On 15 September 2020 it was announced that the virtual witnessing measures introduced by the NSW Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic will be extended to operate until the end of 2021.
The ‘virtual witnessing’ measures mean that signing of certain important documents can be witnessed remotely via an audio visual link, which in practical terms removes the need for the signatory and witness to be physically present in the same location.
Documents that can be witnessed remotely include deeds, powers of attorney and statutory declarations. To witness a signature remotely the audio-visual link must enable continuous and contemporaneous audio and visual communication, meaning the witness must observe and, it seems, listen to the signing of the document in real time. The ‘audio’ and ‘video’ requirements alone are, according to the regulations, not enough – those wishing to avail themselves of them require both functionalities to both hear (and be heard) and see (and be seen). Traditional methods of signing and witnessing documents are of course still acceptable.
Prior to the Covid-19 introduction of the ‘virtual witnessing’ measures the witnessing of documents by audio-visual communication was not permitted and a witness was required to be physically present and sign the same document as the signatory. Understandably, this often caused inconvenience to both the signatory and the witness, so an extension of these ‘virtual witnessing’ measures is a welcome development not only during Covid-19 but also as the world returns to a post-pandemic normal. We’re hoping it continues past 2021.