Monday, January 28, 2013

Electronic signatures

Last week I received the following email:

Can you please advise if Northern Middlesex county will recognize an electronic signature as an “original” to record an easement or does it still need to be a traditional “wet” signature?

I asked the sender to fax or email a copy of the document that she sought to record.  I haven't received anything yet but the inquiry got me thinking about the issue of "electronic signatures."  A number of documents we receive and record do not contain a so-called "wet" signature.  By "wet" signature, I mean a human being using pen and ink to make a mark on paper.  The documents we see that don't have this type of signature contain a signature facsimile, created by a rubber stamp, a computer printer, or by some other means. 

I do think that the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (Mass General Laws chapter 110G) permits a purely electronic signature, something similar to what results when you pay for something at a retail establishment and sign an electronic pad with some kind of stylus or inkless pen.  What is less clear is how such a signature would be acknowledged, particularly because the Massachusetts Notary Public regulations require the notary to include his or her stamp on the document to complete the notarial act.  I'm not sure how that could be done when the document did not exist in paper form. 

From my perspective, until there is some clarification of how an electronic document is acknowledged, I'm not sure we will see many of them here at the registry of deeds.

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