Signature stamps are a handy tool for any office space, but are they legal? There is some confusion as to whether signature stamps are considered a legal form of authorization. Unfortunately, the answer still remains ambiguous and needs to be addressed in steps.
Let’s first start with defining what a signature is. Because, there’s more to it than you think.
Definition of Signature
Since many official documents require authorization in some form, understanding the legal definition of “signature” is an important first step to unpacking the legality of signature stamps. According to The Free Dictionary, “signature” is defined as:
A mark or sign made by an individual on an instrument or document to signify knowledge, approval, acceptance, or obligation.¹
While this is the most upfront and obvious definition, there is an additional layer when considering what constitutes a legal signature.
Legally, in addition to the act of signing, an individual’s intent is taken into consideration when addressing the validity of a signature.² This is why a signature is not always a specific or unique way of writing your name, and in fact, can be considered a signature by mark.³ A valid signature could include a drawn image, official seal, or a simple alphabetic character so long as the signee understands and intends for their mark to serve as their signature.
With this in mind, the next question is; are signature stamps covered under this definition?
What are Signature Stamps?
In the simplest of terms; a signature stamp is an implement personalized with an individual’s name for quick and easy authorization of documents. These stamps can come customized with just a signature or can include both a signature and printed name. Signature stamps can come in a variety of styles including self-inking, pre-inked, or wood handle, and while each stamp format serves the same basic function, they each appeal to different aesthetics.
Self-inking stamps tend to be the most popular as they are more affordable than pre-inked and have a stamp ink pad built into the stamp body itself.
You can read more about the differences between these stamp types here.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, keeping a personal signature stamp on your person is a good way to maintain professionalism even while social distancing. It’s also better to use your own tools to reduce the spread of germs.
While signature stamps are useful tools for any professional, there is some concern as to whether they are considered a legal method for authorization or not.
Are Signature Stamps Legal?
The short answer is; yes, you can generally use signature stamps as a legal authorizing mark. So long as your stamp is intentionally used and validated by you or an authorized representative you appoint, a signature stamp can serve as a legal form of signing.
Now, this is generally speaking.
There are circumstances where specific protocols or regulations must be followed for signature stamps to be legally used.
Some states require special documentation or witnesses to be present for signature stamps to be used on forms and documents requiring notarization.
For example, North and South Carolina require "Mark affixed by [name] in presence of undersigned notary" next to their impression. And, states like Arizona, Arkansas, and California, among others, limit the use of signatures by mark to individuals who are unable to physically signing their name.³
In 2018, one notary had to defend herself against a million-dollar suit as she allowed a signature stamp to be used without following her state’s specified protocols.4 Be sure you are familiar with your state’s notary public laws and how they apply to signature stamps.
It’s important to note: Simply Stamps is not a law firm. As such, please speak with a lawyer if you need official legal consulting concerning your signature stamp.
With these special considerations, you may need to weigh the benefits and drawbacks to using or keeping a signature stamp readily available.
Pros & Cons of Signature Stamps
Knowing now that a signature stamp is generally accepted as an official and legal mark of authorization, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of keeping one.
As with any purchase, considering both benefits and drawbacks is an important step to making an informed decision.
There are many reasons to purchase and use a signature stamp. It is a useful tool for both personal and professional use that helps simplify or expedite certain tasks.
- Simplifies frequent and repeated signing
- Consistent appearance removes ambiguity
- Allows physically disabled to easily sign
There are a couple things to be wary of with signature stamps. Perhaps the greatest threat is that should your stamp get stolen, it allows the thief to then use it for fraudulent purposes. In 2003, a man admitted to stealing $802,000 over six years from the Massachusetts Teachers’ Association through the use of a stamp to sign-off on fraudulent checks.5
- Certain businesses or organization may not accept stamped signatures
- Increases chance of fraud if it falls into the wrong hands
To prevent fraud, you may want to take measures to protect yourself. Keep your or your company’s signature stamp in a limited access space such as a safe, locker, or locked closet. Only allow certain, authorized individuals access to your stamp, and keep the location of your stamp on a need-to-know basis.
Getting the Best Signature Stamp
Simply Stamps specializes in creating custom rubber stamps for personal and professional use. If you’re considering simplifying the way you sign, then browse our selection of logo stamps and stamps with dates to find the signature stamp to fit your needs.
If you’re wondering how to get a signature stamp, simply follow these steps:
- Grab a white sheet of paper
- Sign your name three times with a felt tip pen (minimum of 1″ in length)
- Choose a signature stamp style from Simply Stamps
- Upload your signature and choose from available options
- Place your order and Simply Stamps will ship it to you
Once you receive your custom signature stamp, store it in a dry, room-temperature space free of dust and debris. To clean your stamp, gently rinse your rubber stamp under warm water and carefully wipe clean.
See our complete guide on cleaning your stamp for more information.
- Legal Dictionary: The Free Dictionary
- National Notary Association: Signature by Mark
- National Notary Association: Legal Battle
- National Legal and Policy Center