Coronavirus Support: Approval to Witness Legal Documents Online
The NSW Government has made temporary changes to legislation governing the witnessing of important legal documents.
Under the new changes, video conferencing technology such as Zoom, Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp will be able to be used to witness documents in an effort to encourage people to stay home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
How will the changes work?
The temporary regulation has been made under section 17 of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 which is a new provision providing alternative arrangements for witnessing and certification in response to COVID-19.
This will apply to the signing of a range of legal documents including wills, powers of attorney, deeds, agreements, affidavits, and statutory declarations to ensure legal transactions continue safely during the pandemic.
In order to comply with the new legislation, a witness must see a person sign the document in real time to confirm the signature is legitimate. The witness must sign a document or a copy of the document to confirm that they have witnessed the signature. This document will the be scanned and sent to the witness or on an identical counterpart of the document the signatory signs.
Traditional methods of signing and witnessing documents will still be valid while the temporary regulation is in force.
The categories of people who are authorised to witness documents has also been expanded by the government in line with legislation and in consultation with the Law Society of NSW the NSW Bar Association, Justice of the Peace associations and other professional bodies.
Important things to remember
Those who will be using video conferencing technology to witness legal documents should remember to:
- Comply with any relevant regulations
- Keep file notes of the video conferencing meeting
- Follow usual processes in preventing undue influence, fraud and assessing capacity
- Obtain client consent if you wish to record the meeting
- Ensure all documents are stored properly