Witnessing Documents During COVID-19

The latest global pandemic has put a halt on different aspects of society by following national quarantine in an effort to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, even with the social distancing restrictions, life needs to move on – including the witnessing and signing of legal deeds,  mortgages, statutory declarations, wills, and other powers of attorney.

 

That’s why law offices are practising temporary permits on remote witnessing using electronic signatures to bind the relevant party. This was introduced as the COVID-19 Omnibus (Emergency Measures) (Electronic Signing and Witnessing) Regulations 2020, a short-term solution that will remain in effect until the 25th of October 2020.

 

What Changes to Expect in the New Regulations in Response to the Coronavirus

 

The regulations refer to the approval of remote signing and witnessing documents amid the COVID-19 pandemic period, which should be in effect for six months. It should provide various methods for completing the legal duties of signing documents all while practising social distancing using electronic memes – be it via an audio or audiovisual link via platforms such as:

 

  • Zoom
  • FaceTime
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Skype
  • Webex
  • WhatsApp

 

While there is no specific software recommended for using audiovisual links in remote witnessing, the platforms above are one of the go-to and reliable choices across the world. Going back to the regulations, some key changes include the following:

 

  1. Wills Act 1997

 

The process of signing will of testaments have always been done in person – from its execution, revocation, or any alterations. Under the temporary regulations set in 2020, testators can do all that if both parties present an audiovisual link, which should include the electronic signature of the testator and any witnesses physically present.

 

  1. Deeds and Mortgages

 

Same as the process in the Wills Act 1997, signing or witnessing for deeds and mortgages includes having the signatures of all the participating parties. They can sign the original document, a hard copy, or an electronic copy.

 

In addition to the electronic signature, the person signing the documents must also include a statement confirming their agreement on signing electronically to comply with the new regulations.

 

  1. Powers of Attorney

 

All the jurisdictions in Australia follow strict requirements regarding the powers of attorney, wherein the process involves requiring the presence of two adult witnesses. In addition, one of the two witnesses must also be a person of authority like a lawyer or medical practitioner.

 

During the pandemic, the new regulation allows witnesses to use video links to execute the responsibilities included in executing the documents.

 

In Conclusion: Adapting Technology to Bridge the Gap in the Law in a Post-Coronavirus World

 

New regulations regarding signing and witnessing deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and more are embracing remote solutions in response to the latest cautionary measures during the pandemic.

 

If you’re looking for a reliable lawyer in Balmain to get you through signing legal documents during the pandemic, get in touch with us at Wilding and Co Lawyers!

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