Facsimile (fax for short) versions of legal documents — or scanned and emailed documents or PDF files — are generally acceptable for use in legal proceedings to enforce contracts or obligations and, as such, can be relied upon by the recipient.
But one sticking point does exist.
If a legal document ever need to be filed with any governmental agency (for whatever purpose may be required), fax copies are usually not acceptable; most recording or filing agencies require original signatures on the legal documents they accept.
So in most instances, if there is even the remote possibility that a signed legal document will need to be submitted to a government agency going forward, it is wise to obtain signed original copies.
If the only reason for the creation of the document is for contract enforcement, then a faxed or emailed copy is acceptable.
A contract or legal agreement containing a photocopied or faxed signature is deemed valid and enforceable in most states. Such a document could be used to prove the existence of a contract in a court of law or in an administrative proceeding.
If the validity of a signature is called into play, the original document could be valuable to verify conformity to the copied or faxed signature. Again, however, the copied or faxed document should be sufficient to establish the existence of a contract.
In some cases, however, faxed or copied signatures are not appropriate — for example, a county recorder’s office or a registrar of deeds usually will require an original signature on a deed or a memorandum of lease prior to filing the same “of record.”
Similarly, in those jurisdictions where cognovits notes are valid, the note filed with the court to obtain judgment usually must contain the original signature of the maker of that note.
Bottom line, don’t use a fax if a government agency is involved, even a local government agency. If a document is a simple contract between parties, a fax is okay to use — but an original signed document is better.
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