As Martin Bullock Lawyers has been advocating for some time, a new regulation has just been passed by the NSW parliament that allows the use of digital technology to witness legal documents.
This is an important piece of legislation in the current environment, as restrictions on the movement and gathering of people have made it extremely difficult to get important legal documents signed and witnessed. People cannot come to solicitors’ offices to sign documents, and it is not safe for solicitors to go and visit people in hospital to sign documents, as they have had to do up until this new legislation.
Social distancing and safety precautions have finally been put into place. Until yesterday, the old rules prevailed, but on 22 April 2020, the NSW Government finally came to the party and passed a regulation which enables special rules to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Documents that previously required witnesses to be present for the signing of the document can now be witnessed through the use of audio visual link, meaning technology that enables continuous audio and visual communication between persons at different places, including video conferencing software such as Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom.
Under the new regulation, the documents that can now be witnessed using audio visual link include:
- A Will
- A Power of Attorney or an Enduring Power of Attorney
- A Deed or Agreement
- An Enduring Guardianship Appointment
- An Affidavit, including an annexure or exhibit to the Affidavit
- A Statutory Declaration
Also, it is now easier to sign a Statutory Declaration because it can be made before a broader range of authorised witnesses than was previously allowed. This brings NSW into line with the rest of the country.
In addition, cloud based signatures, such as those used by AdobeSign and DocuSign are now allowable. The laws, however, do not affect other electronic signatures.
It is a start. The legislation was originally introduced on 24 March 2020 and it has finally been passed on 22 April 2020 – it only took a month.
Here is a link to the legislation, which is called the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020.
Unfortunately, this legislation may be automatically repealed in six months, but let’s hope that parliament can get it right and allow these amendments to remain in place ongoing into the future. It is time!
If you have any documents which need to be signed electronically, or if you have a Will, Power of Attorney, Appointment of Guardian or Statutory Declaration which needs to be signed using audio visual link, then give us a call on (02) 9687 9322.