Codification of the legal industry keeping up with technology changes.
It is without question that COVID-19 had an enormous impact on the daily lives of Australians this year. Lockdowns and travel restrictions meant many transactions that had been taken for granted previously had to adapt to new environments and in many cases embrace advancement of technology.
In the legal industry, traditionally, important legal documents were signed in the physical presence of witnesses thereby requiring personal attendances at homes and offices.
How did this change?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing requirements and self-isolation scenarios posed serious logistical challenges to witnessing requirements. Following this, the NSW Government recognised the inconvenience these restrictions had and introduced the Electronic Transactions Amendment (COVID-19 Witnessing of Documents) Regulation 2020 (NSW) on 22 April 2020.
The intention of the regulation was to provide an alternative mechanism to allow witnessing of documents by audio visual link thereby avoiding in person attendances.
Is this now permanent?
Recognising the convenience and efficiency of such measures, on 17 November 2021, the Electronic Transactions Amendment (Remote Witnessing) Bill 2021 was passed by both Houses of NSW Parliament to cement those previous temporary measures.
The permanent codification of those COVID-19 remote witnessing measures will provide greater flexibility and options for NSW residents, especially those who live in rural or regional areas, older people, or people suffering from illness or people with a disability.
What are the risks?
Always ensure the legal practitioner witnessing your signature via audio-visual links, adequately verifies your identity and confirms you understand what you are signing. Care must also be taken to have greater scrutiny on the document to prevent fraudulent amendments. An endorsement will be required by the witness to state the witnessing complied with relevant requirements on the document.
Our professional team at Longton Legal can assist clients in witnessing legal documents remotely, saving clients time and facilitating transactions smoothly. However, should clients prefer traditional methods, the Longton Legal team are available to provide in person witnessing services.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
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