualifications, laws and recommendations to help you answer that very question.

Electronic signatures can make document management processes more efficient and secure. However, just how legal are electronic signatures? While we are not legal professionals ourselves, we’ve written this article as a guide for understanding the legality of electronic signatures and where and when it is appropriate to use them. We’ve also recommended certain solutions based on their legal compliances and security features.

Table of Contents

What Qualifies as an Electronic Signature?

According to the E-Sign Act, an “electronic signature” is a sound, symbol, or process attached to a contract or other record that is executed by a person with the intent of signing said record. Most of the time, an electronic signature is a digitized version of a physical signature.

Which Documents Cannot be E-signed?

There are only a limited number of documents that cannot be electronically signed. These include:

  • Wills
  • Leases
  • Deeds
  • Adoption papers
  • Divorce papers
  • Court Orders
  • Notices of Termination (leases, utility, etc.)
  • Notice of Repossessions
  • Notice of Foreclosure
  • Notice of Eviction
  • Product Recall Notices

Electronic Signature Laws in the U.S.

In order for an electronic signature to be legally binding, depending on how they are used, must be compliant under a few electronic signature laws. The primary laws we discuss below are the E-Sign Act, UETA, and HIPAA.

LawDescription
E-Sign ActThis is a federal law that grants legal recognition of electronic signatures and electronic records as long as all parties intend to use them.
UETAThe Uniform Electronic Transactions Act enforces that electronic documents and signatures related to business, commercial, and governmental matters suffice for legal purposes as long as the parties involved agree to proceed electronically. This law is only accepted on a case-by-case basis.
HIPAAThe Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect patient health information from being disclosed without a patient’s consent or knowledge.

Electronic Signature Laws by State

Most of the United States is compliant with the E-Sign Act and UETA when it comes to the legality of electronic signatures. However, New York and Illinois do not adopt the UETA and have state laws of their own.

New York

New York enforces the ESRA, the Electronic Signatures and Records Act. This act provides that electronic signatures will be the same amount of legally binding as hand-written signatures. It also enforces the legality of documents created and retained in electronic form.

Illinois

Illinois enforces the ECSA, the Electronic Commerce Security Act. It is modeled on the E-Sign Act and specifies that information, signatures, and records cannot be denied legal effect, validity or enforceability solely on the basis that they are in electronic form.

Electronic Signature Software

There are extra legal and security measures an electronic signature solution can uphold. These measures help protect a user and their recipients’ documents and information.

FeatureDocuSignPandaDocsignNowHelloSignDocHubDocsketchProposifySignableFormstack Sign
SSL EncryptionYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Secure Document StorageYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Two Factor AuthenticationYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNoYes
International Law CompliantYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
HIPAA CompliantYesYesYesYesNoNoNoNoYes
Audit Reports FeatureYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes

The table below lists out the specific document storage security and international law compliances each solution adheres to.

SolutionSecure Document StorageInternational Law Compliant
DocuSign
  • ISO 27001:2013
  • SOC 1 Type 2
  • SOC Type 2
  • CSA STAR Program
  • PCI DSS
  • APEC PRP
  • eIDAS
  • GDPR
  • BCRS
PandaDoc
  • AWS
  • SOC 2 Type 2
  • FERPA
  • ISO 27001
  • FedRAMP
  • DoD CSM
  • GDPR
  • Privacy Shield
signNow
  • SOC 2 Type 2
  • PCI DSS
  • 21 CFR Part 11
  • eIDAS
  • GDPR
HelloSign
  • ISO 27001
  • SOC 2 Type 2
  • SAS 70
  • eIDAS
  • GDPR
  • Privacy Shield
DocHub
  • AWS 3
  • GDPR
Docsketch
  • Amazon S3
  • GDPR
  • Privacy Shield
Proposify
  • SOC 2 Type 1
  • GDPR
  • eIDAS
  • ePrivacy Directive
Signable
  • AWS WAF
  • eIDAS
  • GDPR
Formstack Sign
  • AWS
  • SAS 70 Type 2
  • FDA
  • PCI DSS
  • GDPR
  • Privacy Shield

Our Top Three Electronic Signature Solutions for Legal & Security

Our top three solutions that we recommend for security and legal compliances are DocuSign, PandaDoc, and Formstack Sign. All of these solutions offer HIPAA compliance and two factor authentication, as well as some of the highest levels of security and international law compliances.

When it came to ranking these solutions, we looked at the amount of certifications, international law compliances, and platform security settings each solution obtained and offered.

1. DocuSign

Out of the other solutions, DocuSign offers the most security certifications and complies with a wider range of international e-signature standards. Some of these compliances include PCI DSS, CSA STAR Program, and APEC PRP. DocuSign also offers more security platform settings that a user can customize. Some of these settings include:

  • Web app session timeouts
  • Recipient authentication settings
  • Access codes for documents
  • Password rules for other members of the account
DocuSign

DocuSign

Electronic Signature Software
Rating:
Price: $15 per month
DocuSign is the most popular electronic signature tool used by over 500,000 customers to automate their document agreement processes. It is the most robust software solution in the market, but remains very easy to use. Overall, it is an ideal solution for companies of all sizes that should definitely be on your short list.
Pros:
  • DocuSign includes support for mass signatures and in person signing
  • DocuSign integrates with over 350 applications
  • DocuSign allows you to integrate payment methods into documents
Cons:
  • DocuSign does not support the ability to edit uploaded documents
  • You can only upload a limited number of document types (PDF, Docx, Excel)
  • DocuSign only offers unlimited documents for uploading and sending for Advanced Solutions users

2. PandaDoc

PandaDoc offers many high-grade security and legal compliances. This includes PCI DSS and FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. They also offer a few account security settings including workspace and member permissions, but these are limited to Enterprise users.

PandaDoc

PandaDoc

Electronic Signature Software
Rating:
Price: $25 per month
PandaDoc is an electronic signature tool used by over 20,000 companies. While PandaDoc can be used for any type of legal agreement, it does have a specific focus on supporting the deal process for sales professionals. This solution is best for sales professionals, and any organization that has a more complex document workflow.
Pros:
  • PandaDoc’s free plan allows you to send unlimited documents
  • PandaDoc offers a library of over 450 templates
  • Includes valuable sales features like interactive quotes, a content library, and in-document payment processing
Cons:
  • Its document editor is missing standard editing features like being able reorder pages
  • The ability to collect mass signatures comes at an extra cost
  • PandaDoc does not give you the ability to receive recurring payments through the platform

3. Formstack Sign

Formstack Sign offers a good range of legal and security compliances. One of these compliances include PCI DSS. Its platform also includes a few platform security features found in only a few other solutions. This includes advanced password settings, session timeouts, and role permissions settings.

Formstack Sign

Formstack Sign

Electronic Signature Software
Rating:
Price: $20 per month
Formstack Sign is a basic electronic signature tool used by over 10,000 businesses for faster, more versatile document signing. It includes key features like flexible signing, audit reports and templates. It’s best for smaller companies, and should be evaluated next to Docsketch and DocuSign.
Pros:
  • Formstack Sign packages all the must-have features into an easy-to-use application
  • Includes an moderately optimized flow for mobile web including the ability to send documents via SMS
  • You can send unlimited documents for only $20 per month
Cons:
  • Formstack Sign does not include any features built specifically for proposal or sales processes
  • Formstack Sign was originally built for the insurance industry – as a result, it only integrates with software systems used by insurers
  • Formstack Sign does not have a feature to automate version control

Electronic signatures became legal on June 30, 2000.

An electronic signature is an electronic symbol used by a person who intends to sign a contract or other record with it. A digital signature is actually a process that verifies the authenticity of an electronic document and whether its contents have been altered in transit.

No. An electronic signature needs to comply with certain laws such as the E-Sign Act and UETA to be legally binding. Just typing a name on a document or form would be difficult to uphold in court. This is because a “typed name” has to be proven to belong to the person it represents and it has to be tied to the document, so that if any changes are made, they are spotted.

Amy Yang

Amy Yang is a Junior Research Analyst at SoftwarePundit, where she conducts in-depth analyses on software markets and products. Amy has expertise in content production and managing digital and social platforms. She's an expert in customer relationship management, social media management and cloud-based softwares, and has a minor in Web Programming and Applications.

Amy is an expert in several software categories including:

  • Course creation software
  • Electronic signature software

She can be found on LinkedIn here.

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