What is a Wet Ink Signature? What is a Wet Ink Signature?

What Is a Wet Signature and When Do You Need One?

Have you ever wondered why you still have to sign paperwork with a pen when everything else can be done electronically? Meet the wet signature, a handwritten signature that uses ink on paper. Even in today’s digital world, wet signatures are still occasionally needed for important legal documents like closing on a house, signing a will, or finalizing a contract.

While electronic signatures are more convenient, faster, easier and eco-friendly, wet signatures can be required for certain more archaic states or enterprises. If you’re about to sign on the dotted line for something big in California, North Carolina, or Illinois, chances are you’ll still need to dust off your favorite pen and use your own unique, handwritten wet signature. At least until 2024.

Keep reading to learn exactly what a wet signature is, why they’re still needed, and how to make sure your signature is legally valid. The days of wet signatures may be numbered, but they’re not out of the picture just yet.

What Exactly Is a Wet Signature?

A wet signature refers to a handwritten signature made with ink on paper. It’s the traditional way we’ve been signing important documents for centuries.

Why Are Wet Signatures Still Used?

Even in today’s digital world, wet signatures are still commonly used and required for certain important and legally binding documents like:

  • Contracts – Many contracts, especially for large purchases like a house or car, require an actual handwritten signature, although requirement is decreasing rapidly. Digital signatures are being more and more accepted as legally valid.
  • Official forms – Government agencies often require wet signatures on applications, tax forms, licenses, passports, and other official paperwork.
  • Legal documents – Wills, living wills, and other estate planning documents may still need to be signed by hand to be considered legally valid and binding depending on your state of residence.
  • Checks – Personal checks still need to be signed by hand to authorize the transaction and transfer of funds.
  • Voting – In many areas, voter registration forms and ballots must be signed in ink for verification and to prevent fraud.
Who Still Requires Wet Ink Signatures?
Who Still Requires Wet Ink Signatures?
Are Wet Signatures Becoming Obsolete?

While wet signatures are still commonly used and even required in some situations, they are becoming less necessary as digital signatures become more widely accepted and secure technology improves. Many contracts, forms, and other documents can now be signed electronically using services like BlueNotary.

However, wet signatures likely won’t disappear altogether anytime soon. For certain important and sensitive documents, as well as legal, medical, and government forms, handwritten signatures continue to inspire more trust and confidence. They also provide an extra layer of fraud prevention since they are difficult to replicate.

So for now, keep practicing your signature! Wet signatures remain an integral part of how we conduct important business and legal transactions in the modern world. But digital signatures are slowly taking over more routine paperwork, allowing us to save time, money, and a whole lot of paper.

When Is a Wet Signature Required?

A wet signature refers to a handwritten signature on a physical document. In today’s digital age, e-signatures have become common for signing many types of agreements and contracts. However, there are still some situations where an old-fashioned wet signature is required.

Legal Documents

Many important legal documents like wills, deeds, and affidavits, most jurisdictions mandate an original handwritten signature.  A growing number states will allow online notarization to cover these and recognize it as more secure. Some may consider these wet signatures to be more secure and help prevent fraud, but this isn’t necessarily true. If there is ever a dispute over the document or signature, the original signed copy can be examined by a handwriting expert. Online Notarization relies on recorded video as well as checking ID’s against government databases as well as utilizing biometrics or knowledge based authentication.

International Contracts

Contracts between parties in different countries often call for wet signatures to avoid issues. This is often the case with apostille.  Each state and country will have differing e-signature laws and enforce these laws differently. Handwritten signatures on paper documents are often recognized globally, whereas e-signature regulations, although better in most ways (if using Online Notarization), can vary in different legal systems.

Sensitive Agreements

For highly sensitive agreements involving large amounts of money or valuable assets, wet signatures are sometimes viewed as more binding. This is fortunately changing as many loan signings are moving online and requiring more secure ID authentication than a simple in person eye check. The physical act of signing one’s name on paper seems to carry more weight to some individuals though and parties can reserve the right to make their own rules in some situations. The important thing is to provide reassurance and security for all parties involved.

Original Copies

In some situations, multiple original copies of a signed agreement are needed, and some states do not allow for electronic signatures to be used as distinct originals. Only wet signatures on paper documents can provide multiple legally binding originals in these states. Be sure to check with your state of relevance.

As convenient as e-signatures have become, wet signatures on paper still have an important place for certain agreements and contracts. Despite living in an increasingly digital world, handwritten signatures continue to be viewed favorably in certain places and with the elderly. For that reason, they are still required in many sensitive, high-stakes situations. Of course, every situation is going to be unique and depend on the receiving party as well as the state it is regulated under.

eSignatures vs. Wet Signatures: Pros and Cons

When it comes to signing important documents, you typically have two options: electronic signatures (eSignatures) or wet signatures. Each has its pros and cons, so you’ll need to determine which is right for your specific situation.


Electronic signatures, or eSignatures, are digital signatures applied to electronic documents. They offer several benefits:

  • Convenience. You can sign documents remotely without needing to print, sign, scan and return them. Everything is done electronically.
  • Speed. The signing process is nearly instant. No more waiting days or weeks for physical documents to be signed and returned.
  • Legally binding. eSignatures are legally valid and binding for most contracts and agreements in many countries. Laws like the U.S. ESIGN Act and UETA establish their validity.

However, eSignatures also have some downsides:

  • May not be accepted everywhere. Some organizations are unfortunately still living in the past and prefer or require wet signatures despite legally not needing to due to their policy reasons.
  • Security concerns. Although encrypted, eSignatures could potentially be subject to cybersecurity risks like hacking or data breaches that compromise personal information if you are not using a legitimate eSignature provider.
  • Impersonation possible. It can be difficult to verify the identity of the actual signer and ensure they have authority to sign. Identity theft is a risk. Although is is completely taken care of with Online Notarization.
Wet Signatures

A wet signature, or handwritten signature, is a physical signature made with pen and ink on paper. Wet signatures offer these benefits:

  • Tamper-evident. It is very difficult to modify or forge a wet signature without detection.
  • No technology required. Wet signatures don’t rely on computers, networks or software to function. All you need is a pen and paper.

However, there are also downsides to wet signatures:

  • Not convenient. Requiring in-person signing and physical document exchange. This can significantly slow down business processes and deals.
  • Easily lost. Signed paper documents can be misplaced, damaged or destroyed if not properly stored and archived.
  • Not environmentally friendly. Wet signatures typically require printing and copying paper documents which contributes to waste.
  • Easy to copy. Most 4th graders know how to forge their parents signatures. The same applies for all other ink signatures in the real world.

In the end, you need to weigh the options for your specific needs. For many everyday agreements, eSignatures offer a lot of advantages. But for certain contracts and legal documents with certain companies or in certain states or in situations where in person identity verification is critical, wet signatures may still be required. The key is finding the right balance of security, convenience and practicality.

Wet Signature Conclusions

So there you have it. A wet signature, or handwritten signature, is still required for many important legal documents and business transactions. Even though we live in an increasingly digital world, wet signatures are not quite yet a thing of the past for certain sensitive paperwork. While electronic signatures have come a long way and are convenient for many everyday forms, a good old-fashioned pen and paper can’t be beat when in a pinch or perhaps when dealing with an elderly client.

The next time you’re asked to provide a signature, think about whether it needs to be wet or whether an e-signature will do. For most other everyday forms, save yourself the hassle and sign electronically. For wills, contracts, and other highly sensitive documents, we’re getting to a point technologically where pen and paper are not required.

Either way though, make sure you understand exactly what you’re signing – your signature, whether wet or electronic, is your legal consent and commitment. So sign carefully and confidently, knowing you’ve made the right choice for the situation.

FAQ: Wet Signature and When Do You Need One

Why do some states still require wet signatures for certain documents despite the availability of electronic signatures?

Some states continue to mandate wet signatures for specific documents due to traditional legal frameworks and perceived security advantages. Handwritten signatures are often seen as more trustworthy for critical documents like wills and property deeds. This requirement helps prevent fraud and ensures the authenticity of these sensitive agreements.

How do electronic signatures provide security against fraud compared to wet signatures?

Electronic signatures offer robust security measures such as encryption, biometric verification, and authentication protocols. Services like BlueNotary utilize these technologies to verify signer’s identities and document integrity. Unlike wet signatures, which can be easily forged, electronic signatures are more resistant to tampering and can provide a digital audit trail for added security.

What are the environmental benefits of using electronic signatures over wet signatures?

Electronic signatures significantly reduce the need for paper, printing, and physical document storage. This decrease in paper usage helps conserve natural resources and lowers the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing and transporting paper. By eliminating the need for physical document exchange, e-signatures also reduce energy consumption related to mailing and courier services.

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