Headshot of Nick Hawkins - Solicitor at Everingham Solomons TamworthSome of the changes to legislation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are developments in “electronic witnessing” of signatures through audio visual links.

In 2020 the Electronic Transactions Act 2000 (NSW) was amended to allow signatures to be formally witnessed through any platform or program that allows visual communication between two or more people such as Zoom, Skype or FaceTime. Through such audio visual links a witness can attest to another person’s signature on a document, the swearing of an affidavit and verify the identity of the person signing.

Importantly, even though the witness is not in the same room as the person signing the document, a lot of the formal requirements remain the same.  The witness must still observe the person signing the document over the audio visual link. This requires the witness to ensure they can confirm the identity of the person signing and can clearly see them write their signature in every instance.

The witness must then sign their own copy of the document being executed as a counterpart, or have the signatory scan a copy to the witness or post the original to the witness to sign as soon as possible. If the documents are signed by the signatory and witness in counterparts, both of the separate copies are considered parts of the original document.

One important difference with electronic witnessing is that the document being signed must include a statement clearly identifying that the document was witnessed electronically in accordance with section 14G of the Electronic Transactions Act 2000.

Although COVID restrictions have now eased, it appears that this legislative change is here to stay as it was extended indefinitely in 2021. This has been a widely welcomed and useful progression to legal witnessing requirements and is a practical way to witness signatures on many different types of documents including Wills, affidavits and contracts.

If you have any questions regarding electronic witnessing, contact a solicitor at Everingham Solomons because Helping You is Our Business.

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