NSW remote witnessing provisions extended indefinitely

By Karina Waite & the Legal Services Team

Back in April 2020, temporary measures were introduced in NSW that permitted the remote witnessing of legal documents over audio-visual link (AVL), such as by Skype, FaceTime, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Witnessing of legal documents over AVLs removes the need for a person signing a document to be in the physical presence of one or more witnesses (whether independent individuals, legal practitioners, justices of the peace, etc.).

These changes were intended to be temporary and were initially scheduled to end on 22 October 2020 before being extended to 31 December 2021. We are happy to report that these temporary measures have now become permanent.

This is great news for our legal team and for our rural and remote clients, including those clients located outside of NSW. Making these measures permanent improves access to justice and allows people who use remote witnessing to have their documents witnessed in a much more timely, efficient and convenient manner.

Documents that can be signed and witnessed remotely under these provisions include:

  • wills;
  • powers of attorney, enduring powers of attorney;
  • appointments of enduring guardian;
  • deed or agreements;
  • affidavits; and
  • statutory declarations.

Safeguards are in place designed to address the risk of fraud. For example, signing must be witnessed in real time and the witness must be reasonably satisfied that they are signing the same document or an exact copy. The witness must also endorse the document with a statement that they have complied with these requirements and specify the method used to witness the signature.

The remote witnessing provisions offer an alternative option for witnessing documents where it is not possible to meet safely in person or it is more convenient to do so online. However we note that traditional methods of signing and witnessing documents will remain available.

Contact our legal services team today for expert help and advice today enquiries@rm.net.au.

**The material and contents provided in this publication are informative in nature only. It is not intended to be advice and you should not act specifically on the basis of this information alone. If expert assistance is required, professional advice should be obtained.

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