Digital eSignatures are legally binding in most parts of the world including the USA, European Union, and the UK. Get more details about specific countries here
Electronic signatures in Estonia are governed by the European Union's eIDAS regulations - Regulation (EU) No 910/2014 that went into effect on July 1, 2016. This regulation is mandatory and must be substantially adopted in all EU member states, with precedent over any conflicting local laws. It replaces the older eSignature Directive (1999/93/EC) and provides a wholistic legal framework for not only electronic signatures, but also a range of newly defined electronic "trust services".
According to EU law an electronic signature is "data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign". This means that an electronic signature is any method an individual use to 'sign' an electronic document. As in the case of other regions, this covers a wide range of measures, from the of affixing text or a digital image, to more sophisticated methods which meet specific set of criteria outlined in the EU eIDAS Regulation for advanced or qualified electronic signatures.
EU eIDAS Regulations define three types of electronic signatures: electronic signature, advanced signature, and qualified electronic signature.
Electronic signature: This covers the broad category of all electronic signatures including "any data in electronic form which is attached to or logically associated with other data in electronic form and which is used by the signatory to sign." This is the most general form of electronic signature and covers the definition of an electronic signature provided earlier.
Advanced electronic signature: This is a type of electronic signature that must meet specific requirements providing a higher level of signer ID verification, security, and tamper-sealing. The Regulation requires that it is:
A qualified electronic signature: This is the only type of electronic signature that has special legal status in EU law, and is the legal equivalent of a hand-written signature. This type of electronic signature must meet advanced electronic signature requirements and be backed by a qualified certificate - a certificate issued by a trust service provider that has been granted qualified status by the government and is therefore on the Estonia Trusted List. The trust service provider must verify the identity of the signer and vouch for the authenticity of the resulting signature.
Whichever method is used Electronic signatures are admissible as evidence in court. The legal strength of the eSignature chosen is dependent on a number of factors, including the type of eSignature used, with more credibility assigned to the use of advanced qualified signatures. For example, a typed name at the bottom of an email is more likely to be successfully challenged in a court of law, than a qualified electronic signature that meets all technical standards, is backed by a Qualified Trust Service Provider (TSP) in Estonia, and contains significant embedded signatory information. To date, the use of qualified electronic signatures appears to be uncommon in Estonia. Also, legal restrictions requiring other specific types of signature or preventing the use of electronic signature are similarly uncommon. Stringent signer identification and signer certificate requirements can make qualified electronic signatures impractical for many business transactions. As such, no specific type of electronic signature is legally required for the overwhelming majority of corporate, commercial, consumer, HR, and financial transactions under EU law.
There are certain contracts where signing a hard-copy of a document in wet-ink may still be required. Though the law does not exclude specific types of agreements, certain types of agreements such as wills, court documents, land titles, and deeds, may fall into this category.
Note: This information for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Consult a licensed attorney for legal advice or representation.