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At the begin­ning of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, the NSW Gov­ern­ment intro­duced the remote wit­ness­ing scheme to reduce face-to-face con­tact, allow­ing impor­tant legal doc­u­ments such as wills, statu­to­ry dec­la­ra­tions, and affi­davits to be wit­nessed remote­ly.

On 17 Novem­ber 2021, the NSW Gov­ern­ment announced that leg­is­la­tion to cement tem­po­rary mea­sures into law has passed both Hous­es of NSW Par­lia­ment.

At Dono­van Oates Han­naford, we advo­cat­ed for this to be per­ma­nent­ly enact­ed and are delight­ed by this news. Hav­ing used audio-visu­al link (AVL) for the past 18 months, we have seen the many ben­e­fits it can pro­vide to our clients safe­ly and secure­ly and are pleased that the gov­ern­ment has seen fit to make these a per­ma­nent fea­ture of the NSW legal land­scape.  Remote wit­ness­ing has allowed us to deliv­er our ser­vices unin­ter­rupt­ed dur­ing lock­downs and saved our clients time and mon­ey. It has been par­tic­u­lar­ly cru­cial for our clients over­seas and we’re pleased that we can con­tin­ue to offer these ben­e­fits to our clients in the future.

 

From the NSW Gov­ern­ment Media Release:

The Elec­tron­ic Trans­ac­tions Amend­ment (Remote Wit­ness­ing) Bill 2021 will per­ma­nent­ly allow doc­u­ments to be wit­nessed in real time over an audio-visu­al link (AVL) when the leg­is­la­tion receives assent. For an addi­tion­al 12 months, the list of peo­ple who can wit­ness NSW statu­to­ry dec­la­ra­tions will also be extend­ed to the expand­ed list of wit­ness­es per­mit­ted to do so by the rel­e­vant Com­mon­wealth leg­is­la­tion.

Mr Mark Speak­man, Attor­ney Gen­er­al, said many peo­ple who have been using remote wit­ness­ing for per­son­al, busi­ness and legal doc­u­ments (such as pow­ers of attor­ney, deeds and agree­ments) have found it con­ve­nient and effi­cient, sav­ing both time and mon­ey.

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 they’re 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,” Mr Speak­man said.

Con­tin­u­ing these mea­sures will ben­e­fit peo­ple liv­ing in rur­al, region­al and remote areas. It will also improve access to jus­tice for vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty includ­ing old­er peo­ple, peo­ple suf­fer­ing from ill­ness or peo­ple with a dis­abil­i­ty.”

Remote wit­ness­ing pro­vides greater choice and flex­i­bil­i­ty for indi­vid­u­als and busi­ness­es, how­ev­er, tra­di­tion­al meth­ods of sign­ing and wit­ness­ing doc­u­ments will remain avail­able.

Peo­ple out­side of NSW may also use the remote wit­ness­ing pro­vi­sions for doc­u­ments required to be signed under or gov­erned by NSW law, which will assist with ongo­ing dis­rup­tion to phys­i­cal move­ment caused by the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

 

If you require any assis­tance in the wit­ness­ing of your legal doc­u­ments, we would be hap­py to help.

For fur­ther infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Dono­van Oates Han­naford on 02 6583 400 or info@dohlaw.com.au

 

 

 

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