For the most part, the stories we hear about how living in the time of Covid-19 are negative. Lives have been lost, families separated and businesses collapsed. There have, however, been many successes to come out of the changes the pandemic has forced upon us. Some industries have boomed and businesses pivoted to meet the ever changing needs of the community.
The law is generally slow in the uptake of change and the legal profession is often known for its resistance to change. As a firm which is committed to providing practical legal solutions, Covid has presented us with an opportunity to embrace the practicalities of electronic witnessing of signatures and documents.
Prior to April last year, certain documents such as affidavits, statutory declarations and deeds had to be physically signed in the presence of a witness. The lockdowns and social distancing measures which we have experienced, meant the law had to adapt to allow for witnessing of documents via audio visual link. The temporary measures which were put in place, initially for a six month period, were extended late last year and are in place until at least the end of 2021.
The types of documents which can now be witnessed via video link include:
- powers of attorney,
- appointments of enduring guardian,
- statutory declarations,
- contracts and other agreements.
A formal verification of identity can now also be conducted via video conference.
Amongst other things, these changes have meant that we have been able to sign urgent affidavits with clients in Queensland, sign estate planning documents with clients in India and identify clients who are in the comfort of their own home or office.
The busy world we all live in, means it is often impractical for our clients to have documents witnessed by us in person. We have found these changes a breath of fresh air when it comes to interacting with our clients and providing practical solutions.
While meeting face to face can be the preferred option in certain circumstances, we welcome the ability to have electronic witnessing as a tool to work with and are hopeful these measures become a permanent thing.