A signature can have several legal effects. A signature on a contract indicates acceptance of the contract’s terms. A signature on a check or credit card receipt authorizes a transfer of funds. A signature on a Will indicates that the document accurately manifests the signer’s testamentary intent. In legal terms, a document with a valid signature is considered “authenticated.”
Traditionally, a signature has been formed by hand writing one’s name in cursive. However, a valid signature can take many different forms. To be legally valid, a signature may consist of any mark—names, initials, identifying symbols, or even just an X—made with the signer’s intent to authenticate the document. As long as the signer intends to authenticate the document and makes some mark, the requirements of the law are generally satisfied.
Furthermore, signatures don’t need to be hand-written. A signature can be printed, stamped, or otherwise signified. And the signer doesn’t have to be the one creating the mark. An authorized third party can inscribe your signature so long as you authorize it and intend to sign. So, if a wife asks her husband to place her signature on a check or document, the signature will generally be valid and the document enforceable.
Signatures can also be created electronically. For example, Nevada authorizes electronic signatures between parties who have agreed to conduct transactions by electronic means. In such cases, an electronic signature is “an electronic sound, symbol or process attached to or logically associated with a record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.” NRS 719.100.
Of course, the laws governing signatures sometimes vary from one jurisdiction to another. And intent can be a very elusive animal. So be wary of potential pitfalls and consult an experienced attorney if you have any doubt.