With the current restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 epidemic, on 22 April 2020, the NSW Government has introduced new temporary regulations in order to reduce the face-to-face contact between the people who require important legal documentation to be witnessed.
The Attorney General, acknowledging the difficulty of having legal documents witnessed with the COVID-19 restrictions, has announced that a document is able to be witnessed by a legally authorised person, such as a Justice of the Peace, a solicitor or barrister, via electronic means including but not limited to Skype, Zoom and FaceTime.
Under the new regulation, the witness must see the person executing the document in real time to confirm that signature is legitimate, and also has provided the appropriate forms of identification verifying a person’s identity. Upon signing the document, a scanned copy can then be forwarded to the relevant witness for their execution.
The ordinary process requires that a witness must observe the person physically signing the document before them prior to witnessing the document themselves. Naturally, this form of witnessing a document remains valid while the new temporary regulation is in place.
This will reduce physical interactions and enable people to stay at home, whilst ensuring that important legal matters are attended to.
The temporary measures will continue to be in place pending the reviewal of the COVID-19 restrictions by the Government.
Documents that require witnessing by a legal professional or Justice of the Peace include Wills, Powers of Attorney and Statutory Declarations.
The Family Court of Australia has also considered the requirement of parties to execute important Court Documents in legal proceedings, such as Applications, Affidavits and Consent Orders, and implemented measures allowing for parties to electronically execute documents, which are now required to be filed with the Court online. To find out more, click here.
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