How to Legally Sign a PDF Form

By Ray Padgett

Signing legal documents as PDF files on your computer screen has become possible with recent advances in computer security, but not all documents make it obvious how to do so. IRS tax forms, for instance, tell you how to fill out every box right from the screen, but give you no guidance on how to deal with the "Sign Here" areas. Here's how you can legally place your digital signature on any PDF form using Adobe Reader.

Things You'll Need

  • Adobe Reader

Step 1

Open the PDF file you wish to sign in the latest version of Adobe Reader, available to download from the link in Resources.

Step 2

Scroll to "Sign" in the Document menu and select "Sign Document."

Step 3

Follow the on-screen instructions to select the area of the document you wish to sign. Your digital signature will cover everything you select, so be careful to include nothing except the white space meant for your signature.

Step 4

When you have selected the signature area, an "Add Digital ID" box will pop up. Select "A new digital ID I want to create now" if you have not created one previously and click "Next."

Step 5

Fill out the next window with your name, organization (if applicable) and email address. You can ignore the Unicode options unless the PDF you wish to sign instructs you to do otherwise.

Step 6

Click "Next" and choose a location to save the ID and your password. Click "Finish."

Step 7

Type your password into the "Sign Document" window that pops up and check the on-screen preview to make sure everything is spelled correctly. If you wish to have a photograph of yourself appear with your signature for extra security, scroll to "Create New Appearance" in the "Appearance" drop-down box, follow the instructions for importing a graphic, and click "OK" to return to the previous screen.

Step 8

Decide whether to check the "Lock Document After Signing" box (see Tips) and click "Sign."

Tips & Warnings

  • It is recommended you check the "Lock Document After Signing" box in for security. This means that, just as on a paper form, you should not sign the document until you have filled everything else out.