Virtual documents and e-signing to be extended
The witnessing of important legal documents such as wills, powers of attorney and statutory declarations over videoconference will continue under new legislation to be introduced into NSW Parliament.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello said the new legislation seeks to continue arrangements introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce non-essential personal contact.
These arrangements allow a witness to see the signatory signing a document in real-time over an audiovisual link (AVL).
Mr Speakman said the safety and wellbeing of NSW residents is a priority which is why the government has changed the way these documents can be witnessed.
“Countless legal documents are signed everyday in front of one or more witnesses but videoconferencing technology enables these important forms to be completed efficiently and without the risk of face-to-face interaction,” Mr Speakman said.
“Extending remote witnessing arrangements will also allow us to assess whether these reforms should be continued in the longer-term.”
The legislation will enable the remote witnessing of documents via AVL to continue until the end of 2021. Arrangements enabling remote witnessing would have otherwise terminated in September 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all how to deliver services differently while ensuring customers still enjoy the same high standard of efficiency,” Mr Dominello said.
“Videoconferencing technology provides an effective and secure way to witness documents remotely.”
Under the extension, a witness will be able to sign a document, or a copy of the document, to confirm they witnessed the signatory’s signature via AVL.
This could be done on a hard copy which is scanned and sent to the witness or on an identical counterpart of the document the signatory signs. Traditional methods of signing and witnessing these documents will remain in place.
Previously, the legal profession said they had mostly embraced virtual methods in the COVID era and also strong support from the legal community.