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 email@example.com